Freeware Garden: Orion

Ludum Dare 31 has just begun and its theme is all about fitting entire games in a single screen. Developer feiss has made the most of the space by effectively fitting a sizable part of our solar system in one button-filled screen. Orion is a space shuttle sim, it evokes of old MS-DOS space sim Shuttle.

How can a simple little game about travelling from Earth and into the solar system achieve a flavour of realism without getting fiddly? With the ingenious use of buttons and switches, that’s how. Dozens of buttons, that do anything from turning on power and loading fuel to checking systems and rotating service structures, have to be pushed in the correct order following the commands of a handy control centre.

And after the shuttle launches the find-and-click-the-button routine goes a bit of Penn and Teller’s Desert Bus, as you’ve now got to try and maintain the shuttle’s pitch at zero without getting distracted by how wonderful everything looks and how excellently everything works.


  1. Daniele says:

    I’ll admit I have a thing for click-based games, especially if they have great semi-minimalist graphics like in this case. That said, Orion is pure fantastic-ness and gave me shivers of joy while playing it, so thanks a lot for writing about it. Hope it gets developed more after the jam :)

  2. Viroso says:

    I’d love an entire game set in some tiny ship, you never step outside but you just get to touch and fiddle with every button to pilot your explorer ship and maybe see something really cool through the tiny windows.

    • honuk says:

      they call those “flight sims,” and there are a lot of them.

      • Harlander says:

        The DCS series are the best I’ve seen for simulating every little toggle and switch of the display.

        I don’t know if there’s been anything on that level of detail for space flight since Shuttle – I think what Viroso is yearning for is a fictional spaceship with that level of detailed controls. DCS Cobra MkIII, perhaps.

        I should say this is also a thing I’d like to have.

        • silentdan says:

          Viroso, have you played any of the Silent Hunter games? They have their flaws and bugs, that’s for sure, but SH5 lets you walk around your ship. When you dive, you hear it creak and groan under the pressure. Sometimes, I just surface the boat and cruise at low speed, and watch the waves. It’s a little weird to be thinking “man, those swells look really realistic” and “oh, look a gull!” and “what a nice pleasure cruise I’m taking, here” and “say, I should blow up that merchant vessel for the Third Reich.” Like, it’s a little jarring sometimes, but mostly you just get to sail your boat.

          Also, I love DCS World. The helicopters in particular feel amazing.

      • Viroso says:

        No but not like that. That doesn’t capture the idea, I guess. I mean like, there’s nowhere but your little ship, you barely see anything outside, you live in it. Like Herlander said, maybe something a little more outlandish. Like there are all these ship systems you have to constantly maintain. Like sailing but in space or something else more imaginative.

    • Zenicetus says:

      Well, if you want realism with lots of switches to flip, there is always Orbiter:
      link to

      It doesn’t sound like that’s exactly what you’re looking for though, and I’m not sure anything else is a good fit. It sounds like it could be a fun game though, even if it wasn’t trying for realism. Maybe something like the greenhouse ark ship in the Silent Running film, where you have to keep the plants watered as well as maintaining the rest of the ship’s systems.

    • Stellar Duck says:

      Gateway: The Game.

  3. J Arcane says:

    If you enjoyed the hell out of this as much as I did, you’ll love diving into Space Shuttle Mission Simulator: link to

    It is exactly what Viroso mentioned: you really do get to wander the cockpit and flip every little button. Sometimes you actually have to.

  4. Chamot says:

    There’s also Rogue System ( link to ) , a mostly one man development team space sim that unfortunately failed its kickstarter campaign but has been chugging along with regular updates. It might not be what y’all are looking for but it’s another example of a hardcore flight sim gameplay injected within a space sim.

    • Stellar Duck says:


      I was trying to remember the name earlier but couldn’t. I guess the name is sadly forgettable.

  5. LionsPhil says:

    It’s disappointing that you don’t seem to be able to press the wrong button and separate stages on the pad with hilarious results.

    Also that this is a game in mid-’90s style that is bringing a mid-late-’00s machine to its knees. The stuttering is so bad the voice of the countdown gets seconds out of sync from the visual.