Semispheres (Switch eShop) Review
It always impresses me whenever I experience a puzzle game without a single line of dialogue. Especially weird ones. When developers have strange and creative ideas, I imagine that it’s really damn tempting to simply verbally convey what they want the player to do. That’s definitely not a wrong way to design games – this isn’t a case of good and bad, but when something like Semispheres comes along, it reminds me just how much I love it when games just let you discover things on your own.
The goal of Semispheres is to guide two wisp-like creatures towards their respective goals – controlling the blue wisp with the left joystick, and the orange wisp with the right (very cheeky, developers). In each level, you’re given two nearly identical boards in which you must have the two wisps co-operate to reach their destination. This means that you can’t simply solve one board at a time. There are portals that act as windows into the opposite board carefully placed in many of the stages. These wouldn’t do much on their own, but the key to making most of them lies in the many abilities scattered throughout the game. For example, there might be a guard in the path of one of the wisps.
If there is a window portal behind that guard, the opposite wisp in the alternate board can peep through the window and call out a signal to trick said guard into turning around, allowing the initially obstructed wisp to slip past. I won’t spoil any of the other abilities, but they’re all introduced at a very natural pace – allowing the player to really experiment and get accustomed to any abilities already available before moving on.
During my early time with Semispheres, I spent a lot of time audibly gasping in response to how impressive some of the solutions were. The game shines at its brightest when it allows the player to take their time. While it’s relatively simple to control the two wisps, it’s often easy to get confused as to which hand is doing what. Focusing on both sides of the screen can be difficult, which is why it’s so great that you can often just sit there and have a long think in between decided and executing the wisps’ actions.
There’s a lot of devilishly clever thought put into this title, which unfortunately only caused the more frustrating aspects to stand out more than they should’ve. On more than a few occasions does it rely on timing-based puzzles, and man, these really soured the bunch. In a game so focused on patient brainteasers, it felt incredibly out of place to have skill also play such a big a part. It was never fun to be stuck in a situation where I knew exactly what I had to do to solve a puzzle, but had to attempt it over and over, simply because I was a little too slow.
As you progress, you’re told a story through hand drawn comic pages about a pet robot. Since each page serves as a reward for clearing a set of stages, that’s seriously all I can tell you about it without spoiling any surprises. I really wish it was tied into the gameplay with more care. While cute, these pages really stylistically conflict with the overall aesthetic of the overall package. On top of that, the story has nothing to do with the game itself (or maybe I just totally missed the point somehow). It’s a charming little tale, but the entire time I couldn’t help but ponder its inclusion.
Semispheres is the perfect game to have in your library for whenever you’ve got some time to kill. It’s short, sweet and often satisfying throughout its two-hour venture. While frustrating at points, it made me feel a lot smarter than I actually am, which speaks volumes about how well it’s been designed. For any puzzle aficionados out there, definitely, consider picking this one up.
Rating: 4 / 5
- Creative brain teasers
- Natural-feeling progression
- Out of place plot
- Frustrating time-based puzzles