SpiritSphere - Two Genres Unlikely Combined - PC Review
- Platform: PC
- Players: 1-4. Local multiplayer only.
- Achievements: Yes
- Steam Trading Cards: Yes
- Controller Support : Yes
- Retail Price: $7.99
High Level Premise: The Legend of Zelda Meets Air Hockey
Graphics/Style: NES inspired
Music/Soundtrack: Suitably bouncy NES inspired music.
Story: There is no story to speak of
Replay-ability: Several modes and unlocks help keep this concept fresh. I hope the developer considers adding more depth to the solo experience.
Time Commitment: Good for a 10-20 minute gaming blast
Value: If you are a solo gamer, value is limited. If you have a gaming family, or occasionally have friends over, this is a much better value
Favorite Element: On one map, skeletons from the crowd will run onto the field and help the trailing team.
SpiritSphere combines Air Hockey with The Legend of Zelda. Still with me? I’ll have to admit that when I was first approached with this game, I had several competing feelings. The side of me that loves quirky games said “Your new king has just arrived!” My more pragmatic side said “This is going to be a dumpster fire the size of which is scarcely measurable by man!”
You start the game only being able to choose from three characters and three arenas. As you play, other characters and arenas can be unlocked. You can also unlock new spheres to play with by throwing the coins you gain during play into the Sphere Fountain. Once everything is unlocked, you have a good variety of characters to play with and locations to play in.
There are three modes of play in SpiritSphere: single player, multiplayer, and squash mode. Single Player is very simple: There are 9 increasingly difficult levels of 1 v 1 races to 3 points to endure, and 1 bonus level where you catch frisbees for coins. I can’t make this up.
I do hope the developer considers adding more to single player mode in the future. As it is, you can get through single player in about 15 minutes if you’re skilled enough to beat the hardest levels.
Squash Mode is basically a racquetball game. Both players take turns hitting the sphere against the front wall. If the opponent can’t hit it before it gets to the back wall, or they accidentally hit it out of turn, you score a point. It’s a fun twist on the base game, although I think I’d prefer it if the court were flipped, and you were hitting off the top of the screen. I would love to see this turned into a tournament bracket mode eventually.
Multiplayer is definitely the mode the developer is pushing the hardest. SpiritSphere multiplayer plays up to 4 players, but you play in teams up to 2 v 2. If you have 3 close friends that live nearby, you can probably spend an entire weekend playing this mode. SpiristSphere with 4 players, and all the powerups turned on is pure madness, and I love it. It’s fast paced and frantic, but you never see slowdown, or lose track of where you are.
I would love to see a 4 player every man for him or herself arena. 4 player air hockey tables have started popping up in real world arcades, and I think that if this game had that mode it would be as much fun as Warlords on the Atari 2600 was when I was a kid.
The presentation of the game is solid retro goodness. The graphics and music both ooze the 8-bit era extremely well. The controls are simple, but functional. The use of each characters’ special attacks take some time to learn which is nice. Each character does feel slightly different.
I do have one gripe on this front, it’s that in order to play the full 4 player multiplayer, you need 4 controllers. There are keyboard controls for 2 players, but the second you hit a controller button, it takes over one of those characters, and there is no way to bind the keyboard to players 3 or 4.
As a total package, I quite enjoy SpiritSphere. I love the presentation, I like the variety of modes, and there are a lot of ways to mix things up to make the game feel fresh. As a person that lives in the middle of a corn field, that has had 3 other video game players in the same room exactly three times in 30 years…it leaves me a bit wanting. Quite a few of the unlockables are only attainable through the Squash and Multiplayer modes. There is a perfectly good AI in the solo mode, why can’t we use that AI in Squash Mode and Multiplayer so that us solo game players have a chance to unlock everything?
I hope the developer continues work of SpiritSphere. There’s a lot of good stuff going on here, but there’s room for quite a bit more.