Who’d have thought that the recollection of a clumsy cosmonaut’s journey would send players on a fantasy-fuelled journey full of zany sights and all sorts of chaotic antics? That’s exactly what happens in Little Orpheus, the latest release from the team at The Chinese Room that offers players a colourful platforming adventure. It makes for a neat experience too, though the simplistic gameplay mechanics might leave some players wanting a bit more.
Check out some screenshots down below:
Little Orpheus puts players in the role of Ivan, a Russian cosmonaut that ventures down towards the centre of the Earth with a drill that’s powered by an atomic bomb named Little Orpheus. The problem? He returns three years later with no sign of the bomb (or any of his equipment). Held at gunpoint as he’s interrogated by a Russian General, he recounts the fantastical (and perhaps outright unbelievable) tale of his journey to the centre of the Earth, the many trials and tribulations he faced there (including dinosaurs, frozen landscapes, and a battle to save the concept of time itself), and what exactly happened to Little Orpheus – all whilst mixing in some humorous anecdotes and stories about his family that might not necessarily be true…
I was really fond of the storytelling of Little Orpheus, with the interactions between Ivan and the General well-written and full of genuinely funny moments. It’s always comical to see Ivan get caught out with his recollection of his journey, whilst the self-awareness demonstrated by the General helps solidify a fun partnership between the pair. The only downside is that it lacked the bang I was hoping for in its conclusion (especially given the many twists and turns the story takes), but it’s hard to be too dissatisfied with Ivan’s creative storytelling.
Gameplay-wise, Little Orpheus plays like your typical platforming adventure, with players venturing across a 2D plane where they’ll climb over and crouch under obstacles, make tricky jumps that require precision, and interact with a variety of objects to solve small puzzles. There is no combat in the game so you won’t have to jump on the heads of any baddies or anything, though there are plenty of cool set pieces and chase sequences, as well as a few instances with hazards where players will have to complete a quick-time event if they want to survive.
“Luscious dinosaur-filled jungles, the worm-infested innards of a whale, the depths of some wonderful waters that has the remains of submarines scattered across it, a city in the clouds – the game really goes all out with its environmental variety and it left me excited as to where I’d explore next.”
In fairness, the game introduces plenty of different mechanics to the experience to spice things up, whether that’s sneaking past patrolling creatures, changing the flow of air pressure to launch yourself in the air, or tinkering with the innards of a giant clock to create new platforms. However, whilst there’s plenty of variety, no mechanic stays around long enough for it to feel particularly perplexing; they’re just introduced and not seen again in the span of five to ten minutes, with their use limited to a few actions that players won’t struggle to figure out. Little Orpheus presents plenty of clever ideas but does very little with them.
That’s not to say that it’s not fun to play through though, especially in the chase sequences which ALWAYS felt satisfying to complete. Again, they’re not hard, but there’s something about running, pulling off quick jumps that require precision, and escaping incoming hazards that I’ve always loved in gaming. And hey, the platforming itself is enjoyable enough too, even IF the game can feel like a bit of a walking simulator at times with how little challenge it puts in the player’s path.
The greatest strength that Little Orpheus has is its world design, which brings plenty of vibrant and creative landscapes for players to explore. Luscious dinosaur-filled jungles, the worm-infested innards of a whale, the depths of some wonderful waters that has the remains of submarines scattered across it, a city in the clouds – the game really goes all out with its environmental variety and it left me excited as to where I’d explore next. Each environment looks great too, with a ton of creativity on show to ensure that each one brings plenty of cool landmarks to uncover as you complete each chapter of the game.
Check out some screenshots down below:
It is worth noting that I played the vast majority of the game handheld on the Nintendo Switch, which did see the resolution fluctuating as I played. It could make it harder to appreciate some of the visuals, especially since they could look a little blurry, whilst some pop-in here and there as well as a frame rate that could have a few hitches meant that Little Orpheus probably didn’t look as good on the Nintendo Switch as it would on a more powerful console. Still, it’s easy to appreciate that it’s an attractive game, with the wonderful sights it offers some of the coolest I’ve seen in some time.
Little Orpheus Review
I enjoyed playing Little Orpheus and exploring its wonderful world, though the simple gameplay mechanics do let it down. It’s not that the game doesn’t try to introduce new ideas, but rather that it does so in a simplified manner where the player won’t ever find themselves perplexed as to what they need to do next. It’s a bit too easy, and whilst the platforming feels good, it’s doesn’t do enough to make it feel like a must-play experience.
Still, with the crazy sights you’ll see, the fun storytelling, and the hectic chase sequences, there’s still plenty to like about Little Orpheus. It certainly won’t be the best platforming adventure you experience, but it’s still an enjoyable one that’s bursting with imagination and heart.
Developer: The Chinese Room
Publisher: Secret Mode
Platform(s): Nintendo Switch (Reviewed), PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, PC