Orion Haste Hands-On (Xbox X/S)

Orion Haste is a retro-inspired run-and-gun action game where you take on the role of a space commando who must defend a human-occupied planet from an alien invasion. Harness...
Orion Haste - Trailer

Orion Haste is a retro-inspired run-and-gun action game where you take on the role of a space commando who must defend a human-occupied planet from an alien invasion. Harness a full arsenal of weapons as you travel across 7 different levels, each containing an epic boss at the end of each chapter, and liberate humanity from the extraterrestrial invaders.

If you’re familiar with games like Contra, which came out for the NES in 1987, you know what’s in store. For those born after the millennium, Orion Haste is an action-packed sidescroller with very little variety in what you need to do. Hold the stick in one direction, hold down the ‘fire’ button and hope to high Hell you hit something – because this genre is known for its difficulty and unforgiving checkpointing. Basically, try not to get hit as you run head-first into an onslaught of incoming bullets, missiles, acid attacks and fireballs.

There are health pickups and shields to pick up along the way. These are usually hidden in crates or dropped from felled enemies, but sometimes they are tucked away in areas requiring a bit more tinkering. The only problem with these ones is that Orion Haste is not built to be a platformer, so trying to accurately reach difficult areas never feels worth it. Accuracy is another hindrance too, because if you’re not pixel-perfect with your jumps or landings, you will slip off the edge into oblivion. When you inevitably run of out health, you will be sent back to the start of the chapter, and that is as frustrating and as tedious as it sounds.

My favourite parts of Orion Haste were the boss battles. Getting to them is a chore, and it often becomes an exercise in speed-running through the main parts of the game to reach the boss. Reaching the boss with enough health is also part of the strategy, as is picking the right weapon for the job. You have access to a variety of weapons and each one has its strengths and weaknesses. You will soon discover which one is your favourite (hint: it’ll be the long-range electric beam frequently used in the trailer) but as every boss is different, picking the right tool for the job is paramount. Orion Haste is also beautifully animated in nostalgic pixel art, and the chiptune soundtrack is quite frankly amazing.

Orion Haste’s biggest flaw is in its stubbornness to stay the same throughout. During my hands-on, I only made it to Level 4 (I got stuck on a boss that filled the screen with fire; how are you supposed to survive that?), and after fighting the same enemies with the same weapons for a few hours I felt like I had seen and experienced everything. Don’t get me wrong – what I experienced I enjoyed. Despite its repetitive nature, it had me hooked! Ultimately though, once I got stuck on a particular section, I didn’t feel like reliving the same experience for several hours was worth it.

My final thoughts: If you enjoy games like Contra you will love Orion Haste. If you grew up with a NES or SNES and want some nostalgia, you will love Orion Haste. If you desire a game with a bit more gameplay variety, story development, character development and voxels, miss this one out.

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