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Publisher: GarageGames    Genre: Arcade
Min OS X: 10.1    RAM: 64 MB

April 28, 2003 | Jean-Luc Dinsdale

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Orbz is the second game released for the Mac that is powered by GarageGames' low-cost Torque 3D game engine. Playing as a combination of Microsoft's Links and Garage Games' own Marble Blast, the non-violent, easy-to-play action-arcade game is designed to please players looking for an alternative to the expensive Triple-A titles on the shelves of most Mac retailers.

Set in a colourful, low-poly environment reminiscent of Nintendo's Mario franchise. Gameplay consists of shooting bright electric balls around fourteen playing courses, knocking off targets in a race against time; AI-controlled players called Botz, or up to nine other human players, either competing over the internet or a local area network.

Beginning on a large blue floating pad, players use a point-and-power style aiming system to knock their balls (or Orbz) around the course, similar to the aiming set-ups used in most computer golf or pool games. Numerous star-shaped targets litter the course and can either be found in easy-to reach, wide open spaces, or crammed in hard-to-get corners of the miscellaneous architectural details that define the style of the course. The positioning of the targets indicate their points value - yellow and orange targets being the easier to reach and the lowest scoring targets, while the more valuable red and purple stars require greater skill and strategy to find.

Also found littering the environments are power-ups and movement enhancers. Labeled with names like Sticky Shot or Curse Of The Goober, the power-ups featured in the game either enhance the player's abilities by increasing their power, allowing the Orbz to float on water, or increasing the point value of each target; or hinder their opponents' progress by temporarily handicapping their movement or agility. The large, sphere-shaped movement enhancers act either as accelerators or teleporters, scooting players quickly around the course and up into hard-to-reach areas.

The fourteen courses featured in the game vary in size and mood, from large green hilly fields to colourful greek architecture-inspired playing fields. The latest four courses added to the game include an infernally-slippery Glacial Chasm, a waterfall-dominated Mystic Spring field, a red-girder filled construction site called Under Construction, and even a tombstone-filled Haunted Grove, complete with howling wolves and crackling lightning.

I found all the elements of single player gameplay to be fun and engaging. Aiming at targets, particularly the far ones, takes quite a bit of skill and practice, since your chances of success depend largely on the environment; how far away the Orbz is, how much higher or lower the target is from the ball, and how many obstacles lie in the way. Also affecting the Orbz's travel are environmental and texture detail effects like water, ice, sand, and whatever other materials are used. Unfortunately, water seems to be the only environmental effect to influence gameplay. This reviewer would love to see wind, rain, or even earthquakes affect the movement of the Orbz.

Another problem that plagued my enjoyment of the game was the relatively slow mouse response. Players can move the camera around both while aiming and while the Orbz flies through the air, however trying to move the camera around and aim quickly took way too much mouse-ing effort. The game does have an adjustable mouse speed, however neither of the five preset settings suit my style of gaming, and there appears to be no more precise way to adjust mouse sensitivity.


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