The version of Semispheres reviewed was on the Nintendo Switch. The game is available for a range of other platformers.
I would have liked to start this review by saying it’s a game that makes you think four-dimensionally, but it’s played from a top-down 2D perspective. Semispheres is a game that will make you think three-dimensionally. The thing is, they won’t be the same three dimensions you’re used to thinking in.
A minimalist indie puzzler released elsewhere in February, it would be all too easy to overlook this game among the Switch’s ever-expanding catalogue of great titles. The visuals and sound are well done but nothing world-changing, and the subtle story beats which are presented through short comic strips are only mildly diverting.
As ever with these types of puzzlers, the game resides entirely in the mechanics. In this case, two characters are controlled on one stick each, with the twist they are in parallel dimensions presented in side-by-side splitscreen.
Navigating mazes and avoiding guards, which are impressively unsettling for being a circle with a vision cone, relies on using and sometimes creating portals between the two dimensions or distracting guards or otherwise influencing one screen through interacting with the other.
This is a really nice fit for the Switch. The system feels perfectly designed for holding a Joy Con in each hand, even though it can work just as effectively on a traditional pad. The short levels and simple visuals are ideal for on the go play, and a makeshift co-operative mode can be easily created at any moment just by handing over one of the two controllers.
There’s little in the way of menus, tutorials or HUD. The level select screen is built from the same architecture as a standard level, and everything is taught to the player through slow introduction of game elements.
The puzzles get pretty tricky pretty quick, and occasional moments which rely on quickly moving with precision to avoid guards can be frustrating when they require multiple attempts. Overall, the difficulty curve is judged well over the game’s 58 stages. Where there were spikes, it was simply a case of a solution not clicking immediately in my head and may be entirely different for another player.
Ultimately, knowing whether to recommend this game is a tough one. There’s no shortage of smart indie puzzlers, even on the Switch, and this game’s idea aren’t big enough, nor its aesthetics engaging enough, to push it to the very top of anybody’s list. That said, there are a good few hours of entertaining puzzles here which are well worth the price of admission. Theoretically, there is a universe where buying this game will make your life better. Probably worth chancing it, right?
By Luke Summerhayes