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Semispheres – Review (PS4/ PS Vita/Switch/PC)

There have been many stories about human memories, but there is something incredibly enlightening about memories that we carry through our lives.  We all grow up with some kind of a special memory, that, even when it is retained in the deepest part of our minds, are brought back to the surface. it could be the very first time you went to Disney World, the first time you tried a pizza, or maybe the first time you wished for a Christmas gift, and it came true. There is something redeeming about those kinds of memories. They grow with us, and maybe help shape our character in the real world. Semispheres, the PAX Rising-elected indie game is a game of memories, wrapped in a unique gameplay set-up, that positively engages players through its short runtime.

Semispheres is described as a 2D meditative puzzle game with stealth action mechanics. Form the very start, players are prompted to explore. A few visual images give an introduction to the controls and where players are supposed to go. There is no dialogue or tutorial to Semispheres. The game gives quick accessibility and allows players to dive right into the experience.  The uniqueness of this puzzle game is that players star as two completely separate characters that can be controlled at the same time. Both characters are jellyfish-shaped cells split across the screen. The orange cell on the left can be controlled with the left stick while the blue cell on the right can be controlled with the right stick.The two cells are always separated in each level, forced to stay on their side of the screen, though some levels will require working side by side to complete certain objectives. The goal of each level is to use stealth and puzzle solving to make it to the end of the level.

The first sensation that strikes players is the visual and audio presentation of the game. There is a strong, well-crafted ambiance to Semispheres The game takes place in an open, floating setting that is reminiscent of the nervous system within the brain. Calm color hues of blue and orange, as well as the pattern of nerves, create this sort of mesmerizing sensation for players. Everything feels psychologically relaxing, as if in a meditative state. There is no rush or race against time, but instead, a calming sensation that encourages players to go at their own pace.  Players are free to embark on a multitude of levels at their own pace.

There are Thirteen chapters in Semispheres, with 5 levels in each chapter. The levels in the game involve puzzle solving and even stealth action. As previously mentioned, each level is split in half on the screen, with the orange cell on the left and the blue cell on the right. Your objective is to get them to a particular point on their side. The first few levels are easy, and players will be going through them with ease. However, later levels will be quite challenging.

Players will be utilizing a variety of tools to help overcome these obstacles, such as using noise-makers, teleporters, and wormholes using these tools wisely will allow for the successful completion of the level. Players will distract and avoid hostile cells, and even visit the other side of each screen to help the cell reach the end of the level. At the end of each chapter, there are quick, comic-book style panels, showing the story going on. The developer wanted the story to be interpreted without text, however, the images are clear to understand. Without giving anything away, the story, while short, is quite heartwarming and strikes the right emotions.

When everything comes together, Semispheres can be described as a thinking man’s puzzle game. navigating through each level is fun and enjoyable, feeling like a small reward when completed. The music sets the mood and is fixes players on the task at hand.  The levels are quick, and the harder ones that become real brain-teasers still become an enjoyment.

Players will, eventually, discover how the levels tie into the story and the connection is a nice touch. Perhaps, the only real drawback to Semispheres is that the experience is over quite too quickly. However, considering this was meant to be a short game to play, Semispheres executes its concept well.  It is worth mentioning that for those that for completionists, they can pursue the last trophy of the game, which challenges players to finish all the puzzles in under 35 Semispheres.

It’s great to see how Semisphere turned out to be, from my time at PAX South, where I first played it, to today, where the game has been brought to so many platforms. Semispheres is a remarkable game. While short, its clever puzzle mechanics, interesting level design, and profound atmosphere make for a memorable experience. Semispheres is great for both casual gamers and core gamers and will leave a positive impact on those who play.

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