Robbie Swifthand and the Orb of Mysteries
Review by Rocco Pepe
Robbie Swifthand and the Orb of Mysteries is a game with a surprising amount of backstory.
Originally released online for free back in 2010, the project has been only recently been remade with full 3D graphics and a much more powerful engine. This is perhaps the reason why it feels like something of a throwback to the days of Super Meat Boy, when hardcore platformers were starting to define the indie game market.
Robbie Swifthand himself feels like some sort of a cross between the Hamburglar and Indiana Jones. He’s somehow gotten trapped within a massive temple, where an evil being threatens to destroy all of humanity, but mostly just puts Robbie through various challenges. Each level has a fairly standard premise: Make your way through a strange underground tomb to the exit door. In order to open the exit, you’ll have to find a magic orb and throw it into a glowing circle hidden elsewhere. Sounds simple enough, but once you factor in all the hidden death traps that you’ll have to contend with, it can get a little perilous.
Like some other hardcore platformers, the challenge does not come from trying to avoid enemies, but simply navigating around obstacles. While some, like swinging pendulums or death pits are easy enough to spot and prepare for, many more cannot be.
These include hidden spike pits, falling bricks, bear traps and many more. Each world introduces fresh challenges to spice things up and the difficulty curve here is almost as sharp as the objects that will often be killing you, so be prepared. Your only reprieve comes in the form of the power ups you earn after clearing a world and beating its boss.
While the Orb of Mysteries certainly isn’t trying to look like a Metroidvania, there is clearly care put into the art direction and music. Each area exudes a moody and dangerous atmosphere and the music manages to walk a fine line between being appropriately tense as well as catchy. That said, this doesn't exactly jive with the game’s story, which tries to be humorous more than anything.
The character of Robbie is established to be concerned with wealth more than anything else, which is fine. Where it starts to break apart is when even his mysterious, spiritual ally is only around to crack jokes. That said, these jokes never become annoying or repetitive, so it’s not something I would see as an issue. What narrative the game does contain is simple enough that it can be ignored for those who just want to take a crack at the next stage.
That’s not to say that there aren’t some real issues, though. The framerate is wildly inconsistent as you move through each stage, though I’m not entirely sure if this affected the timing of my jumps and such. A bigger problem was that my game would often crash after I died on specific stages, which will only make the trial and error gameplay feel worse.
But outside of technical issues, there isn’t much to worry about on the gameplay side of things. Robbie’s jumps feel consistent, as are the various obstacles he must avoid. Though I died many times, I rarely found them unfair.
If you’re the kind of person who favors quick, reactionary platformers, then Robbie Swifthand might just be a much-needed shot in the arm for you.
Final Recommendation: 👍 Yes!