Little Orpheus (Switch) Review
Subject is comrade Ivan Ivanovich Privalov. Presumed dead or missing following a subterranean exploration mission three years ago, he recently reappeared as if out of thin air. He is to be fully debriefed by our General but as of yet has only spoken of unbelievable adventures in a prehistoric land at the centre of the Earth. The deserter is to be questioned on his whereabouts but we have one main objective – we need to locate Little Orpheus!
Little Orpheus is a puzzle-platformer developed by The Chinese Room, the team behind Dear Esther, Amnesia: A Machine For Pigs, and Everybody’s Gone To Rapture, and published by Secret Mode. First released on iOS in 2020, Little Orpheus has now been brought over to the Switch to reach a whole new range of comrades.
The game sees Russian cosmonaut Ivan traversing a fantastical landscape after an unfortunate rocket crash below the Earth’s crust. Using a military debriefing as a framing mechanism over a backdrop of the 1960’s space race, the story unfolds through a series of events recounted over a dimly lit table in an interrogation room. In a classic case of an unreliable narrator, you’re never quite sure how credible Ivan’s tale is, and whether or not he’s just dodging questions about the location of Little Orpheus, the nuclear device which powered Ivan’s crashed rocket-drill.
The gameplay of Little Orpheus embraces a standard puzzle-platforming formula. While it doesn’t reinvent the wheel or anything, the game does what it does well, and most importantly acts as a vehicle for Ivan’s story. The gameplay loop involves a classic combination of jumping, sliding, pushing, pulling, and swinging, as well as a few quick time events. Puzzle-wise, you’ll be charged with moving platforms around, well-timed jumps and lever pulls, with a good bit of stealth thrown in. Again, nothing groundbreaking, but all executed well enough to keep the story chugging along.
As a 2.5D platformer, you’ll be running along a fixed 2D path in a greater 3-dimensional world. This otherworldly landscape, dubbed Plutonia by Ivan, is a feast for the eyes. Divided into nine chapters each set in a distinct biome, you’ll be traversing lush forests, deep ocean trenches, and even low-gravity lunar surfaces. The ruins chapter was particularly brilliant, and really made me wish I go could off the 2D path because that 3D background was honestly too atmospheric and picturesque for its own good! If you want to see more of these locales there’s also a bit of replayability in the form of collectable orbs on any subsequent playthroughs. These unlock some behind the scenes art with voice overs, plus some alternate costumes for Ivan, but finding the hidden orbs ain’t exactly challenging or even that hidden so it’s really up to you if you want to go through the levels again or not for that bonus content.
Little Orpheus, however isn’t without a couple of flaws. The jumping animation, which you’ll be seeing a lot, is quite janky – every time I hit the ground after a little leap I’d be gritting my teeth. I also ran into a few audio issues, pop-in graphics, one soft-locked puzzle requiring an intentional death, and even one hard-lock requiring a total game reset. Aside from the janky jump which shouldnt hamper your experience too much, these bigger issues are all things that could be fixed with a quick patch so fingers crossed we get one soon!
Overall Little Orpheus is a neat, little game with a fun story, quirky characters and a whole lot of atmosphere. A handful of patchable offences aside, if you’re keen to find out what ever happened to Ivan and Little Orpeheus on a Soviet subterranean mission gone wrong, then def jump in!
+ A quality story with a interesting framing-device
+ Atmosphere out the wazoo
+ Classic puzzle-platformer mechanics
- A couple of janky animations
- Handful of bugs that ought to be patched up
- Orb collectibles don't add much to replayability