The reaction platformer has become a popular subgenre ever since Super Meat Boy introduced the ridiculous premise years ago. Robbie Swifthand and the Orb of Mysteries is the latest game to attempt the tough-but-fair platforming fad.
Instead of simply reaching the end of each stage, Robbie Swifthand incorporates a unique mechanic, for better or worse, that isn’t seen in other games of similar gameplay. Somewhere in each level is an orange orb, an orb of mystery as the game implies, which must be collected then tossed into a glowing portal not much unlike shooting a basketball through a hoop. This orb, essentially acting as a key to a locked door, can be thrown for a distance too if the button is held down. If you miss the target, the player is free to pick it up and try again. However, if too much time passes when the orb hits the ground, the player will need to recollect from the orb’s origin point and start again. Most levels, however, there is little time to recollect misfired orbs as there are often hazards chasing Robbie. The only complain comes from the actually throwing the orb – the player has no way of measuring speed or distance. Just tapping the throw button will cause it to drop but holding it makes Robbie either whip it or lob it with little to no control in-between.
Besides the orb mechanic, the responsive play control is another highlighting feature. If you die, which will happen a lot and the game keeps a tally of all deaths to remind you how much you suck, it is almost always the player’s fault. There are some stages that are just hard for the sake of hard, but missing that jump or not moving fast enough comes from player error thanks to the detailed controls. There is also a secret orb in each stage to encourage some exploration and provides some replayability. Luckily, the game keeps track of all this from the easy to read main level selection screen. The opening stage also acts as quick tutorial that works well on getting players up to speed on the easy-to-understand gameplay elements.
With just shy of 100 stages, there is a lot of game here and fans of the tricky platformers should highly enjoy this. The controls respond well to the player’s input, the hidden secret in each stage provides the extra incentive to drive replay value, and the orb chucking mechanic makes this game stand out and worth playing.