By Michael Fontanini / September 1st, 2017
|Release Date||September 1st, 2017|
|Genre||Difficult, Action, Adventure, Indie|
|Platform||Steam, XBox One, PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita|
International Agent Terry Cooper finds himself on a mission gone wrong. Mortally wounded in a shooting during the mission, he finds himself now stuck in the Necrosphere. The Necrosphere is where you go when you die. You can’t die here so you have all of eternity to try to find a way out. Do you have what it takes?
Necrosphere is a difficult metroidvania-style platforming adventure game. The game features a control scheme that is very minimalist, in that you can only move left and right. There are bubbles you can bounce on to reach higher platforms, and some bubbles temporarily disappear once you bounce off of them. There are also power up items that can allow you to do a few more things, but you have to find them of course.
Agent Terry Cooper’s fellow agents back in the real world are able to send messages to him, which appear as pieces of paper in the game world. Walk up to them to read them. These give you little bits of story information beyond the intro sequence. There are also 20 DVDs hidden in the Necrosphere for players to find. One message you find says that one of your friends accidentally sent the other guy’s sitcom DVD set into the Necrosphere and asks you to retrieve them.
The simplistic controls make the game easy to pick up, but it’s one of those types of games that is very difficult to master. There are also secret passages, like the one in the upper-left in the screenshot above. I mentioned it in my preview of the game, but I was able to enter it in the full game later on. Not too surprisingly, it took me to a hidden collectible.
The game does include some backtracking as well. When you reach the end of a given area in the Necrosphere, you are sent back to the entrance screen shown above. Then it’s time to find your way into the next area you can reach at that time.
Necrosphere may seem relatively easy at first, but don’t let that fool you. After a while, the game starts to push you more and more. Trial and error is a huge component of the gameplay, as you often cannot advance until you start to master the obstacle at hand. So get ready to die and retry, a lot!
For the most part, the game is tough but fair. If you don’t like really tough games, then Necrosphere may not be for you, as it gets pretty hard by the late game. To be honest, Necrosphere‘s difficulty for the sake of difficulty design is my least favorite aspect of the game. For example, the first part where I got seriously stuck for a while was in the purple zone shortly after you’ve acquired the jetpack. You must use it to ascend the shaft shown below, but it’s very hard.
The image above shows the first of the moving platforms as it rises and sinks through that row of four fireballs. You have to land on it while the top of the platform is above the fireballs and then lift off again before it drops back through them. The reason this room is so hard, is that there are three more moving platforms you have to traverse, and getting past them all in one go is quite a challenge. All of the moving platforms move through fireballs, forcing you to time things carefully, or be pushed into them and burn to death. The jetpack can only be used for a few seconds at a time as well. All of this makes it a very tricky room to reach to top of. This area felt like a huge difficulty spike compared to everything before it. If you reach the top, you finally get a moment to stop and breathe.
In short, Necrosphere is not for the faint of heart! If you persevere until you make it to the exit, the game has far more in store for you. The final areas leading to the exit are pretty darn hard, but by no means insurmountable. Even so, it was enough to make my fingers start getting sore before I finally reached the end! However, the challenges that await you beyond are far more sadistic! The game features a few extra-devilish achievements, some of which are downright insane.
To get some of them, you must do things like beat the game with less than 100 deaths. Another achievement has the absurdly crazy goal of beating the game with ZERO deaths! There are also speed runner achievements for beating the game in 30 minutes or less. Another asks you to clear the game in less than 35 minutes while also having collected all 20 DVDs.
If you have the deluxe version of the game, you can access an insanely hard bonus level. You’ll have to collect 5 DVDs in the main game to unlock it on the main menu first, though. This level is a side story called “Terry’s Dream”. As you can see above, you’re naked this time. You can’t get far to the right as the path is blocked, presumably needing a power up to pass through.
There is no way to go up at the start either, so left is the only option left. Going left, you quickly run into a very daunting jumping puzzle involving two fast-moving bubbles you must bounce back and forth on repeatedly. Should you somehow manage to beat the bonus level, there is an achievement for that, too.
In the image above, you need to bounce up and hit the black block with the yellow border. It is a switch that opens the 2-block tall yellow door just above it. This grants access to the red switch to open the 5-block tall red door to the left of the fireball pit on the floor. Those purple bubbles pop when you bounce on them and take a couple seconds to respawn, meaning you have to keep bouncing back and forth between the bubbles. This starting area in the bonus level is extremely hard and I was not able to past it. Those bubbles move very fast!
The gameplay is very easy to pick up, but super hard to master. In the late game, the simplistic control scheme starts to fall apart a little, though. As the game asks a lot more precision of you, and you control the jetpack using the same two keys (left and right), it’s very easy to mess up. This causes the controls to start to feel a bit clunky, because most of your deaths come from messing up the controls more than from the obstacles themselves.
Necrosphere has an excellent retro soundtrack that fits the visuals very nicely. The sound effects are simple and retro styled as well, but they do their job effectively. I did have one technical issue with the game, though. Sometimes it would suddenly run in slow motion for a second or two for no apparent reason. I never had this issue with the demo at all.
The game is definitely on the short side. The main thing that will draw out your finishing time is the game’s difficulty. The game itself is designed to be replayed a lot, obviously. It keeps your save after you win. However, if you choose the Continue option from the main menu it just starts you beside the exit teleporter (with nothing to do but enter it and watch the credits again). So you can’t continue a finished game and search for the rest of the DVDs. You’ll have to start a new game.
Necrosphere starts out being a very fun game. It ramps up the difficulty quite a bit by the end, but that’s nothing compared to the extra challenges it has in store for you, should you dare to take them on. As you can see above, I finished my first play through in just over three hours. It could take you significantly longer depending on how much you die in each area. The game will give you tons more play time than that if you seek out all 20 DVDs and especially if you take on its toughest challenges. There is also a hidden powerup somewhere that I did not find (an achievement says so).
Necrosphere is set to launch on Steam, GameJolt, and itch.io on September 1st for both PC and Mac. It will sell for $4.99, and the deluxe version will cost you $7.98. The Linux, Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and PlayStation Vita versions are planned to launch by the final quarter of 2017. Do you have what it takes to escape the Necrosphere, and then return to take on its most sadistic challenges?
Review copy provided by publisher.
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