Spheroids Review

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Game Title: Spheroids
Developer: Eclipse Games
Platform: PlayStation Vita
Game Type: Vita
Download: 226 MB
NA Availability: Digital Download
EU Availability: Digital Download
PSTV Support: Yes

There are lots of side-scrolling platforms out there.  Though I view platformers in a lot of different sub-genres.  One genre that I especially like are what you would call Mario Platformers.  Basically, platformers that try to mimic the Super Mario series.  You know the formula.  Platforming.  Collectible currency.  And all around, just colorful, cute worlds to go through with enemies that look like someone was on LSD when they came up with them.

I have only encountered one Mario-like platformer in my 3 years of reviewing games for the PS Vita.  Back when PlayStation Mobile was still around, there was a game called Blue Beacon, which was practically a Mario clone, though was not well-known.  Even now, if you google search the game, once of the first things that will come up is my own review of the title.  Since then, I’ve not seen many, if any Mario-like games for the Vita.

One of this week’s releases caught my eye in this manner, though.  A game that looks quite odd when you look at screenshots and videos, yet it is by definition, a Mario-like platformer.  Here is my review of Spheroids for the PS Vita and PlayStation TV!

Story

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In Spheroids, strange aliens have invaded the planet, and you are given special equipment by a scientist in order to fight against them.  Across the game, you journey to several different countries in the defense of the planet against the invaders, each introducing you to a new type of technology, aimed at the increased assault against the sphere-shaped invaders.

The storyline is kind of interesting, but it’s not presented in a very good fashion.  When I started the game, I didn’t even know there was a storyline.  Little scenes happened here and there (and the difficulty of those I will mention later on in the review) and off you go.

Gameplay

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Spheroids is a 2D platformer with some light puzzle and combat elements thrown into the mix.  As you go through each stage, you will be jumping across platforms, using various tools to navigate obstacles, and fighting various enemies that you come across in each section of the stage.  It is very Mario-like in all aspects, aside from the fact that you can only attack enemies with tools, rather than jumping on top of them.

Progression goes through Chapters, each of which consists of a few stages.  Each chapter is based on a character, which changes the background environment and once you clear all stages, you move onto the next Chapter and repeat this process until you do everything from all 8 countries and complete the game.

Basically, you have only a few factors to worry about in each stage.  There are enemies to deal with, of course, but breakable environments, coin-blocks, and interaction-based objects.  You’ll find many environments that can be broken from the get-go, and breaking these with your grappling hook weapon is key to opening a path to travel to get to the end of the stage.  Then you have objects you can interact with, like metal objects the grapple can latch onto, allowing you to pull up and down or swing to time jumps towards the next area.

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Finally, you have coin-blocks which are the game’s currency.  Unlike Mario, there is a practical application for it instead of getting new lives (since you have infinite lives in Spheroids).  Coins add to your currency total and at the beginning of each level, there is an Arcade Machine used for upgrades.  You use coins to purchase upgrades, be it temporary power-ups or permanent power and armor increases for power-ups, max health, etc.

As far as fighting enemies and difficulty are concerned, I don’t consider this to be a particularly hard platformer.  None of the enemies really direct their attention to you.  They are just bouncing around the levels and you need to get rid of them in order to proceed.  Once you attack them, however, things can get tricky.  Some early enemies just die from 1 hit, while others may divine into several smaller enemies that you must dodge and take out.  When the game traps you in rooms until all enemies are defeated, 3 enemies becoming 12 smaller enemies definitely becomes a hassle to deal with.

Now we get to the game’s length.  Spheroids is not very long.  With only a few levels per chapter and each level taking only a couple minutes to go through, the entire experience might take you around 2 hours, 3 hours tops.  Not really a lengthy experience, if I do say so myself.

Controls

First off, Spheroids is compatible with the PlayStation TV.  No special controls here for L2/R2, but it can be played on the micro-console for PSTV owners.

Controls are simple enough.  D-Pad for movement and the X button is used for jumping.  The Square and Circle buttons are used for the grappling hooks.  Square for the hook used for swinging and Circle for the one that is used for attacking enemies.

All in all, pretty easy to get used to.

Presentation

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Visually, the game looks nice.  The world is very colorful and the 2D renders look crisp and smooth.  I really can’t complain about how the game looks.  What I can complain about is the text and the music.  First, text.  In story scenes, there are text bubbles for conversation.  The unfortunate thing is that it is very difficult to read.  I started the game on the PSTV and I couldn’t read a single word on-screen.  It was way too small and blurred to make out.  Even on the Vita, it’s difficult.

Then music.  The one music track in the game is a pretty nice beat, but when you have the same music track for an entire game, it gets a bit repetitive and boring.  There should’ve been a bigger variety of music tracks.

When performance comes into play, most of the time, it’s fine and without issue.  The long times can get close to the 10 second mark, but it is within acceptable parameters for a handheld game.  The frame-rate does drop in some sections, though.  I found several instances where I was jumping and got some slow-down.

Summary

Spheroids is a very colorful platformer.  While it is fun and cute to play, it is held back by tiny text, only a single music track, short length, and some slight frame-rate issues.  Platformer fans may want to check it out, but anyone who is OCD about FPS should be wary. 

6/10

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