Have you ever hankered after a game of the past? It might not surprise many of you to learn that there are many games that I would love to see updated and released back into the wilds of console gaming. If you trawl back through the realms of abandonware, there are piles and piles of neglected titles all crying out for an HD reboot. Spheroids isn’t any of these, but it could well have been.
Now, I could reel off a couple of titles that Spheroids reminds me of, right at the start, but I think it deserves to have a more starring role in this little review. Launch the game and drink in the nostalgia. It’s that simple.
Spheroids is a game of simplicity. In keeping with this, the story of the game is simple. You control Lucas, a jumpy Canadian boy in a daft hat. Your crazy scientist companion Otto is trying to help you to stop an invading army of spherical aliens taking over the Cube World. In order to defeat them, Lucas has a harpoon gun, handy for popping annoying spherical aliens.
Now that the story is out of the way, it’s up to Lucas to teleport to different areas of the world in order to free locations from the alien’s attacks. The cut scenes between each city level serve to introduce Lucas to another of the Spheroid types that he’ll likely encounter during the next phase of levels.
So, the game initially launches you into some simple alien popping and here the game is a curious mix of platformer and simple popping fun. The game here reminds me of a combination of at least two other titles. Perhaps I’ll mention them later.
Spheroids is presented in glorious 8-bit goodness. Perhaps it’s a sign of me getting old, but again, I’m reminded more than a little of other titles in the graphical presentation. Large blocky platforms, moving areas and teleportation devices that delve you into a background platform area in order to activate switches and pop more of the round aliens.
The controls are simplicity itself. You can move in all directions but only fire up and down. This makes the old tactic of running away after firing, your friend. Throughout each level there are sections where you’ll be trapped in a small arena with the only way out being to destroy all the alien Spheroids in the area. This is very reminiscent of yet another title I’ve had the pleasure of playing an awful lot.
Throughout the levels, you’ll pick up credits. These count towards upgrading the harpoon to a twin or even triple shot weapon, or you could decide to add an extra life marker to Lucas. One thing that did grate, was that the weapon upgrades are lost if Lucas is squished and at the start of every new level. This makes collecting the credits a rather pointless exercise.
One thing that Spheroids won’t do, is hit you hard in the ears. There is no voice acting throughout the game and the tunes that accompany Lucas on his travels are a loop of the same few chip-tune inspired melodies. These do become a little tiresome after a while and you’re tempted to turn the sound down completely. The popping noises of the Spheroids biting the dust are satisfying, but after a while, even they become something of a chore to listen to. I’m sorry to say, I ended up turning the volume down.
So, the story is a little simplistic and the graphics, while a happy hit of nostalgia, are easy on the eye in a blocky and basic kind of way. The sounds could do with some more variety and while they complement the whole feel of Spheroids, they do become a little grating on the nerves. The levels are well designed in some respects, and the introduction of in-game gimmicks like the anti-grav boots, to walk on the ceiling for a short amount of time, adds a new dimension to solving the later puzzles even if it is infuriating in some respects. Some of these puzzles are a matter of timing and some are a matter of skill or luck. There’s no rhyme or reason to it. In some respects and its maddening and in others it’s absolutely everything that old-school gamers look for in a game and keeps them coming back time and time again.
Those comparisons then, well, if you’ve played Super Mario, then you’ll recognise some of the platforming element. It lends from Paper Mario in the background platforming element and last, but by no means least, the main element of Spheroids is massively, hugely, borrowed from Pang. If you’re undecided on whether to invest in Spheroids, let me put it like this; if Pang had story levels and platforming fun, this is it.