12 Orbits is a local-multiplayer game developed and published by Roman Uhlig. It has a unique style that requires only one button used per player. This means multiple people can play using the same keyboard or gamepad.
The game revolves around different colored orbs partaking in different mini-games with varying rule sets. Sometimes you must dodge other colored orbs, shoot orbs at opponents,or try to score/defend goals. It's an avante-garde game of sorts but puts itself on the map as one of the most affordable party games (especially with lack of controllers needed) on the gaming market.
12 Orbits can currently be pre-ordered on the Switch eShop for just $1.99. It will be released on April 27th.
12 Orbits doesn't really present any plot. It's a straightforward party game that tosses players into a 3 minute tutorial then just lets the gameplay speak for itself. A simple menu set and game rules listed on the homepage of each mode nullify any need for an A.I based narrative. The story is whatever you and your friends create while engaging the game's universe (virtual fan praise me as my orbit destroys my opponent's last barrier! Wooooh!).
12 Orbits is only a local multi-player game. There is no online multi-player and the game is essentially unplayable with one player, having no one player mode. The game really requires players to have at least one other player present, and even then, two players don't really optimize the enjoyment and range of the game modes available.
The controls couldn't be simpler. Press the one button that corresponds to your color. Pressing the button will allow you to spin. By doing so, you can dodge incoming orbs and interact with the circles that are present on the map. The circles are your way of changing direction (aside from bouncing off walls). There are no directionals, so pressing your button in the circle allows you to spin around and shoot out in another direction. It also matters where in the circle you press the button: if on the outer perimeters, you will spin slower and wider, if you press it in the core of the circle, you spin really fast making it hard to go the direction you want. While it's simple to figure out, it's often trickier to go in the direction you want. You need to time it, and I often found myself heading off in a slightly wrong direction; match this with trying to block incoming orbits, and it can be challenging to move efficiently. With that said, the controls are responsive, and it did add to the challenge and intensity and made victories seem earned.
I grabbed another friend to help me with this review and we played through each game mode (something I had done by myself by just plugging in dummy players). We had quite a bit of fun with the versus modes but less so with the teams modes.
This is the simplest mode. You try to collect the white spheres by touching them. When you touch a white sphere they turn your color. If you touch a sphere of the other color you lose and the other player gains a point. It's simple and fun enough. The colored spheres essentially act as your army. Players can evade the spheres by pressing their button right before contact.
This was a slightly odd mode that we did enjoy but less so than Arena. With Trails you collect spheres and they add to your body. You get longer and longer, which can make you dangerous, and you can shoot orbs at the other player. So, if the other player runs into you or you shoot their orb (not the trailing orbs), you will win a point.
While this mode was fun, it was difficult to steer the orbs well enough to attack; you also need to be really close to attack with a sphere. Ranged attacks don't work.
Arena and Trails
The gameplay is the same as above but require more players to make it interesting.
This was our least favorite mode. It takes a lot of coordination, luck, and patience. It is similar to a soccer game but first you must hit white orbs in the middle onto the opponents side. It's frustrating since they move very slowly down the map and missing them means you bounce back and need to try again. There they will drift until the opponent can deflect them back and change the color or the orbit destroys one of the five barriers on their side. When five barriers are destroyed on one side, the other team wins.
Multiball is similar to Blizzard in that you want to destroy your opponents barriers. The key difference–which makes it more fun–is that players can move around the entire map and just need to race to the middle to hit the white orbs.
In the end some game modes were better than others. We both had some fun with the game but weren't itching to play more. We had added dummy players to the matches who just mindlessly bounced off walls and actually managed to lbeat us once (shame on us). It did beg the question, why didn't the developers add computer players that could be added to games. We had fun for a short while, but without extra players or proper A.I, there wasn't much reason to come back.
The Switch Version
The Switch version ran fine both on the TV and in portable mode. With no keyboard, both my friend and I used the jpy-cons that came with the Switch, but I can't imagine more than two people using one joy-con for a controller. If you have multiple game pads you could make it work, but a keyboard would be far more optimal for this type of control scheme than the tiny Nintendo joy-cons or even a gamepad.
visuals and sound
The visuals in 12 Orbits couldn't be much simpler. You'll usually see a grey background surrounded by multiple colors that represent the players currently in game. if you only see red and green, it means only two players joined. On top of that, there are circles on the map that are shaded with a darker grey color. As mentioned above, these circles mark point where you can change direction.
Depending on how many players are on screen, the field of play will flood with colors exacting the total players. If there are 12 players, there will be a smorgasbord of colors. Neutral orbs always remain white and are changed to the color of the orbit that touches them. While the colors are simple, sometimes it can be a little confusing, even with less players. We had it set to 4 players and when all the orbits were bouncing around, I occasionally had trouble figuring out where I was or what was really going on (I can't imagine 12).
Overall the graphics are fine and work well, but the simplicity of the shapes (everything being orbity and circular) could make for a little confusion.
The sound was pleasantly surprising and fitting. It's all electronic and upbeat. For the price I was expecting the music to be more redundant and bland. To my surprise, the music was usually catchy and upbeat and really fit the mood of the game. It's a fast paced ambient sound that made the game feel slightly trippy without giving it a sleepy ambiance.
12 Orbits is an interesting experiment, and I really admire that the developers had the idea of making a really cheap party game that also spared players the expenses of a bunch of expensive gamepads. In theory it's a great idea, but in practice, the game feels a little shallow. I would have liked to see the developer add proper A.I to this game. There is no way to really practice or have fun with one or two players unless you put in extra players who will mindlessly bounce around (and may even win).
The different game modes are fun enough, and I enjoyed that each had a slightly different strategy. I could potentially see myself returning to Arena or Multiball if I had some friends over. Blizzard mode was a toss out for me, and I found having to precisely hit each orb in the middle to initiate offense while trying to play defense to be too tedious to enjoy.
In the end, this is an okay game. It may be fun if you have some people around who don't know games well but want to join in the fun. It doesn't get much easier than hitting one button. There is fun to be had here, but its best served in small doses. I can't imagine playing this game for a long time, and the control scheme does get grating (mainly not being able to use directionals to steer) after a while. It's very fairly priced for $1.99, and if your looking for a cheap and easy party game, give it a try, there isn't much to lose.
|+ Very affordable||– Control scheme is odd|
|+ Mutliple game modes||– No single player or online multi-player|
|+ No need for tons of controllers||– Can get boring after a few games|