Developer: Cellufun Inc
Price: $1.99 Download on the App Store
Orion's Belt - Most games on the iPhone put a premium on delivering quick-hitting 5- to 10-minute engagements rather than the longevity of a traditional, console-style game. Considering that most iPhone gaming is typically done in short bursts, that approach it is completely understandable.
The folks over at Cellufun have essentially created a console-style game that doesn’t forget it’s being played on a mobile device and, in turn, it aims to reconcile the two approaches. Orion’s Belt is that game, set in outer space with a rich and detailed story that tries to up the ante on the crowded space shooting genre on the iPhone.
I’d love to explain the story of Orion's Belt in detail, but I imagine you’d probably be interested in the cliff notes version to prevent spoilers. You’re a pilot on a tribe (Minatakan) at odds with another tribe (Alnitakan) because of resource shortages. From that basic setup, things progress quickly and Orion's Belt rolls out a story using cut scenes and voice overs that are executed admirably.
This is a topdown shooter at it’s core. There are 20 different missions to navigate that provide a meaty campaign to progress through. I’d say the first 9 missions or so are designed to get players acclimated with all the gameplay mechanics, and it’s good call on Cellufun’s part to integrate that as a mandatory part of the game.
Speaking of gameplay mechanics, Orion’s Belt is doing things a little bit differently than the rest of the crowd. Tilting the iPhone up or down controls the acceleration on your spaceship. Pushing on screen buttons rotates the direction of your spaceship, fires missiles, weapon defenses, and space mines.
Despite playing around with the controls for a while, I could never get comfortable with them in this game. While Cellufun has provided options to tweak controls, nothing felt natural. The biggest reason I never got comfy with the controls is that clearly the accelerometer should have been used for both navigation and acceleration. On-screen buttons controlling spaceship rotation is needlessly complex. On the later levels where the challenge is ramped up considerably, it’s frustrating getting killed by the A.I. that’s flying and navigating so precisely and smoothly. I successfully dealt with the control issues, but I wish I had the option to modify the controls to my standards.
Orion’s Belt has excellent production values and extras. The space landscapes are great to look at while flying around. Vibration is used when you’ve been hit by an obstacle or enemy fire. Nice! Cut scenes and voice overs are used throughout the campaign driving the story forward, and it helps brings the universe to life.
For those of you that love space shooters and a decent story, you’ll find much to like in Orion’s Belt. While I had some issues with the controls, it didn’t kill the game for me. With 20 missions, great graphics, excellent production values and good replay value; this game is a good buy for four bucks.
Orion's Belt has just released a new update that has substantially reworked the control scheme. With the new 2.0 update in this game, steering has been moved to an on screen control circle placed on the right side of the screen. Acceleration and braking have been moved to the left side of the screen. Though these control changes take some time to get used to, I did find it to be an upgrade over the previous control scheme. As a result, I've bumped up the score of this game from a 7 to an 8.
Cellufun, great job on listening to the community feedback!