Most puzzle games have you controlling a single character or object, but what happens when you must control two of them, in parallel rooms identical to each other but need “cooperation” while still being single player? That’s the question and the core of Semispheres.
Developer Vivid Helix
Publisher: Vivid Helix
Release Date: February 2017
Played Main Story
Platforms: PC, PS4
Semispheres is a puzzle game with a unique concept. Every level in the game splits into two, a yellow version and a blue one. On each coloured level is a small sphere you must guide to the exit, but the level doesn’t end until both spheres stand at the exit gate at the same time. Also, you control both spheres at the same time, with one stick of the control pad used to move each sphere—or WASD keys and arrows in keyboard configuration, though I wholeheartedly recommend a gamepad.
In the first few levels, it’s easy to avoid the sentry beams that force the ball to respawn at its starting position and though you control the spheres at the same time their puzzles and challenges are separate. But that quickly changes and you must use items in one side to affect the other to open the way for one of the spheres, so that it may in turn do something so that both can reach the goal.
On later stages—and in the minority, fortunately—you need to move the spheres at the same time to reach the goal or escape from the room you start in within a very tight time window. These levels were not my favourite, as they required a level of coordination that while possible for me, often led to many tries and many errors, even though I had already solved the logic part of the exercise.
Audio-visual design in Semisphere is simplistic but effective, particularly the visuals. The rooms are square or rectangular and divided into sections and the primary coloured rooms and matching sphere makes it easy to tell where each of your balls belongs, which is important when you get the tools to swap places, so you don’t get lost and end with the yellow sphere in the blue world, wondering why it can’t complete the level.
Music is minimalistic, leaning towards the relaxing side, which is a blessing in a puzzle game. To be honest I can’t remember any individual songs, but instead feel as if the music were just one giant, seemingly endless piece that changed rhythm and tone across the different chapters. It’s never too loud, just a soothing tone in the background.
I mention chapters and that’s became Semispheres splits its ‘campaign’ into 13 chapters, each with three to five levels. Completing a chapter unlocks the next and presents you with a short three-panel comic book that I assume is the plot, though it bears no relationship to the game whatsoever and feels disjointed from the entire experience.
Sometimes developers feel they must add more to their game, but Semispheres already had the solid puzzle game experience, it didn’t need a story that is ultimately inconsequential to the experience. It doesn’t add any value to Semispheres, and by the end I cared as little about the boy, his robot and his child than I did when the first comic panel opened before my eyes.
Or perhaps they added these panels to make Semispheres feel longer, in which case it’s another mission failure as it’s incredibly short. As I said, there are thirteen chapters, with an average of 4 levels each and it won’t take you long to finish them, unless you become stuck in one of the later stages. Some of the puzzles near the end are wonderfully complex, but never truly difficult.
But the greatest disappointment I had with Semispheres is that upon completion, the game wipes your progress and returns you to the opening screen. On pressing start you find yourself back to chapter 1. I wanted to take some nice screenshots of some of the most complex levels later, but I couldn’t, the game itself made it impossible for me.
Semispheres has an interesting concept, one that I wish they had pushed harder, with more complex scenarios beyond the first 13 chapters instead of doing a memory wipe and waste your time on a completely pointless tale.
3.5/5 – Good!