In Necrosphere your platforming skills will be tested in this intense bite-sized Metroidvania by Cat Nigiri, but there's a catch; the whole game is played using only two buttons! Good luck getting out of this one.
The game follows a man after death as he roams around the dreaded Necrosphere in hope of finding an escape back to reality and his old life. Luckily his fellow agents are on the trail and are somehow sending him helpful information and gear to help get him out of this nightmare known as the Necrosphere. He can't die down there, so he has an eternity to hope for a miracle and look for an exit so he can return back to his normal life.
Necrosphere is available for purchase on Steam for $4.99.
The story of Necrosphere takes place in the modern day directly after a tragedy has occurred. You play as an agent that has just been caught up in a shooting and has passed away and been put in the afterlife known as the Necrosphere. Your name is Terry and all you remember beforehand was that you were being rushed to the ER. Next thing you know, you awake in the Necrosphere and find a note from your fellow agents, Tara and Markus, that indeed confirms that you have died, but there is hope of escaping from this dreadful place. Tara and Markus are sending you useful gear and information to help you escape the Necrosphere which will be critical in your escape.
The storytelling in this game is done through two main ways, cutscenes and dialogue notes. The cutscene dialogue is well written and has a serious tone to it. I thoroughly enjoyed the cutscenes while they lasted with their beautiful art and in depth information they provided. Their mysterious and epic vibe was great and added a sense of mysteriousness and hopelessness to the adventure. Contrasting the cutscenes, the dialogue from Tara and Markus' notes were told in a subtly humorous way most of the time. These notes, though primarily used to teach the player the controls and mechanics of the game, also touched on the story at points and had some appreciated humor to lighten up this deadly adventure. The contrast with the story progression in this game between these two ways was just the right balance of serious and silly and the writing was overall very well done.
That's the setup of the game story-wise, and it works well. The cutscenes and dialogue that tell the story do so in an entertaining and mysterious manner and I had no problem with them. The story kind of dies out half way through the game, but it makes up for it with a great ending later on. This setup should be more than enough to motivate you to get through and escape this spiky hell.
The gameplay of Necrosphere revolves around one major mechanic; you only control this game with two buttons. At first this may seem rather disappointing as the first part of the game is pretty basic and the only ability you have is moving left and right, but once you get more powers and the difficulty ramps up, it's a lot of fun and quite a unique mechanic. The developers even made custom handmade controllers called "Necontrollers" for this game featuring two buttons and a pause buttons, perfectly fitting this game.
Since you only control this game with two keys/buttons, learning the games' control scheme shouldn't be a problem whatsoever. The mechanics might be a different story though. With two keys you'd think you wouldn't be able to do a lot, right? Not in this game. These two keys will be your move, dash, jet pack, and more as they require different uses of the two keys to activate them. For example, one key is move left or right, double tapping a key later becomes dash left or right, and two keys together lets you later use a jet pack ability. It doesn't take too long to adjust to these though and it's quite a fun change up once you get the hang of it.
This game is a 2D Metroidvania, which like in most Metroidvanias, involves you revisiting countless locations with new abilities to access different areas in this maze-like world. This is done in a way that doesn't overwhelm the player like a lot of Metroidvanias can as there are only about five major areas and three upgrades to obtain. I had no problem with this as this made for a smooth adventure and it didn't get in the way of the games' main selling points, two-button control and difficulty. I never had to think twice about where to go next because the game did a great job in simplifying the world for me, for newer players it might take a bit of exploring and experimenting to figure things out though. This also means that as a Metroidvania, this game is pretty bare, so if you're a hardcore Metroidvania veteran you might be a bit disappointed is all.
Throughout this adventure you'll be travelling through the world of the Necrosphere and obtaining key items whilst searching for a way out. Along with this main objective, there is also a side objective of collecting all 20 of the DVDs of your fellow agent Markus's favorite sitcom which Tara accidentally sent down to the Necrosphere with the notes and gear for Terry. I rather enjoyed collecting these DVDs as they were pretty fun collectibles to hunt down and some of them really put your skills to the test more so than anything else throughout the adventure. Of course these are just optional though so don't worry if you can't or don't want to track down all of these collectibles.
The Necrosphere itself has a decent array of environments and areas to traverse through which you'll be visiting multiple times. All of the different challenges and mechanics in each unique area were all well done, though most were similar to each other in terms of enemies and hazards, the differences in each were noticeable and appreciated. The whole experience shouldn't last you too long as this is a rather bite-sized Metroidvania adventure, so don't worry about the game getting stale or anything as this game should be a smooth ride other than difficulty.
The previously mentioned hazards, enemies and other objects in this game are pretty much the generic stuff you would normally find in the genre such as spikes and fireballs, but also with some fresher stuff like jump bubbles and more. After a hazard or enemy is shown off to the player, they mostly lurk around every other area of the Necrosphere except for some area specific mechanics and objects. There is mostly only one type of enemy but to make up for that, hazards show up in spades all throughout the game. There are also some puzzle game-esque mechanics in this game at certain points too which the hazards help make. These are pretty much the key factors in making this game difficult.
Speaking of difficulty, that's the other big key selling point that this game advertises. It's supposed to be rather difficult apparently but I personally thought it was pretty average unless you also go out of your way to get the extra collectible of DVDs. Even if you do find the game challenging, it shouldn't be too much of a problem as the game is very forgiving with checkpoints aplenty. Adjusting to the two button/key setup might add to the difficulty too if you struggle with it but once you get used to that and the mechanics, you should be set.
Necrosphere is very polished for the most part. The only things I noticed that felt a bit sloppy or could be improved were some minor bugs with the power ups and some of the hit detection but nothing that takes away from the experience. Other than some minor inconveniences there were no real glitches or takeaways performance and presentation wise.
Visuals and Sound
The visual style of this game is that of a retro classic with some extra bells and whistles. It generally looks visually appealing and it made the environments of the Necrosphere world come to life to a decent degree. From hellish environments, to forest and desert like caverns and more, the atmosphere of this game was very well painted and designed. A lot of the sprite work is also well done and detailed and I loved looking into the hidden details of certain objects and backgrounds.
The brief cutscenes in this game were also very well pictured and I loved the style and design callback of older games. These were a great way to tell bits of the story and they visually looked fantastic.
As for the soundtrack, it perfectly went along with the theme and world of the game and added a whole new level of life to it. It's not anything too special but it did add to the atmosphere which is a great positive. The sound effects were also spot on and added to the immersion.
The overall presentation of this game was very well done and really helped define and package the entire experience nicely.
Necrosphere is truly something unique and quite the fun ride. From bubble jumping to fireball dodging, this game is a well rounded experience with lots of fun surprises and challenges. The mysterious story and the fantastic presentation really rounded this game into a full and special experience like no other. Though the Metroidvania mechanics themselves are pretty bare, the selling points of this game like two button difficult gameplay are plenty of reason to give this game a shot.
In the madness of all of the big releases this year, this game definitely holds its own and was a fresh little experience to play in between. If you enjoy platformers or Metroidvanias, I'd say this is totally worth a playthrough.
|+ Unique control scheme||– Can get minimally repetitive|
|+ Clever mechanics||– Some mechanics and detection can feel sloppy and improper at times|
|+ Visuals and sound create an immersive atmosphere||– Basic Metroidvania|
|+ Unexpectedly good but minimal story|