Spheroids is a 2D retro-theme platformer from Eclipse Games who previously developed Tachyon Project, another Wii U eShop title that I rather enjoyed. Spheroids is a very different beast however, and I applaud the developers for trying different genres. Seemingly a mix of Mutant Mudds, Bionic Commando and just about every retro-style platformer in the last five years, you will feel instantly familiar with Spheroids in your hands.
You take control of a young boy coerced by a scientist into saving the day from the dreaded Spheroids, who are as round as their name suggests. Sent through teleports to various world locations, you are tasked with wiping out as many as the blighters as possible. The fact that I called them young boy and scientist will tell you just how important or interesting the plot is. But that’s not really the point. There are some cutscenes between levels as you head back to the science lab and the scientist explains to you some new enemies or a new gadget and it tries to be humorous, but there’s just an awkward silence to them. I feel like there was a music track missing, but I’m not sure. Even just a little text typing sound effects would have made it seem less incomplete.
The gameplay takes place on a 2D plain as you jump from platform to platform to reach the teleports at the end. It’s simple. The main thing that differentiates it for me is that most stages are broken up into platforming parts and then combat arenas. You’re shuffled into these arenas which are full of enemies in various situations. Once you enter these areas, lasers will prevent you from leaving until you’ve wiped out every single enemy. It doesn’t feel repetitive or anything, but it’s not long before you can read the game like a book. There are very few surprises.
The Spheroids come in a few variants. You have the stand “one hit, one kill” grunts, which are easy enough to deal with, but the rest can be seriously annoying. The most common enemy is the one that splits into two smaller Spheroids after being hit. Then there’s the one that can grow bigger if it collides with another Spheroid of equal size, amongst others.
To take them out you have a hook shot. This where the main frustration of Spheroids comes in. Your hook shot can only fire straight up above you (or down if you jump, hold downwards and fire, but that’s used infrequently). Sure, all of the Spheroids bounce around, but it’s so easy to take damage from them due to how risky attacking is. Being able to shoot forwards would have made it a more pleasant experience in my opinion. The second problem is that you can only hit one enemy at a time with the hook shot. As soon as it hits an enemy, either with the tip or the chain, it will damage them and then disappear. Crowds can quickly overwhelm you. Even more annoying is that if your hook shot hits a ledge or something above, it will also instantly disappear, meaning low ceiling areas, or hiding under platforms are nerve wracking times.
Aside from the hook shot you do get some other abilities such as the grappling wire where you can swing and pull yourself up in certain parts. There’s also some gravity boots which switch your personal gravity situation for a short period. Basically you get to walk on the ceiling for a while. The strongest point about the game is probably how well used these abilities are. You’ll be using all of them throughout the game.
One under-utilised mechanic is the lane switching that resembles Mutant Mudds. You can switch lanes occasionally in levels but aside from going to the back lane to flick a switch for the door on the front lane, there’s really nothing else going for it. A missed opportunity in my mind.
One word of warning is that currently Spheroids is a little temperamental on the Wii U. The game crashed three times with me having to hard reset my console, something which scares me to death to be honest.
The pixel art is done well, but at this point I think most people are tired of this art style, me included. Saying that some environments do look lovely such as the snowy Russian levels. There is a bit of a clash between the art style of the Spheroids themselves. Instead of pixel art they have clear, detailed sprites. They look nice, but maybe a bit out of place when looked at the game as a whole.
The music is excellent in Spheroids. It’s your typical retro-game techno that you usually find in these sorts of games, but it’s so well done. It’s catchy and themed well to the stages. The music has plenty of layers and tracks build up over time. I found myself bopping my head more than I’d like to admit.
Spheroids is the type of game that we’ve all played before, in fact you can find countless amounts of them on the eShop already and that’s its biggest downfall. It just doesn’t stand out among the crowds. It’s not a bad game by any means but it’s not great either, which should be the minimal target for developers of these types of games if they actually want to get some attention. It’s reasonably priced and I think that’s one reason you may want to chose this one over others of the same ilk. It’s pretty decent, if quite standard with a slight lack of polish. It’s not a bad purchase but neither is it an essential one.
Game provided by publisher