Little Orpheus on Apple Arcade — Epic 1940s to 1970s Sci-Fi Homage Adventure Experience Awesomeness
I have been spending some time with Apple Arcade. My medium publication is filled with my thoughts and views about many arcade games. I love the service. Apple has the money to attract some really good games. Many of these games can and should be enjoyed on the iPad and iPhone.
Then, there are some massive adventure games, which deserve the big iMac 4K display experience.
Little Orpheus is one of them.
I waited many months to play this, as my iMac was away in storage as I was traveling. Once I got my iMac back, I connected the Xbox Controller and just played an episode every day. Even on an ageing, 3 year old iMac, this game runs smooth. Looks and sounds great.
Some spoilers ahead!
Love Letter To 1930s to 1970s and b-movies
There is something about old timey movies and stories that are so amazing. For example, I have read and re-read ‘The Lost World’ dozens of times throughout my lifetime. That feeling of adventure, in every page of that book.
You look at fiction, and the development of movies, there were lot of cool things that happened, starting from the 1930s. You had movies like King Kong. You had stop motion special effects. You had steam punk adventures about the future like in Brazil and Blade Runner. Many of these movies, and stories took the audience away from the real world.
A lot of times, there was no need to provide a ‘logical’ explanation as to how this all happened.
For instance, The Lost World talks about a literal lost world, inaccessible to the outside world. Games like BioShock talk about underwater cities and cloud cities. Movies like Lawrence of Arabia depict incredible adventures in the desert. The thing about all of these concepts is the feeling of something that is too big to understand and digest.
Moby Dick is a whale that seems to target this guy. This guy wants his revenge. Then, Dick wins! It’s a story. A grand adventure!
How…why…does it matter, really?
Those Wonderful Worlds
After a while, you stop asking questions. You appreciate that the characters, humans, just like the audience, are but a tiny dot on the wind shield. In the grand scheme of things, we are nothing. We are along for the ride and we should simply enjoy it.
The game is like that. The entire game is gorgeous and follows an episodic format. Each episode is a homage to some specific setting or a story or a decade. One episode has you escaping the jaws of a dinosaur. This constantly reminded me of The Lost World.
Another episode takes place inside the belly of a whale. This is perhaps, taken from Moby Dick. Also, with elements of all those alien, bugs and abomination style things that are present in so many movies, in the old times.
One more level brings you to the desert and its dunes. This reminded me of the two Dune movies, the two Mummy movies and Lawrence of Arabia.
Another takes you in the middle of mind controlled aliens who are always wearing these Bioshock style helmets. They shoot beams out of their head and light freeze you to death.
Then, after a while, you find yourself in space, jumping in reduced gravity and escaping perils and dangers. Also, you are somehow breathing in space,which is okay, I suppose. I mean, why not? This is a world that simply exists and runs on its own rules.
The Narrative Device, Dialogue and Story
So, first, I want to type something. I don't know how many folks know this. When space programs test animals in space travel, there is almost always, never any plan to bring them back. A case in point is Laika, who shows up in this game.
She was picked up off the streets, and sent off to space, and left to die. It’s how space travel began. With the death of that dog. It’s all very sad.
So, this game really tugs that part of the heart. Laika is alive and well here. She ends up staying with our hero at the end of the story, having developed the ability to talk to humans.
Now, our hero. You know, a case can be made that, this guy is lying through his teeth to save his own ass. 3 years ago, this cosmonaut (game happens in Russia, in the 60s, I believe) was sent to the center of the earth. He shows up now, having lost ‘Little Orpheus’, the McGuffin that drives the plot.
So, he is sitting in the interrogation chamber, with a commander on the other side of the table. Our hero, begins narrating his adventure at the center of the earth. The story, you see, is unbelievable. The hapless cosmonaut is running through whale bellies and flying in space and talking to dogs. Eventually, he faces off against a massive villain, who has taken control of time itself.
Then, he fights hard to ‘restore’ time itself.
The general is a patient man. He listens to all of these ludicrous stories till the end. Of course, the general is also a practical man. He is a veteran of dealing with a deserter such as our hero, people who will make up anything to avoid a court martial and being shot to death.
The conversation between the two is overlapped with the game-play. As the story progresses, they get more and more unbelievable. Ultimately, the pressure of reliving the experience (Or, the burden of having to connect all the lies told till now) overcomes our cosmonaut, and he simply collapses.
The story is so interesting, for the general, and me, the player, it was inevitable that the general has grown to enjoy the story.
Sure, this guy is spinning all these yarns to save his ass.
However, it is a good yarn. Might as well end it. So, the general, in a moment of heart warming, decides to help him finish the story. When the story ends, the general, has of course, grown to like him. He decides to let him live, on a technicality.
I mean, it is a really good story.
The thing I like about modern indie and small studio game development is that, you get stories like this. The story and visuals are comparable to a AAA studio. The music is amazing. The voice acting, such, high quality.
I love this game. I am happy that I was able to play it on the big screen. I also played a few levels on the iPad. But, big screen is where this belongs.
I will be returning to this game. I did not uninstall this from the iMac. I am going to return to the center of the world, for second helpings.