I’m not a huge rhythm game person, but I am a huge twitchy arcade game person, and I especially love games that require you to do two different things simultaneously. The “pat your head and rub your belly” variety, you could say. Orbeat, the first project from two childhood friends who call themselves Arcade Avenue, encompasses all of those elements into one. While they rhythm aspects are certainly there, I’d call this a twitchy arcade game first and foremost, and a very satisfying one at that.
The main concept in Orbeat is to pop asteroids with your ship as they encircle you, similar to other rhythm games that require you to tap just as a larger circle closes in on a smaller circle. The neat twist here is that in order to do this you need to pull your brain in two different directions.
On the right side of the screen is a wheel of sorts that controls the direction your ship is facing, and you’ll need to pop those asteroids head on or they’ll damage you. On the left side of the screen is a similar wheel but instead of your direction it controls which color you change into.
Not only do you need to turn and face every asteroid, but you also need to be the same color of the asteroid you’re popping in order to earn points for popping it. As you can imagine, coordinating these two mechanics while the speed and difficulty of approaching asteroids increases makes for some seriously hectic moments.
Arcade Avenue has likened Orbeat to Super Hexagon but with color and beat matching. Now, for me Super Hexagon is as close to gaming perfection as you can get without being named Tetris, but in terms of the adrenaline rush you get when things really start to get crazy I think it’s a pretty apt comparison.
The main two-handed mode which I’ve just described is great on its own, but Orbeat does something pretty interesting by offering two additional modes built for one-handed portrait play. Each of these modes is essentially based around a single wheel from the two-handed mode. So in Match mode you’re simply controlling the color wheel and all your ship aiming is done automatically, and in Aim mode you’re only controlling the aiming wheel while the color switching is handled automatically for you.
Both of these modes are surprisingly great time killers when you just want to bust something out real quick for some one-handed play, but they also really allow you to hone your aiming and color-switching skills separately so that when you hop back into the two-handed mode you actually feel like your skills have progressed. It’s like they tricked you into practicing by making practice two fun extra modes.
Overall I was really pleasantly surprised with how clever Orbeat turned out to be, and how polished an experience it is for a studio’s first project. Best of all is that it’s free to download and play with ads, so you can try it on for size for yourself, and there’s a one-time $1.99 IAP to remove ads if you enjoy it.