Necrosphere (PC) Review

By Renan Fontes 22.09.2017

Review for Necrosphere on PC

There are two realms of existence: the Normalsphere, where people live out their lives, and the Necrosphere, where everyone goes when they die. Necrosphere, surprisingly, is not about the former. After dying before his time and finding himself stuck in an infinite solitude, Agent Terry Cooper vows to make it back to the Normalsphere even if it takes going toe-to-toe with a series of incredibly difficult platforming challenges. Like with any traditional platformer, Terry has access to power-ups and some helpful block placement to guide him along the way, but there is one slight problem that might slow him down: he can't jump.

In abandoning a dedicated jump button, Necrosphere creates a controlled identity all of its own. Horizontal movement is one of the most universal methods of control in gaming, but locking the main method of control down to the left and right buttons is a legitimately novel concept. Platforming challenges come from figuring out how to move Terry onwards while only being able to manually control him horizontally.

Practically all vertical movement for the first two thirds of the game can only be accomplished by passing through gravitational pulls and having Terry walk into bubbles that pop him upwards. Movement gains added complexity once multiple bubbles are thrown into the mix and Terry has to pop and move over hazards lest he die.

Screenshot for Necrosphere on PC

As is the case with many platforms this generation, death is mostly inconsequential. Dying simply spawns Terry back at the closest checkpoint, which is rarely far off. It's a good thing checkpoints are so frequent, because traversing the Necrosphere is incredibly difficult without dying in every other screen.

It would be easy for Necrosphere to be an onslaught of never-ending challenge, but Cat Nigiri shows a surprising amount of tact when it comes to pacing the difficulty. Particularly challenging platforming sections are almost always followed by lighter, more manageable set-pieces where it's likely Terry won't die. This balance ensures that progression is never discouraged. When a respite is just out of reach, screens that may result in rage quitting instead result in a motivation to proceed.

Even at its most difficult, exploring the Necrosphere never feels impossible. The hardest platforming sections always showcase what Terry needs to do to proceed, while the more puzzle based sections keep death to a minimum so not to discourage a more methodical approach to progression.

Screenshot for Necrosphere on PC

As simply moving left and right while relying on extraneous obstacles to do some platforming with would likely lose its appeal after a few screens, Agent Terry has access to some permanent power-ups during his adventure. He gains spandex, which allows him to slightly jump over gaps with a double tap, gauntlets that let him attack enemies and break blocks, and a jetpack, which gives him the ability to move vertically for a few seconds.

Of all of these power-ups, the jetpack is perhaps the most ingenious. It presents itself as an answer to Necrosphere's lack of vertical movement, but using it requires holding both buttons, locking Terry into one position as he rises up. Platforming in mid-air requires turning off the jetpack and letting Terry fall onto floating surfaces. Where the jetpack may have compromised the design's focus on seeking out verticality, it instead offers it at the expense of horizontal mobility.

The power-ups do lend themselves to Metroidvania-esque styles of backtracking, but going back to a previous area never feels annoying since the Necrosphere is so small. It's actually quite rewarding going back to a previously challenging screen and breezing through it either thanks to gained skill or a new ability.

Screenshot for Necrosphere on PC

While the Metroidvania elements are downplayed, there are secret DVDs that can be collected. Most of them are found through traversing hidden paths in the walls or backtracking to a previous area with the right power-up. Since finding the DVDs is optional, the platforming screens surrounding them tend to fall on the harder end of the difficulty spectrum, though never to the point of frustration.

The Terry's Dream DLC adds a bonus stage where Terry is trapped in a dream while still trapped in the Necrosphere. The DLC is much harder than anything in the base game as it combines challenging platforming with more puzzle based solutions. In many ways, it serves as an antithesis to the pacing of the main game, though this is likely the point. Optional content doesn't necessarily have to follow the pacing or rules of it base, as long as it remains mechanically consistent and serves a purpose other than being difficult for the sake frustration.

Necrosphere as a whole, DLC and all, never feels like it's trying to be hard for the sake of it. It's hard as a result of its premise. It rewards smart, skilled play and encourages exploration. It ends up rather short in length, but a low price tag more than makes up for that.

Screenshot for Necrosphere on PC

Cubed3 Rating

8/10
Rated 8 out of 10

Great - Silver Award

Rated 8 out of 10

Necrosphere is as brutally hard as it is satisfying. From its design to its pacing, there's little not to be appreciated. Platforming requires an equal amount of skill and thought, but never to the point where frustration becomes the norm. Overcoming an obstacle is genuinely rewarding because it requires mastery of the mechanics. With light Metroidvania elements at play, there are also secret screens that can be found, which serve as additional challenges. Necrosphere may not be the longest title out there, but this is one platformer that should not go unnoticed.

Developer

Cat Nigiri

Publisher

Cat Nigiri

Genre

2D Platformer

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  8/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date None   Australian release date Out now   

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