Saturday, 30 July 2016 00:00

SpiritSphere Early Access Review

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SpiritSphere: an advanced pong game that's just as frustrating as the original.

SpiritSphere had me at the throwback graphics and nostalgic music. The game looks and sounds like a retro video game from the early 90's and for that I give it a humble applause.

The game is basically pong with Zelda-esque pixel graphics. You have three characters to choose from, Lin, a Link look-a-like, Buster the dog, and some shadowy wraith guy named Ozo. Each character has some type of special movement that will speed you along in desperate circumstances. The AI will present different styles of difficulty but basically break down to either, hitting the sphere in a special way, or making the sphere break into multiple balls. I could never figure out if you the player could unlock these abilities.

The game is also quite difficult. If you enjoy a classic challenge with no save feature, you'd probably enjoy this game. As far as I could tell though, the game was needlessly difficult at early levels. This generally leads your average gamer feeling like playing something else, but others may rejoice in the challenge.

Aside from the advance difficulty of the game, there were numerous bugs and glitches that kept SpiritSphere from being as rewarding for the player when you finally beat that level you've been trying to beat for the past hour.

In single player mode you had to score 3 points in order to advanced to the next level. Once you do, you gain coins which you can spend in the spirit fountain. If you lose a match, however, you will also lose spirit coins. Each time you lose you lose more spirit coins.

SpiritSphere also offers local multiplayer, requiring two keyboards. This immediately reduces the likelihood that I am going to play multiplayer SpiritSphere. Having an online version would immediately increase the draw towards this game, as well as the replay value. However, the developers have no intention on offering an online multiplayer experience, keeping SpiritSphere in the realms of arcade classics and parlor gaming.

SpiritSphere still feels like a beta game, with mechanics not working as intended, or game breaking and annoying glitches, such as the SpiritSphere itself disappearing completely (feature?).

Apart from this, I can give positive heralds to the art direction of this game. It's a joy and pleasure to see retro art and style being emulated and continued. SpiritSphere deserves recognition for this, the graphic and music really draws you in, and makes you want to like the game.

Sadly, it's not quite up to the polish and pristine as those retro games offered. For instance, if you do not have 100 spirit coins to throw into the spirit fountain, the game will offer you no exit to this menu. You just... can't do anything. I had to close the game manually to leave the screen. Later I realized I needed to hold down the X button in order to exist this screen.

Throwing Spirit Coins into the fountain will unlock character abilities or sphere types. Pretty neat, but each ability or sphere is totally random.

There's also items and special dungeon loot to assist you in your fantasy pong. Some maps will have skeletons jumping out at you, throwing you bones, or stepping on trap doors. Definitely a strong take on an old usual.

The game is simple, easy to learn with tremendous replay value in terms of skill level required to beat more difficult levels. Add local multiplayer and you have a game that's at risk to become a classic, so long as the developers can get the polish on lock down, and maybe more inticing rewards to keep players coming back and participating in the local multiplayer.

All-in-all, I wasn't terribly impressed with SpiritSphere.

Amusing for a couple of hours, or when you want to do some mindless pong action with a vague retro game skin. Worth an afternoon's play, but couldn't say I'd recommend it for much outside of that. Although, I'm not sure SpiritSphere is trying to be anything other than that.


The Verdict

An amusing twist on an old style of game, SpiritSphere will annoy you to no end. If you can push through and beat a few levels, the amount of personal gratification will be astronomical. Good retro graphics and music, but too many bugs and doesn't feel finished.

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Shane Lynn

Shane's earliest memory of gaming was playing Contra on the original NES. Since then he has found a love for PC gaming, Pen and Paper Role playing, and Board games. His strongest passions are in the realms of fantasy and science fiction where he has developed countless worlds, stories, table top gaming systems, and an original board game. Outside of gaming, he'll be found dancing with crystals and talking with glowing nature spirits in his backyard.