When asked to review Spheroids, developed by Eclipse Games S.C., I was a bit hesitant as I am not what one would consider an expert when it comes to playing platform games. I enjoy them, but I admit that when it comes to mastering them can struggle more than I wish. That being said, as I played Spheroids I found that I was pretty successful in my efforts to make it through the game, and low and behold, I didn’t suck too much. But I know that many of you platform game fiends out there are wondering: Is Spheroids going to be worth the time and money? Well, that just depends on what you are looking for.
You take on the role of Lucas, a good young Canadian kid. Lucas is tasked to help his friend Otto, who happens to be a scientist. One fine day an alien form, called Spheroids, decide to leave their alternative universe to try to take over ours. It’s a simple story that is played out through various cutscenes between 8 different areas. The cutscenes are more focused with the places that you end up going to defend and introducing you to new forms of Spheroids. The 8 areas that you will find yourself venturing through include Japan, Brazil, Egypt, Russia, Kenya, India and Greece. There is one more area for the game’s final battle, but I am not going to tell you as it will be your job to find out yourself.
Each level within an area has a simple goal, use the tools that you are given and clear out each area as you make your way from start to the finish of said level. You’ll be popping Spheroids with your “modified drill hook” as you jump, hang, and roof walk your way through 32 levels spread out across the 8 areas. The thing that most diehard platforming fans will note, and even casual fans, is that the it does not push one’s gaming limits to the max. It is a strictly go from point A to point B with very few puzzle elements, and what puzzle elements you do run into will not tax your brain power as you’ll find them very straight forward. The reason I say this is that I found nothing in this area to be difficult, and you all know from my statement above that I am not an expert at these games.
One of the neat features is that different Spheroids are introduced as you make your way through the game’s levels. As you begin you’ll find yourself facing the most basic of bouncing Spheroids, but the further you get into the game the more different Spheroids you’ll come across. There are those that split multiple times and there are those that will split and if you don’t dispose of the smaller Spheroids that are a result, they will join up and become ‘whole’ again. There are also those who need to be hit multiple times before they die (these also split into smaller Spheroids), there are those that come down quicker than any other, and finally you’ll find some that can’t even be shot in the first place. Sure, the game may not be that difficult, but experiencing the different types of Spheroids as I made my way through the game was kind of nice.
Another neat feature of the game is that it introduces a couple of new gameplay mechanics as you get into some of the new areas. Of note is the use of a grappling hook and the introduction of anti-gravity boots that allow you to walk on ceilings. What I found with these mechanics was that it added a new way for me to save my ass more than a few times. It also allowed me to be kind of creative in some of my approaches to various areas of the game, using my anti-gravity boots in ways that may not have been intended. If I should note anything here it is that the grappling hook was not always as accurate as I wished. There were more than a few times that I went to grab one of the designated areas with the grappling hook only to have it target another one further down the screen. I was able to adjust to this fact, but given that this one mechanic was not has accurate at it should have been it caused a bit of a misstep now and then.
There was one gameplay mechanic that reminded me of another ‘retro’ style game that I played way back, and that game is Mutant Mudds. In Mutant Mudds you had the ability to teleport into the back or foreground to complete various parts of a level. In Spheroids you will come across teleporters that let you go into the background to access switches, enemies, and collectibles. This aspect of the game was very Mutant Mudds-like, but it was also done in a way that continued to add to the charm of the game.
So, I have mentioned a few times that Spheroids is not particularly a difficult game, and yes, the 4-6 hour adventure it isn’t hard, and that is due to a few things. The first is that the check points in each level are plentiful. If anything, they are somewhat predictable too in such that once you reach a check point you know that you are about to head into a challenging (if you can call it that) part of the level or just about at the end. Another key factor here is that if you kill only a few enemies in a part of a level that is littered with them, and you die, those enemies stay dead and you don’t have to worry about facing them all again. The ones that are left alive are the only ones that will be there when you respawn and get to that part of the level again.
The game also has an in-game store (in the form of an arcade cabinet) at the start of each level. Here you can upgrade your character (e.g. extra health) or you purchase in-game items with in-game currency that lasts as long as you stay alive in the level (e.g. double hooks). I know that I purchased a double hook on many occasions as it allowed me to fire much quicker and pop many more Spheroids than if I was only using the single hook. The big question for many though will be is there need to purchase items or are upgrades necessary? For some, like me, maybe, but for the hardcore platforming fan, probably unlikely, but just the fact that it’s offered makes it worth something.
I for one am getting weary of the whole ‘retro’ graphics in indie games. Although I know there is a need for developers to keep costs low and not put all their funds into visuals, I can’t help but tire of so many 8 or 16-bit style games. That being said, I actually kind of enjoyed the retro look of Spheroids. Maybe it was the fact that each area was created so well to match the areas they were representing. One such area is Japan, as you go through the level it is has Cherry Blossom Trees and pink petals flowing through the air from those trees. Greece was another area as the blue and white color scheme was well represented on the various Greek like buildings that were in the background. Eclipse games seemed to really put some effort in the retro-style and I kind of liked it, which was a shock to me.
As for the audio, you’ll come across sounds for the various Spheroids, and there are some light environmental sounds too, and of course there are sounds of the weapons and tools that are at your disposal for this adventure you are taking on. There is no voice acting at all, as the cutscenes, which take place in Otto’s lab, consist of chat bubbles with fast moving text. The music is best described as some upbeat techno-like sound. It is all right during the start of the game, but it varies so little throughout that some will either tune it out or turn it off.
Spheroids is a cute looking and very playable platform game, unfortunately it hits a few bumps as it’s hampered by how easy it really can be, and the fact that it’s not as long as some might hope. There is no doubt that casual fans of the genre, like myself, can feel like a platform game king when playing; however, diehards of the genre will find I way too easy and should only apply they need a much needed break from the rest of the games out there right now.