PAX Prime is an amazing stage for developers both big and small. It’s a chance for aspiring game designers to get their games in front of thousands of people, and one that the Australia-based Academy of Interactive Entertainment, or AIE, grasped with both hands. The school sent over several teams of fledgling developers as part of a school project, and I got the chance to demo two of their most notable efforts, Orbitor and Storm Worm.
Orbitor has had a bit of a strange development history. Originally intended for release on PC, it was recently picked up for release on consoles. Instead of merely porting over their progress to the new hardware, however, the team decided to take the game back to drawing board and give it a complete overhaul in search of something of a higher quality. It all sounds a bit risky in my opinion, but judging from what I played it may well have been the right move.
While it was still a very early build, Orbitor looked to possess some real potential. As a satellite-esque device, the player must guide themselves into the orbit of several similar pieces of machinery in each level, and in turn orbit them to cancel their affects on the surrounding area. I know that sounds suspiciously vague, but that’s because at the moment it is; even the developers aren’t entirely sure where they want to take the game. I felt a bit awkward as each of my questions came back without answers, but luckily Orbitor‘s gameplay speaks for itself.
Players can slow down time as they gain momentum to properly set a course for their next destination, which removes much of the stress a similar twitch-based game would carry. Orbitor is very much a relaxing game, and the developers intend for it to be more of an experience than a score-chasing arcade title. The build I played only featured several levels of “gravity bubbles”, clear blue spheres with their own gravitational pull, but I was assured there would be all sorts of different environments to orbit in the full game.
Storm Worm, on the other hand, was complete and released by the time I got my hands on it. Described as the spiritual successor to the immortal Snake, Storm Worm takes that classic game’s concept and places it on a 3D plain. Players drive the worm around a sphere collecting cubes to extend their body as long as possible, and the game ends when you collide with yourself. Its mechanics are point for point like Snake‘s, which is already and extremely accessible game, so it’s perfectly suited for the mobile market it’s aiming for.
As Snake has been around for such a long time, Storm Worm had to bring something new to the table. On top of being in 3D, the game also features a multitude of new game modes. My personal favorite was one that had you coiling your worm both in and outside the sphere, but other clever changes to the gameplay keep things refreshing yet simple, and that’s exactly where Storm Worm is comfortable. It’s far from a deep experience, but does seem perfectly suited for passing some time whenever you have a spare moment.
Both Storm Worm and Orbitor are solid little titles in their own right, and thanks to them the AIE had a strong showing at PAX. Storm Worm may seem a bit too bland for many more adventurous gamers, but Orbitor appears to be a genuinely interesting concept, and I look forward to seeing it in its finished form.