Lost Orbit: Terminal Velocity (Switch eShop) Review
Stranded in space, your ship is in pieces and you’re galaxies away from home. All you have for company is a faulty robot to talk to as you explore the vastness of space. This is Lost Orbit: Terminal Velocity. Initially released as plain ol’ Lost Orbit back in 2015 on the PC, now it is finding its way onto the Switch with extra content.
Lost Orbit starts with Harrison the stranded astronaut, struggling to find his way back to safety after his spaceship is destroyed. He is joined by Atley, a robot that becomes invested in Harrison’s journey and the quest for survival. Atley narrates throughout the game, it’s an interesting way to tell the story. It works well enough, showing how Atley is trying to understand Harrison better, while also sharing bits of conversations they have musings on topics like death and human nature (although they go by a different name).
It might take some time (maybe an hour or so) for the narrative to start to gel. Initially, Atley talking on Harrison’s behalf feels like it distances you from the character you’re gliding through the galaxy. But the more that happens in the journey, the more you care about them. This isn’t a bad achievement for a game that’s main focus is on zipping through space, dodging asteroids and boosting off planetoids.
Each level is another step of Harrison’s journey back to safety. The game is played like a vertical shooter where you’re always moving up the screen. Only you don’t get to shoot anything, and dodging obstacles is the only way you’ll make it through in one piece. Each level is littered with asteroids. Some are stationary, and there are plenty of moving around. Hitting anything will quickly result in your death. The basic idea is to make it to the jump gate at the end of each level. Because you get scored at the end of each level, it also tries to encourage you to get through as fast as you can. Most levels are fast-paced as you try to maximise the boost you get from slingshotting off planetoids, as well as the boost you get from your own jetpack. There are also anomalies scattered throughout the levels that add to the momentum.
You can get super boosts from flying through gas giants, teleported and thrown around through wormholes, or even just flying up a ramp and getting some air over rocks. Everything comes together to allow you to always keep moving. The most fun moments of this game are weaving from boost to anomaly while dodging fast-moving asteroids and outrunning lasers. You’re going to die a lot across the several hours it takes to work your way through the star systems. Often it’s being left as a red smudge on the rock, sometimes you’ll hit it hard and leave your flesh behind as the skeleton continues flying off. It’s a small thing but it’s amusing every time it happens.
Obtainium shards are strewn throughout the levels to be collected. They are also given as a reward, depending on the ranking you earn at the end of the level. These shards are used to pay for upgrades to help make your journey. Most of the upgrades are improving your jetpack boost, along with the ability to barrel roll or destroy obstacles with a bomb. The boost upgrades are the most important, I can’t say I ever used the barrel roll. There are times where the bomb is really useful to clear a path, but there’s no time you can’t proceed without it. Consider them handy upgrades that help get the most out of your level times.
When you finish the original campaign you can jump right into the epilogue, new to the Terminal Velocity edition. After playing through several hours of the original story with only Atley’s voice as a companion, it’s a big change that the epilogue is fully voice acted with an expanded cast of characters throughout. I wasn’t a fan of Atley’s narration initially, as it made Harrison seem distant from his own story. In the new content, Harrison can talk for himself and it made me realise and appreciate how they approach the story (as limited as it was) before then. After Harrison and Atley making the perilous journey back home, he’s reunited with his sister. This sends Harrison and Atley on a journey to find his parents, a quest that feels less urgent than survival. It’s not only the addition of more characters that really changes the momentum the rest of the campaign has. You’re given a drill which allows you to drill through rock/asteroids and enemy turrets. This should make it even quicker to go through levels but it’s quite the opposite. After hours of avoiding the scenery, all of a sudden it slows down as you have to drill through obstacles without overheating. Now it’s great that developer PixelNAUTS went back and added, even more, to do in the game, for the asking price it’s already good value without it. It just feels like an odd addition. Ultimately the enjoyment of the game isn’t all from the story, even with regular narration it doesn’t hold much importance over enjoying the gameplay.
Once you’re done with the story, there are challenges and time trials to master and squeeze some extra time out of the game. Time trials are as they suggest, pick a level and get the best time in it. You already aim to get the best time when they’re story levels, but you don’t have any story distracting you as you rush through. Challenges aren’t connected to the story levels, though they are set within the same star systems as the story levels and contain similar obstacles. If you really want to get every last drop of jetpack fuel out of Lost Orbit, there are a few hours to get out of these modes.
Now I don’t consider this a complaint or issue, but Lost Orbit has a very interesting language censoring. There is an average amount of course language, more so in the epilogue section, and the words and speech are all bleeped. What I noticed was that there are some weird inconsistencies on what it considers a curse word and sometimes the way they use it makes it surprising that half of it is even censored. Regardless It doesn’t impact gameplay and it’s not ‘censorship’, just a space oddity.
Lost Orbit has surprisingly been the first game I’ve played on the Switch that gave the handheld speakers a hard time. Early on the bombastic music as your zipping through asteroid fields push the speakers past their limits, even on 50% volume. If it bugs you there’s always the option of playing it docked, using headphones, or even just turn the sound right down. It would be a shame to not have the music playing as it adds to the fun of speeding through to the next jump gate. It’s not the end of the sound woes, at the end of every level as it was loading back to the level selection there was a sound bug that would have the end of level fireworks going off again. Fortunately, it’s nothing game-breaking, it’s just something that stands out. I also found a strange issue when I docked the Switch to play Lost Orbit. Whenever I started playing using a Pro Controller, the game would kill the controller’s connection. It could be fixed with a patch or my Switch could just hate me, but fortunately the Joy-Con work just fine.
Lost Orbit: Terminal Velocity is a fun game to play. The fast maneuvering as you narrowly avoid before crashing into a rock so hard your skeleton leaves your body, only to forever hurtle through space. Backed up with some great music, it feels like you’re on a great space journey. Minor issues aside, if you have a few hours to kill and a few bucks to spend Lost Orbit is a decent way to spend both.
- Flying through the universe is fun
- Music is great when it’s not struggling
- Good value
- Audio issues
- Won’t let the Pro Controller connect
- The epilogue isn’t as fun as the original story