Little Orpheus | Review – The interesting journey into the underground world

More than two years after its launch on Apple Arcade, Little Orpheus is finally ready to land on PC and console, thanks to a new edition enriched by the chapter A Rush of Onion to the Head, the additional Lost Recordings mode and a series of technical improvements introduced for the occasion.

Little Orpheus

Platform: PC, PS4, PS5, SWITCH, XONE, XSX Genre: Adventure, Platform Release Date: September 13, 2022 Developer: The Chinese Room Distributor: Sumo Digital

The title of The Chinese room (former authors of Dear Esther and Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture) presents himself at this new appointment after the postponement of March, due to the war in Ukraine. The developers in fact decided to postpone the release of the game due to some issues considered too sensitive in a moment very close to the outbreak of the conflict.

Now, after a longer wait than expected, the adventure of Ivan Ivanovic is here to surprise us again. How the unleashed will manage this time internonaut Russian?

Science fiction, adventure and irony

Little Orpheus makes no secret of its influences, and right from the start it delivers to the player a narrative universe full of references to classic science fiction and the adventure novel, with explicit homages (declared by the developers themselves) to the work of Ray Harryhausenamong the pioneers of the stop motion technique applied to cinema, thanks to which he was able to give life to monstrous creatures able to move convincingly on the big screen.

The title opens with a conversation (far from relaxed, to tell the truth) between the Russian astronaut Ivan Ivanovich and the general Yurkovoicharged with discovering the location of the experimental device Little Orpheus, lost by Ivan in the depths of the earth along with the nuclear device that allows it to function.

The confrontation between the two characters takes place in 1965three years after shipment to center of the planet of which Ivan was the only participant. Despite his poor technical and physical skills, it was he who was chosen to enter the depths of the earth with the aim of discovering whether the cavity housed within them allowed colonization or not.

Being a particularly arduous journey due to the resources necessary for the operation of the drill and the constant risk of losing radio contacts, Ivan was equipped with the mysterious Little Orpheus devicepowered by atomic energy.

These are the premises, in short, of the latest effort of The Chinese Room. Equipped with a very accentuated irony, the exchanges between the two main characters will not fail to tear you away more than one You smile for the duration of the adventure.

Net of some smudges in the Italian subtitles (missing in some videos and sporadically undermined by some typo) the writing, deliberately cryptic in some passages, works, and is enriched by an excellent dubbing that gives depth and character to Ivan and Yurkovoi.

Run Run!

The title is proposed as a platform very canonical, which makes the artistic direction and the continuous reference to the topoi of adventurous science fiction its strong point. As mentioned at the beginning, the narrative background of Little Orpheus fishing with both hands from the works of authors such as Giulio Verne and HG Wells, and recalls, in terms of gameplay, old school platformers such as Another World, Flashback and Prince of Persia, and more recent titles such as The Way, Little Nightmares and Max: The Curse of Brotherhood.

The space for pleasantries is decidedly reduced and from the start of a new game to the first approach with the gameplay it will take just over a handful of seconds. Controller in hand, the game is immediately pleasant, albeit characterized by extremely controls simple. Ivan Ivanovich is in fact able to perform a series of actions very limited: jump, slide and move objects, nothing else. It will not be possible to increase or decrease the pace of the protagonist, which will automatically change according to the circumstances.

The Artistic direction is noteworthy, and each of the nine episodes it defends itself more than well in terms of variety and characterization of biomes and creature who live there. From a first meeting with the dinosaurs in a lush forest we will pass through hidden cities populated by mysterious creatures, until we reach sea depths, frozen lands, Arabian ruins and much more.

The game is structured as one TV showscomplete with a narrator in charge of summarizing the latest events at the end of each episode, introducing the next.

One of the first creatures that will welcome us.

As reiterated several times in the course of the dialogues, Ivan has a single task: to retrieve the Little Orpheus and run back to the surface. Driven by such a narrative premise, which goes well with the marked aesthetic variety with which The Chinese Room has chosen to enrich its product, Little Orpheus relies heavily on a seductive visual sector, at the expense of the variety of gameplay and level design, both functional to what the creators of Dear Esther and Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture want to tell, but without flashes and ambitious choices that go beyond than a simple run from point A to point B.

Between dream and reality

Among the advantages of the product is that of entertaining with a compelling story (at least at the beginning), deliberately suspended between truth and fiction, which more than once will lead the player to to doubt of the story by Ivan Ivanovich.

