Semispheres, an indie puzzler from Vivid Helix, may have found its home on the PlayStation Vita with this recently released port. The game has been available on the PlayStation 4 since February, but the short running time and simple controls feel like a much better match for Sony’s “legacy” handheld.
In Semispheres, you control two jellyfish-like characters simultaneously as you work your way through tricky puzzle rooms. The action is split down the middle, with the blue and orange blobs relegated to their respective sides of the screen as you navigate them both to the exits. As you complete the small collections of levels, a sweet story about a boy and his robot will slowly unfold, which isn’t exactly necessary but is a pleasant enough addition.
The main attraction, however, are the puzzles themselves which, like any good puzzle game, introduce some basic rules and then slowly build upon them. There is actually an element of stealth to the solutions; one of the first pickups you will find is simply an ability to send out a noise, and you’ll use it on balls of light with clear vision cones to sneak past. It’s no more complex than that, initially, but new elements like portals, teleportation, and the ability to swap positions are gradually folded into the mix. It’s a simple, clever set of puzzles that occasionally become surprisingly complex.
What’s nice about each level, though, is that everything you need in order to complete them is on screen, clearly presented, and it’s just down to you to figure out how you must employ all the navigational abilities at your disposal. A couple of the pickups have quite similar icons, which can lead to some confusion if you think you’re getting one power and it’s something else altogether. Aside from this, the presentation of Semispheres is minimalist, clean, and easy to read, with no HUD or other clutter getting in your way.
The art style and music are equally simple. The two distinct colours are perhaps on the basic side, but again this aids the visual communication to the player. If the levels were too detailed or full of distractions, it would be far less enjoyable to play. It works perfectly well, especially on the Vita’s small screen. The soundtrack is ambient and relaxing, and works to afford the game a rather zen atmosphere.
This is much appreciated, as your focus will be needed entirely for the puzzle rooms. Controlling the two characters at once, despite a clear colour difference, can become confusing at times, such as when you have both on the same side of the screen. You need to acclimatise fairly quickly, as some solutions require some very dextrous control. It almost feels like some levels are puzzles and some are geared more towards navigation or good timing. Still, it’s not an especially difficult game, and it will probably only last you a few hours, but on Vita it’s an ideal title to zone out to on a commute or in a lunch hour.
Semispheres is a short but sweet title with a simple aesthetic that belies a surprisingly complex set of puzzles. Controlling two characters simultaneously takes a fair amount of dexterity, which can at times be more of a challenge than the puzzles themselves. Despite this, there is some clever design on display here with some devilish levels and multiple abilities to utilise. You’ll likely be done with it within a few hours or so, but if you’re after a neat little game to play in short bursts on the go, Semispheres is worth a look.