The Perplexing Orb is an odd game. It is an overwhelmingly simple experience on all fronts, there is no doubt, yet there are redeeming qualities that make the game potentially worth experiencing. Developer Treefall doesn’t have the best reputation with Nintendo fans, of course, and while this game certainly shares some of the problems their other games have, The Perplexing Orb is one actually worth taking a look at — even if it never does rise above its problems.
In The Perplexing Orb, you control an orb by moving the control stick. That’s it: that is all you do. The stage layouts will have bumps and narrow paths and ramps for you to jump with. You’ll collect all the objects in the stage for bonuses, and hit the goalpost to move on. The level design isn’t amazing, and arguably it should be with such a simple concept; if you have a basic set of gameplay systems, you need to do interesting things with them. But all the levels in The Perplexing Orb are a bit standard, a bit uncreative. Not that there is much one can do with such a limited concept, but I still was rather disappointed.
Even so, I did find myself enjoying the experience at times. There was a sense of dumb fun; say what you will, but controlling a ball through an obstacle course has always had its charms, and the physics work well enough for it to come together (though the lack of camera control was frustrating). The main game won’t last you very long, however; probably no longer than one or two hours. Even with the collectibles and a few unlockable bonus levels, the four dollar title may not last much time. There is also a multiplayer mode, where you race against a friend. It’s a nice addition, though there are not many maps in this mode.
The visuals are not impressive, but there was some effort put into them. Each world has noticeably different themes and color schemes, and every level looks different. The backgrounds look surprisingly nice, if certainly low-quality, though the objects and foreground look atrocious. The music is also not good, though it annoyed me just a little bit, if that counts for anything.
All in all, it is hard to recommend The Perplexing Orb. Certainly it is not incompetent — the physics work, and the core is fine — but nothing is done to make it stand out. The level design is totally unremarkable, the length is short, and the visuals and music, while mostly not unpleasant, are just unimpressive. Even so, those that like rolling a ball through an obstacle course will find something to enjoy here.