Ever wondered what the world would look like after an alien invasion resembling a spheroid? Well wonder no more.
The world as we know it has been invaded by aliens known as the Spheroids which take the shape of a spheroid. Our protagonist, a young Canadian boy known as Lucas, sets out to stop the Spheroids from world domination aided by his friend, and coincidentally mad scientist, Otto. Battling the aliens across different countries using Otto’s inventions, Eclipse games, bring us their platform adventure on this generation of consoles and if you choose the Xbox One version there is the added Xbox Play Anywhere feature.
The story continues with silent conversation between Lucas and Otto with the use of text bubbles on screen, there are some attempts at some humorous dialogue between the two, but it doesn’t work as well without voiced dialogue. Once introduced to the invading aliens, the story ends there as far as depth and a deep development go. Not that 2D platformers need an in-depth tale as a reason to play through, just ask a well-known blue hedgehog. Playing as Lucas you are armed with what essentially is a harpoon which can be shot vertically up or down. This harpoon can either damage breakable blocks or destroy certain Spheroids as you progress through each level. As you progress the Spheroids get bigger and stronger, ranging from Spheroids able to split and re-join if not destroyed quickly enough to Spheroids that are simply indestructible. To help you on your adventure your friend Otto provides you with his own inventions including anti-gravity boots to a grappling hook enabling you to swing your way to success.
After each upgrade the game introduces you to the mechanic of using said invention, but this never feels intuitive and almost feels like an afterthought. For example once you have unlocked the grappling hock you use it on random occasions on the levels following, but none of the sections really test their ability or your ability to switch between inventions. Whilst there are some tricky areas of the game requiring impeccable timing and patience, the game is too forgiving for this to ever be a worry. There are regular checkpoints throughout every level and they are often close to a difficult section of jumps or just before coming face to face with a multitude of enemies. What really makes Spheroids so forgiving is the lack of lives you can lose which seems to be unlimited. There really does not appear to be any negative to losing all your hearts which results in death other than starting back at the checkpoint. It doesn’t add much risk to the game and often meas you can go gung-ho without worrying about any consequences. It’s a shame, platformers should be soul destroying and controllers should be at risk of being broken, Spheroids ends up being a walk in a park as a result.
Don’t let the easy difficulty put you off there is still plenty of fun to be had along the way across all 8 chapters spanning 32 levels. Even the reliance on using the same mechanic over and over can be fun. Regularly throughout levels you will be trapped by barriers around you when the only way to bring them all down is by destroying all the Spheroids. Sometimes it can lead to frantic fun jumping about shooting the enemy, attempting to grab the random power ups that are dropped. Drops include hearts to increase your health, double harpoons allowing Lucas to shoot two in a short space of time, a clock allowing you to either slow down or pause time, a bomb that once detonated damages all Spheroids within the blast zone and a shield… which erm… shields Lucas. This novelty of being trapped with other Spheroids quickly wears off as a cheap mechanic and after time feels over used.
The graphical style is pulled right of the early 1990’s with its pixelated design full of bright and bold colours. Each country that you visit has recognisable backgrounds making it identifiable. The iconic Kremlin like buildings of Russia to the wonders of the Egyptian pyramids really gives each level some identification. My only gripe is the design for Lucas, he appears to be either out of breath or constantly listening to some well-known beatboxing from an infamous wobble board, he is constantly twitching about which can be a little off putting. I should also mention there were times that I had to restart the game following glitches that left me (or even a Spheroid on one occasion) glitched into a wall and unable to progress. In some of the later levels the side scrolling camera struggled to keep up despite not moving particularly fast which was also a little odd, not game breaking, but it was frustrating waiting for the camera to catch up. The sound is actually rather good with some catchy techno pop which is different from level to level; although as I mentioned earlier spoken dialogue would have added some character and the humour a little more humorous.
Spheroids has everything a good platformer needs, tricky jumps, quick finger sections, frustrating enemies and temporary power ups. It’s an enjoyable adventure made too easy by the lack of limits on lives with very little replay value. With a campaign being around 3-5 hours long there is some fun to be had and the art style is something to be admired if you are old enough to remember the early 1990;s. It’s disappointing there are no leaderboards, bonus levels or collectables to keep the game going, but there is enough platforming to be enjoyed by all if only for a few hours.
Spheroids was reviewed with a download code of the Xbox edition, provided by Xbox.