“The dinosaurs became extinct because they didn’t have a space program. And if we become extinct because we don’t have a space program, it’ll serve us right!” – Larry Niven
Little Orpheus is a 2D side-scrolling platformer with a heavy narrative focus. Players take on the role of Soviet cosmonaut Ivan Ivanovich as he recounts his adventurous journey to the centre of the earth.
Developer: The Chinese Room
Released: 13th September 2022
Little Orpheus is primarily narrative-driven and features fairly minimal gameplay with little to no difficulty curve. Players can run, jump, swing, climb and slide through the side-scrolling platformer environment in order to progress the story. There are also fun interludes made up of stealth sections, light puzzling and chase sequences to add further variety. This all remains relatively unchallenging and it seems as though the intention is for players to be able to advance with minimal difficulty or frustration, in fact, the experience feels almost like an advanced walking sim at times. This works well for the style of game and does not distract from the narrative focus.
There are multiple episodes to the game and upon completion of each one, orbs are scattered throughout the level to be found on a second identical playthrough. Finding the orbs will unlock achievements as well as behind-the-scenes content and humorous outfits.
The game’s sci-fi narrative is delivered mostly through narration and visual storytelling which proves to be very effective and includes a healthy dose of humour! It sees comrade Ivan Ivanovich, a Soviet cosmonaut, recounting his mission to a superior after being presumed missing for 3 years. In 1962, he was dropped into an extinct volcano in an atom-bomb-powered exploration capsule called Little Orpheus. Whilst there he encounters beautiful lands, awe-inspiring ancient architecture, prehistoric beasts and a subterranean tribe.
Visually, Little Orpheus is stunning, depicting underground jungles and lost cities with a distinct vibrancy, even in the darker, more perilous sections of the game. Similarly, the audio is mesmerising and beautiful featuring twinkling sounds, energetic flute and dramatic strings, with Jessica Currie’s influence being apparent from the start. There is a lot of variety in the soundtrack with the different pieces fitting the scenes and different environments well. The voice acting is also a stand-out feature with an expressiveness that matches the rest of the overall aesthetic.
Little Orpheus is a unique and colourful game that puts its focus on telling its fun and intriguing story. While there is variety in the gameplay with a range of mechanics, there is some sense of repetition across chapters and no real difficulty curve. Whilst this works well with the narrative focus of the game it does mean it might not appeal to those looking for more of a challenge. The audio and visual elements are outstanding and really bring the story and minimal gameplay to life. It will take around 4 -6 hours to complete and fills its time well for the most part. I thoroughly enjoyed this game and would recommend this game to fans of interactive fiction, walking simulators and casual platformers.
If you are looking for more games from The Chinese Room, you might like this article:
Dear Esther: The OG Walking-Simulator