Long gone are the days of the NES or arcades when games were made to be nail-breakingly difficult. Online multiplayer or story driven experiences reign supreme in today’s market; however, standing in the shadows of mainstream appeal has always been a crowd who desire to play the next title that makes them want to smash their controller against a wall. Necrosphere Deluxe is a game that aims to deliver such an experience for the player, but is it any good?
All Killer, No Filler
It takes no longer than a couple of seconds to get straight into the action of Necrosphere Deluxe. The player takes control of Agent Terry Cooper who has found himself in the Necrosphere. The Necrosphere is a place where people go when they die — and, well, none of that is really important as the focus here isn’t the story.
Necrosphere Deluxe’s most defining feature is probably its control scheme. The title is played entirely with only two buttons. You can run to the left and you can run to the right. However, with it being a Metroidvania you will acquire power ups along the way to help you progress. The ability to dash, break rocks, and even use a jetpack. It certainly is impressive how such a limited control scheme can be used to such great effect. It truly is a testimony to the design that throughout my 3.5 hour playthrough that it never felt like it was holding the game back at all. I do have one complaint about the control scheme though and that is the ability to dash. Great precision is required in the Necrosphere and locking the dash behind double tapping seems like a mistake. A dedicated button would’ve served much better.
The Necrosphere certainly is a fiendish place to find oneself. As you progress through the maze like area, you will encounter room after room or tricky obstacles to overcome. Bouncing on bubbles with precise timing, free-falling whilst avoiding spikes and flames, racing to the goal before the door closes and many more. Each area feels like combination of precision gameplay mixed with a light bit of puzzle work, as at first you need to figure out just how you can clear the area. Most of the obstacles on offer were great, but one or two felt a bit poor. One location you need to activate some switches in a sequence, but it wasn’t difficult — just monotonous. Sometimes the best way to figure it out is by trial and error and this is a game that will have you respawning multiple times. In fact in my playthrough of the main game I ended up respawning 1296 times.
The good news though is that whilst you may die a lot, respawn points are incredibly frequent. Necrosphere Deluxe doesn’t rely on cheap tactics to add difficulty as once you’ve cleared a challenge you won’t end up respawning five rooms back. The difficulty ladder is spot on as well. It feels truly satisfying each time you clear an obstacle and I was amazed at how easy previous ones were when I revisited some rooms. All in all Necrosphere offers a healthy challenge, but maintains a feeling of fairness, which is incredibly important for a title like this. Only one or two obstacles felt like they threw in a cheap hazard that is impossible to avoid on a first playthrough.
Being a “Deluxe” Edition there must be something else on offer. After finding five out of 20 DVD’s scattered throughout the main game players will unlock Terry’s Dream. It is more of the same, but even harder and must be cleared in one sitting as there are no saves. It was in this mode where I found my issues with the dash mechanic to really come into play as I struggled to pull off a move that needs precise timing. So whilst most of the game feels fair, this part seemed close to impossible.
Visually reminiscent of classic NES titles, but with a bit more colour. You can see the inspiration derived from Metroid or even Axiom Verge on display. Each location is generally marked by a single colour. It certainly isn’t anything amazing, but it does do the job. Upon completion there is a brief slideshow or cutscenes which were quite nice to look at. It felt truly old school.
System reviewed on: Nintendo Switch.
Disclaimer: A review code for Necrosphere Deluxe Edition was provided by Stride PR.