Platform: PC (reviewed), Mac
Developer: Cat Nigiri
Publisher: Cat Nigiri
Release date: September 1, 2017
TL;DR: Expect to die a LOT – mostly fireball-related.
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Necrosphere doesn’t care about your feelings, or how highly you rate your gaming skills. It pulls you in and hurls you to your fiery death, over and over again. Then it laughs at you. I don’t think I’ve ever died quite so much in such a short space of time as I have playing when through Necrosphere.
The game starts off innocently enough and will remind you of a high-def version of your favourite ’80s platformer. You are Agent Terry Cooper, and you were killed in a shoot-out, then dropped into the Necrosphere â€“ a place where everyone goes when they die, except you are alone and unable to see or interact with anyone else that may be there. Your own personal Hell, if you will, complete with fireballs (god, I hate fireballs). While the story isn’t groundbreaking, it does a decent enough job of making you want to play, though that initial motivation may become lost as the difficulty spikes, later on.
The Necrosphere itself is non-linear, with separate, colour-coded areas, each containing a portal. Three of these portals will send you back to the entrance of the Necrosphere, while the fourth will allow you to leave and rejoin the realm of the living.
The two button controls (A + D by default) allow you to move left and right through the map. There is no â€œjump,â€ button, so at the start, exploration is limited. As you progress, you find notes left by your (still living) friends as they attempt to help you escape the Necrosphere by leaving not-so-helpful hints and promises of gear (power-ups) that you need to locate in order to help you move forward.
Fireballs are introduced almost immediately and luckily, so are Gravity Bubbles: bubbles that, when walked into, launch you into the air in the general direction that you were facing.
Cue the start of many, many deaths.
Necrosphere is unapologetic in its difficulty. There is no option to change it, so you either have the skill (and perseverance) to play it, or you don’t. The game forces you to learn from your mistakes. You will bounce from bubble to (sometimes moving) bubble to get to the next platform, avoiding spikes and fireballs, all while having a rather cheery, retro-arcadey soundtrack to die to.
You will unlock your first power-up early on: a spandex ballet suit that allows you to dash forward â€“ a rather handy alternative to jumping in order to get over previously inaccessible gaps, opening up more areas. And more fireballs.
At this point, you’ll find yourself roaming around in search of places that are now open, and it’s easy to get lost or take a wrong turn, making you repeat areas that you’ve just spent the best part of the last ten minutes swearing at.
Two more power-ups await you further on; The Invisible Gauntlets that allow you to kill the few enemies you encounter by dashing into them, as well as giving you the ability to smash through blocks that bar your way. The Jet Pack, your third and final power-up, will allow you to fly upwards for a limited amount of time. While the first two power-ups are a welcome addition that work well with the game’s limited controls, the Jet Pack is most definitely not.
Shortly after obtaining your Jet Pack, the game’s difficulty ramps up insanely. While all previous areas and obstacles can seem incredibly daunting at first, and do require a definite amount of precise control to execute correctly, the areas you have to progress through after are ridiculously complex, while the Jet Pack itself feels fiddly and hard to control.
It is also at this point that the fireballs, not content being placed in the most bloody inconvenient places on the map, whether static or moving back and forth along a predefined trajectory, suddenly decide that they need to up their game by chasing you.
There is absolutely no way that anyone can get through this game, first time, without dying. If you don’t like dying, this may not be the game for you. If, however, you like a challenge, then Necrosphere may be right up your street. Not only is there the challenge of initially beating the game, there is undeniable replay value with achievements for timed runs: â€œFinish the game in less than 30 minutes,â€ and the purely sadistic â€œFinish the game without dying once.â€
Honestly, I was surprised how much I enjoyed playing Necrosphere. I generally shy away from games that seem purposely frustrating but this – at least for the most part – manages to strike a good balance between difficulty and frustration.
- Surprisingly fun!
- Simple controls
- Spandex ballet suit…
Bad times :(
- Jet Pack feels difficult to control
- No map = easy to get lost
- Fireballs are evil…
There is pixalated blood in the intro and the subject matter – man trying to excape the afterlife – may seem a little dark for young ones. The controls are simple but the gameplay could seem repetative and frustrating for the less patient.
Disclaimer: This review is based on a review copy of the game provided by the developer for the purposes of this review