Little Orpheus hums with technicolour moments of brilliance. From fleeing a T-rex in a lush jungle to scrabbling through the grotesque, parasite-riddled guts of a massive whale, from swinging vine to vine to solving its simple puzzles, everything is bright and beautiful. There’s a sense of childlike joy that permeates everything the game does – which helps balance out most of its niggly problems.
The game is set in the bowels of the Earth and follows unfortunate and reluctant explorer Ivan Ivanovich. He’s retelling his story of chasing the titular Little Orpheus – a nuclear weapon that was powering the drill that delivered him to the centre of the Earth. A flabbergasted colonel listens on, and their exchanges are a brilliant foil to the on-screen action.
There’s an old-fashioned beat to the platform action, with definite shades of a handful of Disney classics from the 16-bit era. Don’t expect twitchy, tricky leaps, though – there’s a more measured feeling to the jumping around, and it helps to make the game feel more comfortable on a touchscreen.
Not that the controls are without issues. Sometimes they fail in annoying ways, leaving you motionless when you’re trying to climb a rope, or stuttering when you try and cross a chasm. Luckily, the checkpoint system never throws you too far back, but there are moments of frustration threaded through the wonder here.
That said, there’s an awful lot to love about Little Orpheus. It’s a game that’s filled with nods and winks to classic Saturday morning adventures, and there’s a deep charm to the experience as well. It’s almost impossible not to like Ivan, even when he’s not doing what you’re trying to tell him to do.
Plus the graphics here are absolutely stunning. There’s a living, breathing world outside the confines of the linear gameplay, and sometimes you just need to stop for a moment to soak it all in. Credit sequences bookend the levels, giving Little Orpheus an episodic rhythm; it belies the fact that when you’ve finished one section, you can move straight onto the next.
Little Orpheus is a bright, bold, often hilarious platformer. It rests on its laurels here and there, reusing gameplay elements and ideas, but then it’ll surprise you with something unique and exciting, and you’ll buy back in completely. The controls are by no means perfect, but following Comrade Ivan Ivanovich through the bowels of the Earth is still a hugely enjoyable way to spend a few hours.
There are plenty of moments in Little Orpheus where you’re going to have to stop and gawp at the gorgeous vistas. The way it uses light and shade to draw the eye really is a thing of wonder, and even on a small screen, it’s hard not to get lost in the vibrant colours.
While the controls aren’t perfect, Little Orpheus is still packed full of joy and adventure.
Genre: Platformer | Format: iOS (tested) | Developer: The Chinese Room | Publisher: Sumo Digital | Price: Free (Apple Arcade) | Release: Out now