Review: Semispheres (PSV/PSTV)

Review: Semispheres (PSV/PSTV)

Platforms:

  • PlayStation 4
  • PlayStation Vita
  • Xbox One
  • Nintendo Switch
  • PC

Platform/Hardware Used:

  • PSN Download
  • PS Vita

Extras:

  • PlayStation TV Compatible Yes
  • Cross-Buy No
  • Cross-Save No
  • Cross-Play No
  • Cross-Chat No
Title: Semispheres
Format: PSN (372 MB)
Release Date: October 10, 2017
Original PS4 Release Date: February 14, 2017
Publisher: Vivid Helix
Developer: Vivid Helix
Original MSRP: $9.99
ESRB Rating: E
PEGI: 3
A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review purposes.
PS Nation Review Policy

When it comes to game design, I’ve often written and thought about the precarious balance accompanied by the decision to implement the minimalist aesthetic.

On the positive side, animations, rendering, and overall graphical capacity isn’t overtly taxing the hardware, fostering a silky smooth gameplay experience with a rock solid framerate. Adversely, a ‘simple’ game can immediately lack the appeal of everything from character development to an interesting world.

When a game is stripped of any and all characteristics that could even remotely resemble a ‘gimmick’, the remaining content must exemplify the core mechanics to be successful. The gamer’s unforgiving nature will accept no excuses and any performance hiccups will exist unmasked.

Gameplay:
Semispheres is a game that welcomes the challenges brought forth by its simplistic design and succeeds through intricate ideals. Each of its several dozen levels presents a unique puzzle that simulates the relationship between the player’s right and left brain. The right and left analog sticks control their respective avatars and both parties must reach the common goal to advance.

The puzzle difficulty ramps up appropriately as new gameplay elements are introduced. Players can expect to run into portals that allow the right side to affect the left and vice versa. Some levels contain distracting instruments adding to the equation the strategic avoidance of enemy sentries.

When a new mechanic is ushered in, the player is given a few easy puzzles to familiarize themselves before the feature is used in a more meaningful and difficult way. Later levels will then begin to incorporate several of these mechanics and it becomes rather satisfying to complete a puzzle involving enemies with vision cones, distraction opportunities, warping portals, and timing challenges.

After getting used to controlling one avatar at a time while the other sits idly by in a safe zone you’ve designated for it, the game will come to expect that you’re coordinated enough to guide both simultaneously. I was presented with the challenge of taking a step back in order to focus on the whole puzzle and carefully plan some very quick, tandem movements without focusing too much attention on one side.

A story is presented via a series of comic book style art panels through which we follow the relationship of a boy and his robot. The puzzles get harder as the two grow closer and there may be some parallels drawn between human and artificial intelligence.

Visuals:
The game consists of an aesthetically pleasing combination of blue and orange used to divide the right and left sides of the levels. The colors complement each other while accentuating the boundaries of each avatar’s playing field. Obstacles and pitfalls are represented by some appropriately themed, very basic shapes.

Conversely, the backdrops and ‘world map’ area mimic the intricate depiction of our current brain diagrams on a molecular level, attempting to convey the miracle of trillions of synapses constantly firing.

Semispheres shows the user its version of what is happening in the player’s brain as these puzzles are assessed, navigated, and solved.

Audio:
While some experts believe that classical music can assist in the healthy brain development of infants, Semispheres employs soothing tones and a minimalist soundtrack to provide the background noise while puzzle solving. Akin to user interface menu music, the bells and chimes attached to collecting pickups or navigating options are an accurate fit.

In its own barely noticeable way, the soundtrack never detracts from the gameplay or distracts the player. It evoked from me a childlike sense of musical exploration and discovery as I was hypnotized into the rare flow state while losing myself in the puzzle.

Online/Multiplayer:
This game is one player only with no online component.

Conclusion:
I’m intrigued by single player co-op because it’s a video game genre oxymoron. Ever so rarely is a game built around this notion but it works here and is as enjoyable as it was in Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons. There is something enticing about escapism through becoming your own team and I’d like to continue seeing different genres approach the idea.

Semispheres makes its player good at the game which is a mark of a quality puzzler. While it may not quite join the ranks of the genre’s modern classics like Portal 2 or The Witness, it’s competent and lengthy enough to occupy an afternoon. The premise is interesting and the gratification obtained from successful, cooperative teamwork happening all within oneself makes for a worthwhile playthrough.

Score:
7.5

* All screenshots used in this review were taken directly from the game using the Vita’s built in screen capture feature.

Written by Emrah Rakiposki

Emrah Rakiposki

– Food
– Video games
– Rap music
It has been my life’s work to properly order the list of this world’s greatest pleasures. There is no right answer.

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