Short Version: Very simple, but very cool. It’s a tried and true puzzle game that gets to the point and delivers on the fun immediately with interesting concepts. It’s a little rough around the edges, like a college student’s final exam at game dev school, but it’s works well and is fun to play.
Long Version: Sometimes the small things in life are just as enjoyable as the bigger ones. We tend to forget that when we always expect AAA experiences out of games when smaller, but genuine titles fly over our heads. That’s what I think about when playing Semispheres, a small puzzle game for PS Vita that gets the job done in keeping me hooked on my Vita without letting go, despite its blemishes.
Semispheres lets you play as a pair of two colored spheres, each controlled by an analog stick. Essentially, you go through every level trying to solve two different puzzles at once with both spheres. You have to go from point A to B in every level, but there’s always some mind-bending obstacle getting in the way. Of course, there will quickly come a time where one puzzle has to interact with the other in order for both to be solved. It is at this point where the puzzles start to get a lot more complex and fun, introducing new mechanics such as portals, sound waves and teleportation.
Having two different puzzles on both sides of the screen is a very simple concept that quickly gets turned on its head the deeper you delve into a new set of levels, all of which contain short panels of story-telling featuring a boy and his robot friend. You’ll see these panels often, for there are only a handful of levels per world, and none of them are too hard to figure out. If you take the time to comprehend the new mechanics that are laid out for you at the start, the difficulty curve becomes very natural. Brute forcing these puzzles won’t do much to help you.
Taste of Blue and Orange
Because these puzzles are so short and natural to get a grasp on, it is very likely you’ll have many satisfying “a-ha!” moments while blowing through the first few levels quickly. Eventually, you will definitely find levels where you’ll be completely stumped, but thinking outside the box a little bit will go a long way. For example, there are no consequences for dying in the game, other than resetting you to the beginning of the level. Knowing that, there will be some tricks you will have to pull off that require you to die to solve the puzzle. Believe me, one of the most fun parts of the game is having that realization dawn on you after making a mistake.
Speaking of mistakes, some of the criticisms I would give to this game involve the production value of it all. For one, the frame rate completely tanks whenever I try to make any big moves with both spheres at once. Considering how little action you see on screen, I would expect the overall experience to be a lot smoother. Transitions between levels are also non-existent, with only an abrupt cut to the hub world. I certainly feel there could’ve been more done to make the levels flow from one to the other in a much smoother fashion. Another thing I noticed was small moments of freezing during occasions that don’t involve simple moving, which are even more noticeable when blown up on a television through a PlayStation TV. One last thing would be the music and visuals, which pretty much involves the same sleep-inducing drone throughout with no variety in color. I would’ve liked to see the different worlds in the game feature different color palettes, with maybe a new song to come with it. As it currently stands, if you’ve seen one level, you’ve seen all of them, which feels like a waste of potential. In terms of polishing, it certainly feels unfinished, but the puzzles certainly make up for all of those flaws.
As Good as a Robot Friend
Overall, Semispheres is an average, but entertaining game that does the puzzle part well, but falls short on everything else. All of the positive points rest almost entirely on the gameplay, which completely rescues the basic and unpolished production value. The frame rate, music, visuals and even menus and transitions need work. However, this doesn’t change the fact that I was very invested in beating all the puzzles and seeing how the seemingly unrelated story turns out. If you want something interesting to play on your Vita, then I say you give this a shot. Maybe with enough support, we’ll see a sequel that improves upon what it has.