At its core, Necrosphere is a really good, well-made platformer. Developer Cat Nigiri clearly has an obvious talent for creating interesting puzzles and levels. This is even more impressive when you consider the fact that the game doesn’t shake up it’s formula all that often. Necrosphere isn’t minimalist in its level design, but it does show what a creative developer can do with limited resources. There is a good game buried in here.
Too bad it fucking sucks to play. (Editor’s Note: Well, we went close to a week without adding to the William Swear Tally. New record!)
Necrosphere’s big gameplay idea is that you only ever use two buttons. You move with the left and right directional buttons, dash by double clicking in one direction and you can use a jetpack by holding both down. On paper, this is really interesting; but sadly it just doesn’t feel good to play. In fact, it felt so bad that it ended up killing the game for me.
For games like this, where the focus in squarely on its mechanics, those mechanics need to be polished to a mirror sheen. That just isn’t the case here. There were a lot of times where I died in the split-second I needed to double click the directional button to dash. Sometimes the game didn’t register my button press, other times it did – but half a second too late, and I’d die mid-dash.
Not helping matters is how that effects simply trying to line the character up properly for a puzzle. There’s a section near the end, after you get the jetpack, when you find a tunnel overhead. I thought I might have to go up it using my new ability, but kept getting stuck as I was about one pixel to far on either side. So I tried, ever so slightly to adjust my position and ended up leaping away like the character had just been told that tunnel was actually a giant alien colon.
The checkpoint system is another pain in the ass. The game has a pseudo-Metroidvaina style progression system. As you progress, you gain abilities that open up new areas, but each level ends with a warp back to the beginning hub area instead of connecting back to it through the level design. So in order to mark your progress, there are torches that light up as you pass them by to tell you where you’ve been. However, these are often placed in such a way to not really be all that helpful.
It’s possible to wonder off in a direction you weren’t meant to be, light a few torches, then have to go back because you can’t progress any farther. Then, once you should be headed back to that location, the torches are already lit, telling you you’ve already been there. If you’re anything like me, you’ll be quickly confused by that.
The checkpoint issues also extend to the games respawn system too, but here it’s not too egregious. If you hit any of the spikes or fireballs that litter each stage you die and come back, as is par for the course in platformers. But there doesn’t seem to be a consistent logic behind where you respawn at. Sometimes you are placed at the last safe place you were in the middle of a puzzle, other times it brings you back to the start of the challenge, even if you died right at the exit.
This is a much bigger issue early on when you’re still getting use to the bizarre controls, which make the platforming feel more challenge than it really is. By the mid-game, even if the game still doesn’t feel good to play, you get familiar with the set up and having to repeat platforming sections usually isn’t as annoying as it once was. Although certain sections can still be quite frustrating.
In the end, I didn’t enjoy Necrosphere, but I’m not angry I played it. I don’t feel like the game maliciously wasted my time and I’m still interested in what developer Cat Nigiri does next. If you care more about your games being “interesting” instead of “technicality good”, then I can recommend Necrosphere. There is a good platfomer hiding somewhere here; I just wish it wasn’t buried under such piss poor controls. For five bucks, it’s a fine little experiment, but like Slayer going Nu-Metal, it’s an experiment that just doesn’t pay off in the end.
Necrosphere was developed by Cat Nigiri
Point of Sale: Steam
$4.99: is being spent on a game like this money’s version of hell?
A review copy of Necrosphere was provided by the developer.