Orcs are a very common foe in video games. Most of the time, they are just cannon fodder, placed in your way to distract you from your goal, or to provide the stress relieving satisfaction of plunging your sword into their chest, or cracking your whip over their heads. And to be honest, ORCS is much of the same, but here they are also the focal point of the story.
Made using the Construct 2 game engine, ORCS is an old school 2D action/platformer from developer Pixel vs Pixel, which draws much inspiration from classic games like Castlevania and Ghosts ‘n Goblins.
Right off the bat, (or club) the humour and self-aware nature of this game are best represented in its steam release trailer, with quotes like, “Stop playing video games and get a job!” 1/10 – Dad, and, “better than Uncharted” 5/5 – Me. These ratings and criticisms from the developer and his family, help set the tone and show that the game isn’t to be taken too seriously. They also supply a good laugh.
The story isn’t as clichéd as I originally expected. Yes, you are a Hero on a journey to defeat an Orc King and his five sons, all of which control a different element from nature, like wind, fire, and ice. But it’s Genius! As our hero points out. And that’s the refreshing part, our hero’s nonchalant attitude towards the entire situation. His quest to defeat an Orc horde, and save the nearby town is a noble and just cause, but he approaches it with the satirical attitude of a Stirling Archer or Handsome Jack.
There are twenty-four very challenging levels for you to traverse during your quest. And as you progress further, the obstacles and Orc encounters become more difficult. Take three hits and its back to the checkpoint, and repeat. It is trial and error, (mostly error) so you’ll need to master your timing for some of the more hazardous leaps.
You are generously provided health pickups along your journey, and enemies drop side weapons, which are a useful once off attack until you collect another one. It’s best to take every corner and pit cautiously, as the most frustrating enemy you’ll encounter, the Orc archers, could be waiting for you on the next platform. They seem to be placed in the most precarious positions and will really get on your nerves.
This is where you’ll need to develop some strategies in order to pass some of these difficult gauntlets. Do I hang on to this throwing axe for dealing with a difficult Orc? Or take the risk and just run and jump (and pray). Sometimes, I found that this was the best way. There is also gamepad support available for that more authentic old school platforming experience.
The entire game and story is illustrated through eight-bit artwork and cinematics. The graphics during the cutscenes are very simple, but it’s during the gameplay where the charms of this graphic style work best.
The soundtracks accompanying the game are also done in the eight-bit style, and do provide a bit of variety, but aren’t very memorable and most likely won’t win any awards. I found the tracks diminished very quickly and turned it off after the first twenty minutes. Only to be left with the simple thud and whooshing sound effects. I don’t like to be critical of other content creators, but the sound effects were the only area I felt to be a bit lacking.
I’d like to encourage the developer to design more levels and expand the game even further, maybe adding a puzzle mode or boss rush mode with online leaderboards. As it is, I found ORCS to be a good game to pick up and play, difficult but enjoyable, and for a couple of bucks you can’t really go wrong. Give it a go and you’re in for a fun time, via the wonderful world that is Steam.
Tim Pearce is a freelance journalist and contributor to PN2. Go say hi on Facebook via Meatbaitmedia.