Semispheres is a game unlike many others in the market at the moment. In fact, in the two hours it took me to complete it, I was constantly reminded of Portal and Portal 2, without the voice work. This Vivid Helix title is a puzzler where you benefit from being ambidextrous, which is something I swiftly found out I wasn’t – on the PS4, one of the trophies is awarded for completing the game in under 35 minutes.
You control two little shining balls, one with your right thumb and the other with your left. The aim of each level is to get the little ball of fuzz to a circular shine (normally at the other end of the screen). The screens you see look close to identical, but there are always subtle differences which means you have to get your right thumb and your left to work together – something I am not particular great at, apparently. The gameplay is intuitive and involves you to carefully form a strategic plan to get to the end point. Tension is amplified by the inclusion on the spotlight-style guards who block your path. Throughout the game, you’ll see bonus boxes which give you a horn, a portal and a variation of switch screen commands. You have to think carefully about how you’re going to use these commands – differently with each hand – to evade the guards and reach the end. Some of the puzzles are quite easy, but others take planning which involves twists like purposefully being caught, or hitting the horn in quick succession. Playing this game often made me feel like I was playing a more sophisticated version of cat and mouse.
I am led to believe that the game is single-player, but on the Switch you can easily beat the system and give one controller to another player. Unfortunately, this seemed to kick some of the magic from the game. I have tried to read up if they are marketing this game as single-player because if they haven’t, then they clearly hadn’t thought through the controls well enough.
Visually, Semispheres is basic, but it is meant to be. There are some nice textures and the colours soothe you – which is needed because these puzzles will absolutely grind you down to rock bottom – but for some reason, you will find yourself continuing to play. As you can imagine, I finished this game in two sittings, only because I had to go out to football and, personally, I don’t feel it offers you much replay value. If I was playing on the PS4 and not the Switch, I probably would have continued to play this until I had achieved the platinum trophy, but on the Switch you are offered nothing of the sort, so it immediately lost its appeal.
The soundtrack offers a strong score of orchestral music, but that said, I couldn’t help but feel like I was waiting in a dentist’s lobby (or even sitting at the Playstation home screen). Even though I could appreciate that it was good music, it just didn’t invigorate me enough to keep me motivated. I even ended up switching the sound down and continuing to watch Warcraft!
Overall, Semispheres is a decent puzzle game which offers you something new, but potentially not enough – I haven’t decided whether I prefer this or Thomas was Alone yet, but it certainly doesn’t offer you the same kind of experience as Portal.
The scores on the doors:
- Graphics: 7 – just because they’re basic, doesn’t mean they’re bad.
Sound: 6 – a lot will disagree but I found it just a tad boring.
Gameplay: 8 – innovating and infuriating.
Enjoyment: 7 – damn enjoyable, damn stressful and too short.
Overall: 7 – A good game which will hook you then end.
Semispheres is released today on Nintendo Switch.
- Publisher: Vivid Helix
- Developer: Vivid Helix
- Players: single player
- HDTV options: up to 1080p
- Sound: Dolby Digital 5.1
I have been a video game player since 1993 and a music fan since I can remember. I studied Film and Journalism at university and ended up becoming a Primary School teacher. Video games changed my life and sent me on the right track and have stayed with me ever since.