Thursday, September 14, 2017

Review: Semispheres


In a world full of aggravation and stress it is sometimes nice to have the means to help you unwind and find your personal place of calm. There are times when the answer to that problem is popping some headshots in a shooter or pwning some fools in a fighting game, but sometimes you really need the opposite. With its very simple-yet-gorgeous art style, its interesting right/left brain cooperative style, and its soothing ambient music Semispheres manages to be a pleasingly challenging but relaxing prescription for curing what ails you… at least for a little while.

The first thing that captivated me in Semispheres was the vibrant yet pleasing look for the whole experience. Subscribing to the school of thought that less is more, and making it work in its favor, I’m not positive the game is pushing the hardware necessarily. However, I’m also not positive what more you could do to make it look better short of scrapping the art style entirely. All elements in the game are visually distinct and at no time did I find myself confused over what something did once it was quickly introduced to me.


That leads well into the way the game progresses and adds elements chapter by chapter. There’s very limited direct instruction in the game beyond it cluing you into what buttons you’ll want to use. Aside from that the assumption is that you’ll use the level layouts and your creativity to decide how to solve the problems presented to you. The right/left dynamic is used well throughout the game, with a mix of each side needing to help the other as well as times where they need to complete part of the levels on their own. This can require some extra time to ponder and try some strategies out until you work out the flow, particularly in the cases where you sometimes need to work back and forth in a sequence. That said, I found that there were also times where I was simply making the levels harder than they are every once in awhile. Sometimes the easiest answer is best, but also the one you jump to last.


There is somewhat of a story to the game, though throughout most of the time it is a bit of a mystery how it relates to the action on screen. All will be revealed over the course of the game and I suppose it is a nice touch that compelled me to hop back in to help figure a little more of it out and to test my theories. That said for the most part the story and the puzzles are pretty disconnected and that’s fine, the nature of the puzzles is pretty compelling without the additional trappings. The use of the holes, warps, and other techniques revealed over the course of the game generally keep it interesting as each chapter is only a handful of levels a piece. Just as you’re fully getting in control of a new technique it will shift you to a newer chapter where you’ll usually be learning yet another element and being asked to use it as well as the ones before it typically. While it may not be earth-shattering I at least found the nature of the puzzles to be fresh and not as run-of-the-mill as some puzzle games can get at times.

Whether or not you decide to take the plunge with Semispheres will really come down to whether you’re in search of a relatively humble but enjoyable collection of puzzles that will occupy most people for several hours depending on your relative skills. Even as a puzzle game fan at no point did it feel like a “been there, done that” situation that can commonly happen with games that have little ambition. In the case of Semispheres it all began with a great base idea and that expanded into something charming and fun that you can enjoy for a while.


Score: 7.5

Pros:
  • A great art style
  • Soothing music that helped me mellow out while playing
  • A great right / left brain mechanic that is well-implemented for the most part


Cons:
  • Overall not a terribly long experience
  • The open-ended “figure it out yourself” style may not be for everyone
  • Not everyone will likely appreciate the left / right brain tasks and control scheme


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