Developer: Exbleative
Price: $0.99
Version Reviewed: 1.0
App Reviewed on: iPad 2

Graphics/Sound Rating: ★★★½☆
Game Controls Rating: ★★★½☆
Gameplay Rating: ★★★★½
Replay Value Rating: ★★★★½
Overall Rating: ★★★★☆

Floating about in space can conjure images of being upon some starship or another; perhaps an astronaut floating about, tethered to a shuttle. Unknown Orbit instead posits that it would be pretty all right to float about in space as a comet, collecting snow and diving and rising again to feel the glory of — well, nothing really. It’s space.

There is a certain exhilaration in swooping down from orbit, rebounding off a planet, and flying upward again, traveling off to the distant stars. The accompaniment is a twangy guitar riff that initially seems out of place, considering the beeps and boops of electronic music that typically wed themselves to such affairs. Instead, it almost evokes a Western feel of riding off into the sunset.

This is another of those games that feels the need to include scores and multipliers, perhaps giving those players who want some metric by which to gauge their efficacy in subsequent trials. It was something easily ignored, until the numbers started shooting up into a million or so, after figuring out how to ‘game’ the system, so to speak. Or rather, actually acknowledging the goals that pop up at the bottom of the screen, giving suggestions as to what should be accomplished next: gathering a certain amount of points, floating off to the moon, and exploring deep space – all standard fare that acts as its own tutorial of how to ‘progress’ in the game.

In fact, once the controls are figured out, this serves as a better tutorial than the actual one provided. Despite reading it, I found myself having to go through trial and error, once again wondering why some tutorials are relegated to pictures and words — each person’s optimal learning path is different, I suppose. Once they are understood, the controls are pretty simple: tilt the device either right or left to veer off into that direction. Press on the screen to cause the comet to start plummeting into the object around which it is in orbit. The tricky part, initially, is timing it correctly so that the comet then glides off into a longer jump, and gains more speed. It took a few games, but the rush felt from finally accomplishing it was well worth the trial and error.

It is difficult to ascertain what would be game-like enough to enjoy for people with this app. The usual metrics of a game certainly exist, but hardly seem the strong point for Unknown Orbit. Instead, the thrill of flying about, swooshing around planets, and just enjoying the experience seem its primary benefits to people picking up the app. Then again, if points, multipliers, and final scores and times surrounding a fairly simple but increasingly difficult (based on which difficulty is selected) app are of interest, there is plenty of that to go around as well.

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