What happens on the screen is the delirium of a madman or the chronicle of events that really happened? Only the ending (and in particular the add-on episode A Rush of Onion to the Head) will shed some light, but that faint boundary between dream and reality accompanies the whole experience.

If the first approach with Little Orpheus hits the mark thanks to a certain variety of situations that do not take long to manifest itself, the title reveals all it has to offer all too soon, at the expense of the surprise effect and the variety of the gameplay – at all. the effects too much relaxed for an adventure with a wide narrative breath.

The focus of the game is reaching the next area, in a race against time interspersed with sporadic QTEs and puzzles very simple, which will not require any kind of skill to be solved.

Often it will be necessary to move objects to reach otherwise inaccessible platforms, operate levers and buttons that can change the surrounding environment, hide from the sentries in short stealth phases and maneuver vehicles for very short distances. In any of these activities you will always have the impression of being too much guided and have no chance of making a mistake.

In Little Orpheus there are none boss fight (with one exception) or clashes with opponents. Don’t expect a life counter, health bar, or any kind of game over. The pace of progression will always remain very timid – and the level of challenge always rather bland.

On the side longevity the game does not stand out for duration. To complete the adventure will be enough four hoursabout eight in case you choose to replay the same levels in the Lost Recordings mode, to collect luminous balls with which to unlock content and costumes additional.

Some views are truly amazing.

As in any self-respecting platformer, the jump it covers an important function, but also in this case the difficulty curve is constantly calibrated downwards. You will never find yourself having to memorize the patterns of movement of the platforms, or to make particularly risky or difficult jumps to perform, and the lack of one. click to be activated before launching into the void makes everything even more simplefurther reducing the chance of failure.

The same goes for the sections aerial and for those, quite common, in which Ivan will have to go from one vine to another to overcome crevasses or escape from a collapsing structure.

Whether it is a current of air to be exploited to reach the upper area of ​​a scenario or a platform to jump on, the mechanism will always be the same and, even in the most excited phases, no skill will be required to perform. key actions. The scenarios are also free of crossroads and alternative paths, a design choice that helps reduce replayability and the sense of exploration.

Nice, but with some reservations

In version Nintendo Switch (which you can find at a great price on Amazon) the game defends itself quite well, albeit with some deburring too much technique.

When played on Nintendo’s hybrid screen, Little Orpheus lends its side to a alias rather accentuated, especially in the phases in which the shots widen and the dimensions of the protagonist are reduced more and more, with a fairly evident loss of detail.

Nice is not it? And you can also drive.

The same goes for the backgroundsof fluctuating quality. If in some chapters the line of the horizon extends for a space large enough to give the idea of ​​being in a world that is varied and rich in detailsin others there is a marked difference in terms of structure between foreground and background elements.

Image quality improves in mode anchoredsolution that inevitably leaves unchanged sporadic pop-up phenomena, jagged shadows, and some imperfections in the animations.

In the underwater stage, when Ivan gets rid of the wetsuit he wore for most of the chapter, we happened to notice a helmet fluctuate without the protagonist interacting with it in any way, as he should have.

Some uncertainty also regarding the commandswith some contextual actions (in particular those relating to the shift objects) that do not always react correctly to inputs, forcing the player to die and try again, otherwise it will be impossible to continue in the level. It should be emphasized that this is not a structural problem, but an imprecision identified in specific contexts.

That beam could do you very, very badly.

In addition to his adorable protagonist, who would appear more than well in a series dedicated to his adventures and his splendid delusions, Little Orpheus hits the mark thanks to a world of intriguing constructionan exquisite soundtrack (composed exclusively of orchestral pieces of excellent workmanship) and a series of heartfelt tributes to classic science fiction that will not fail to conquer fans.

Too bad for an obvious laziness on the side of gamereally too simple and excessively repetitive, and due to the lack of flashes in the level design, dominated by an excessive horizontality and the absence of elements such as crossroads or areas that could be explored in a second run, which would have contributed to significantly increase the factor replayability.

With some memorable boss fights, a more incisive level of challenge (perhaps enriched by power-ups and collectibles) and greater longevity and variety, the title of The Chinese Room would have had no problem carving out a relevant space between the platform releases of this quest. ‘year.

Version reviewed: Nintendo Switch

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