Update 1st March: Despite Little Orpheus originally being scheduled to release today, publisher Secret Mode has taken the last-minute decision to delay it. That decision is based on the fact that some of the themes in the game may be upsetting to players in light of what is happening in Ukraine – something that was touched on in our review.
Secret Mode’s statement reads as follows:
“In light of recent world events, today’s PC and console launch for Little Orpheus will be delayed.
While Little Orpheus was originally released on Apple Arcade in June 2020 and does not directly reference recent world events, we recognise some of the game’s themes and content may be upsetting to players at this time.
We thank you for your understanding and will share more information at a later point.”
Our original review follows.
Straddling the line between imaginative and run-of-the-mill, Chinese Room’s Little Orpheus ultimately fails to really impress.
Now is really not the time to be playing a game that centres its story around a Russian general looking for his missing atomic bomb. Granted, Little Orpheus originally released two years ago on Apple Arcade, so its timing to release on other consoles is unfortunate at best. But when I’m unable to think of much else at the moment other than Russia’s attack on Ukraine – and Putin’s threats of nuclear war – I really don’t want a game to be using a Russian atomic bomb as a comedic narrative device.
It’s also wholly unnecessary. Little Orpheus isn’t just the name of the game; it’s the name of the bomb pivotal to the story. You see, you play as a Russian Cosmonaut who was sent on a mission to travel to the centre of the Earth three years ago in order to retrieve the bomb. The mission goes awry, and three years later you mysteriously arrive back on the surface, with a tall tale to tell your general.
Little Orpheus, then, is the recount of your adventures to a Russian army general, who only wants to know where his atomic bomb is. Instead, he’s treated to a tale of forgotten civilisations filled with dinosaurs, beautiful jungles, lost, vast oceans, giant whales and more. Yes, it may be interspersed by your Cosmonaut’s conversation with the general. But those conversation sections could have just as easily been a father telling his child a far-fetched story of an adventure from his youth. It really did not have to be about a damn bomb.
The story is, admittedly, entertaining in its delivery. But it’s the only thing that really sets Little Orpheus apart from its ilk. At its core, this is a rather basic platform game with simple puzzles you’ve already completed in a dozen games that came before it. Push a box to climb on a ledge. Pull a lever to move something into place. Stealth past an enemy while it’s facing the other way. There’s nothing really innovative here.
Thankfully, the visual design helps to keep you interested. Spread over nine distinct levels, Little Orpheus’ world is vibrant, colourful and imaginative. Whether you’re ducking out of sight of a giant dinosaur or feeling the wet squelch under your feet from inside the belly of a whale, there’s a lot to enjoy here. And the pace moves quickly enough that you don’t have much time for boredom to set in.
It will likely take you around four hours to complete Little Orpheus‘ nine distinct episodes. Once you’ve finished a level, you’re invited to jump back in and replay it, this time with collectibles to find. Once was certainly enough for me, but some players may be glad of an excuse to eke a bit of replayability out of it. Frankly, I don’t see why those collectibles just couldn’t exist on the first run.
I can’t quite recommend Little Orpheus, and not just because of its unfortunate choice of narrative given the current climate. Its story is at least told in an interesting way, and it presents you a colourful, well-realised fantasy world to explore. But its platforming is dull and uninspired; you’ve seen it all before in other games. Though being inside a whale is cool, I guess.
Little Orpheus Review – GameSpew’s Score