In Little Orpheus, the latest game from Everybody’s Gone To The Rapture developer The Chinese Room, Soviet cosmonaut Ivan Ivanovich is debriefed on the 1962 mission that saw him exploring the secret world beneath the planet’s crust in a massive atomic-powered drilling machine. It’s got dinosaurs, lost civilisations, and all the excitement and adventure of a classic pulp adventure novel.
Little Orpheus, available now on Apple Arcade, opens with our hero, the somewhat nervous Ivanovich, being interrogated by the hulking General Yurkovoi regarding the former’s top-secret mission. Shortly after his mission launched the Soviets lost contact with Ivan, presuming him dead. Three years later he emerged from underground, claiming to have saved the world. The general listens incredulously as Ivanovich weaves his spectacular tale.
Turns out Little Orpheus, the titular drilling machine, had some issues. Bits of it broke and/or went missing, causing Ivanovich to explore the mysterious world deep beneath the Earth’s surface. Jumping, climbing, swinging, and avoiding dinosaurs ensues. Check out the first 11 minutes of the game below.
Little Orpheus is a simple side-scrolling adventure. Ivan moves left or right. He can jump and grab ledges. He can swing from or grab vines. He can push and pull objects. It’s almost like a brighter, m0re colourful Limbo or Inside.
It’s also much more whimsical. Little Orpheus combines a ‘70s adventure-serial aesthetic with cartoon sensibilities to create a game that wouldn’t feel out of place playing on a tube television on Saturday morning several decades past. Just look at that opening animation. It’s Land of the Lost Comrade up in here.
I’m particularly fond of the musical cues. There’s this sequence where Ivan must tiptoe from cover to cover, avoid the gaze of a hungry T-Rex. His movement is accompanied by plucked violin strings, the official music of cartoon sneaking. The way the music swells when Ivan grabs a vine and swings reminds me of the scene in Star Wars where Luke rescues his girlfriend sister. The music is very much a character in Little Orpheus.
Little Orpheus is definitely one of the games that makes my monthly Apple Arcade subscription worth it. In fact, I’m pondering upgrading my older Apple TV so I can experience this on a much bigger screen than my iPad. Or I could just wait until it comes out on consoles some day. We’ll see if my patience holds out.