The Switch has had every game imaginable thrown at lately, from remakes to ports from other platforms, some better than others. Just like spaghetti, not every game thrown at Nintendo’s little console sticks like it should. Cat Nigiri’s Necrosphere is a recent one that originally made its debut on PC back in 2017, and just one look would have you thinking its super-simple pixels, Super Meat Boy-style gameplay and bite-sized levels would make it a perfect fit for the Switch.
And you’d be correct! Necrosphere Deluxe makes its way to not just Nintendo’s hybrid, but the PlayStation 4 and Vita (publisher Unties is owned by Sony, after all) with an updated version that feels like a match made in 16-bit heaven. But remember…looks can be deceiving. Especially cute, adorable looks.
The hero of this tale is Agent Terry Cooper, who’s woken up with little memory of what happened, except for a vague recollection of being ambushed and taken to the ER. He hoped two of his partners survived the encounter (spoiler: they did)… but in a twist discovers he did not. That’s right – turns out he’s gone to a weird limbo called the Necrosphere where there’s nothing to do but wait for eternity. There are notes scattered around left by his partners for Terry to find hinting at portals that will take him back to the world of the living. With nothing but a dream to live again and a spandex ballet suit, he takes it upon himself to get back home!
Necrosphere touts itself as being a Metroidvania game, but I have no idea what that word means, so oh well! It’s one of the few titles I’ve come across that seems to have an attitude right out the gate with the gimmick of having only two buttons to control Agent Terry. He’s able to move left and right, with no vertical movement – the precious “jump” button isn’t here to make things easier. He’s completely reliant on nightmarishly placed bubbles and platforms to either fall down to unknown locales or ascend to a fiery welcome. Proceed with caution, though, as the further Terry ventures into this nightmarish limbo the more challenging it becomes.
The lack of a jump button would feel like the death in this genre, but paired in with ingenious level design Necrosphere is impressive. Terry’s lack of abilities presents interesting challenges getting from one area to the next having to time the bounces he gets from soapy spheres to smack a switch or avoid a crimson wall of death. Later on, spiked platforms and moving pillars make it necessary for Terry to dash through sections without hesitation or switching directions midair to avoid being impaled. The massive maze he wanders through is filled with tricky obstacles where reaction time and quick reflexes are a necessity to get through an area.
Be warned: each area is brutally difficult, often requiring having to memorize the layout and brave multiple deaths to get through the more challenging sections. If that didn’t sound bad enough, even more punishment awaits as Terry wants to collect DVD sets (!) which are needed to unlock a bonus level. Honestly, I was able to collect just three of them I gave up trying to get the rest because most were in tricky spots I had no hope of ever retrieving.
That’s not to say later is helpless, at least in the beginning it feels like he stands no chance of getting home. There are enemies to be found here other than the environment like evil green men trying to kill him (kill him…again?). At first, Terry has no way to fend them off so he’s left luring them into obstacles where they can be burnt alive or get trapped. He eventually does get power-ups that enable him to get around easier, but these raise both the challenge and difficulty of each level. Remember that spandex ballet suit I mentioned? That’s a power-up he acquires that gives him the ability to dash forward over small distances.
Another are gloves he can use to bash in rocks blocking his path – not exactly the most useful but a little destruction never hurt anyone (unless you’re a baddie). My favorite is the jetpack he acquires that finally gives Terry the ability to move vertically, if only for a few seconds (think Jetpack Joyride or Donkey Kong Country), but I’ll take what I can get! There’s even a fourth power-up floating around, but that one is a secret!
Despite its brutal difficulty, Necrosphere Deluxe still manages to be incredibly forgiving. It’s not exactly Dark Souls, but frequent checkpoints and instant respawns make it easy to dive right back into the punishments it’s more than happy to dole out. Once you master the simple controls and gain a better understanding of how everything works breezing through levels and sailing past baddies becomes very satisfying – including new bonus levels Terry’s Dream that puts these newfound skills to the test. Those who missed out on the original PC release should schedule some time for an otherwise innocent looking game to take over the next few weeks of their lives.