Orbital Bullet – PS4 Review 1

Orbital Bullet is a run and gun shooter/platformer that comes to us from German games dev SmokeStab.  And while we get plenty of run and gunners to review here at PlayStation Country, this one has a very cool mechanic that elevates it above many of its contemporaries.  The gimmick here is that Orbital Bullet is set in looped cylinders, a 360 degree playfield.  If you’ve played the sensational Res0gun, you’ll know what we mean.  Older gamers might remember Nebulus, a platformer from the ’80s that had you climbing up a tower, but Orbital Bullet adds a heavy dose of action.

You play as a soldier who has to take on enemies on various, procedurally-generated planets.  You can move left and right, crouch, jump (and double jump) and shoot.  As you run around the loop shooting enemies, you can also jump between the inner and outer loops.  And when you’ve cleared out both, you can then jump up to the next loop and do it all again.

The combat is interesting, varied and dynamic.  From armoured enemies charging at you, turrets that can shoot around the entire loop and all manner of other enemies, you’ll need to use multiple tactics and strategies across all of the planets.  But aside from just shooting enemies, you’ve also got a few extra ways to harm them and this is where the game gets interesting, but also a little more unwieldy as you battle to use all your techniques seemlessly.

You can shoot enemies, stomp on them and, once you’ve unlocked your first class-based upgrade, use a special attack on them.  There are four classes and they all have different weapon type specialities (one is good with bullet-based weapons, another with lasers, an explosives expert and a shells-guy complete the quartet) and they all have their special gadget.  Most useful is the Engineer with his turret that you can throw into the fray and watch it chip away at enemies while the others also have their own.  It’s a shame that you have to commit an upgrade point into each class to play with their special, but it’s worth trying them out and upgrades aren’t too hard to source.

Okay, so you’ve got the basic combat and the specials but it doesn’t stop there.  As you progress you can start filling in your skill tree which provides upgrades to damage, weapon finding, health/shields and money usage.  It usually takes a couple of runs to max out a skill, so there’s plenty of reason to keep replaying the game but this is very much a rogue-lite, so you’ll be returning to the first planet every time you die, which does get very old after a while.

The other big thing is the arsenal of weapons available to you.  Random weapon pick ups will shape your run for sure but you can also find lots more of them via blueprints that will make them available in later runs.  But you can also change the level of weapons that you find using another upgrade mechanic.  And that’s before you get into Eternal Weapons.  Oh my.

And then there’s the whole perk system.  So, when you level up in a run you’ll be able to spend a point on a perk from a choice of four.  Then at other upgrade stations, you’ll be able to pick what the next four perk choices are.  But then those perks are also sometimes available to buy at the merchant that shows up on each planet.  Or you can buy more weapons.  Although before long you won’t be able to afford them as the prices of weapons tend to match energy prices in the UK when it comes to inflation.

So, yes.  There’s a LOT going on in the game and this has positives and negatives.  On the plus side, it gives you lots of scope for trying things out but the downside is that your run can live or die based on the weapons and perks that are made available to you.  There’s not much fun to be had when you’re an energy-weapon specialist and you keep getting shotguns for example.  That’s not the main issue though.  That’ll be that, like many rogue-lite/likes, you’ll die over and over and over, only progressing when you’ve finally earned enough permanent upgrades and that’s a bit of a drag after a while.  It’s not just that the levels can be difficult, it’s the bosses that cause the biggest difficulty spikes.  Not that it’s just down to upgrades though.  Your experience of battling each boss will play a factor in learning to beat them too but you’ll need some help along the way for sure.

What we liked the most was the way the game uses its looping level structure to tactical effect.  For example, a fast-firing machine gun will have a decent range but a slow-firing sniper rifle will circle the whole loop, letting you shoot enemies in the back while they are in front of you.  It’s a great feature and nicely presented on the screen using a clever combination of 3D levels overlaid with scaling 2D sprites.  It looks decent and the looks are well-matched by the game’s use of sound which combines decent effects and good electronic music to set the scene.

So there’s plenty to like about Orbital Bullet, but ultimately we’re not sure if it would have worked better as a straight forward run and gunner rather than slowing down its progress with rogue-lite mechanics.  Ultimately though, those mechanics do provide some addictive elements but you might find yourself getting bored or frustrated before you ever beat the game’s final boss.

Note:  as of 21/06/2023 there is a potential issue where one of the planets cannot be completed.  We’ll keep an eye out for a patch but in the meantime you can still complete the game if you choose the left planet the second time you get a choice.

Orbital Bullet
7 Overall
+ Cool 360 degree level mechanic
+ Lots of perks, upgrades and weapons to play with
+ Scope for tactical play
+ Can be addictive
+ Well-presented
- Full of difficulty spikes
- The repetition of it can get tiresome
Orbital Bullet is certainly a sophisticated run and gunner with some excellent ideas and plenty of scope for good, tactical play but you have to play it a lot to make any real progress and that could make the game overstay its welcome.

About Richie

Rich is the editor of PlayStation Country. He likes his games lemony and low-budget with a lot of charm. This isn't his photo. That'll be Rik Mayall.

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One thought on “Orbital Bullet – PS4 Review

  • Paul Harper

    This is great game. If you genuinely love rogue lites like I do, you will conquer the game multiple times and still not be bored. I’ve spent about 45 hours with it so far and boredom isn’t even close to setting in yet.