Necrosphere / Necrosphere Deluxe

A game by Cat Nigiri for PC, Mac, Switch, PS4, Vita, Xbox One, iOS, and Android, originally released in 2017, with the Deluxe version released in 2019.
In Necrosphere, you play the role Terry Cooper, some sort of agent who is killed during an ambush, and his spirit (or whatever) passes into the Necrosphere. Fortunately, his partners in the real world manage to survive have somehow found a way to slip little helpful notes into the Necrosphere to aid him on his quest… which is to find an exit and return to the Normalsphere. In order to do this, he’ll need to complete some tough platforming challenges and earn powerups that allow him to explore additional routes, metroidvania style.

According to Terry's still-living friends, the Necrosphere is the size of Earth, and he’ll have an eternity to explore and find the exit, which is rumored to have been permanently sealed. Fortunately, the game world is considerably less than the size of an entire planet, and level designs are somewhat straightforward, so the player won’t spend much time wandering aimlessly.

The game is primarily a platformer, but the player does not have the ability to jump; instead, he uses bubbles as springboards to fling himself into the air, with early challenges requiring multiple successive hops, and later challenges offering disappearing bubbles, floating obstacles that must be dodged, and spiked ceilings. Not only is there no JUMP button, but gameplay is controlled entirely by two buttons: LEFT and RIGHT.

The first powerup the player encounters is the ballet suit, for which he swaps his former suit and tie. This pink leotard allows the player to double-tap left or right to perform a quick dash, which can be used on the ground to cross gaps or in the air to dodge obstacles. The dash also allows for a tiny amount of vertical movement, allowing the player to reach bubbles that are just slightly above his head. With this new ability enabled, the player finds a door that returns him to the starting area, but now he can access new routes.

The second powerup is a pair of gauntlets allows the player to break through grey stones that block his path, allowing him to access additional areas and setting up some tougher challenges where the player must perform a midair dash to break rocks while bouncing or falling. The rock-breaking maneuver occurs in conjunction with a dash, by double-tapping the LEFT or RIGHT buttons.

Throughout game, the player must dodge spikes and deadly orange orbs while completing tough environmental challenges that require quick reflexes and perfect timing. Often, the player must bounce off a bubble, alter direction in midair to dodge an obstacle, change directions again to land on another bubble, and then stick a solid landing. Fortunately, checkpoints are frequent and respawns are instant, reducing frustration when the player needs to repeatedly attempt a challenge.

There are even a small number of enemy characters in the form of greenish people that chase you around the environment. Once the player has the gauntlets, he can smash through these foes, but until then, he must outrun them and lure these enemies to their deaths. These sequences act as short puzzles where the player must figure out the correct path to take through the environment – staying alive in the process – while ensuring that his pursuer meets his end. Often, the player must pass through blue doors, which take a couple of seconds to fully open, giving the enemy a chance to catch up.

The world is persistent, so once an enemy is killed, it is gone forever, and once a puzzle is solved, it does not need to be solved a second time, which speeds things up when the player returns to a previously-visited area. Additionally, there are many side paths and shortcuts in the environment that allow the player to bypass certain challenges or skip ahead to a later area on future visits. Torches and breakable walls help to mark where the player has been previously to make exploration a bit easier, given that there is no map (nor much of a need for one).

In the early going, many areas are specifically designed to prevent you from backtracking, with drop-offs and other obstacles that you cannot overcome with your default abilities. This keeps you moving forward, but sometimes blocks access to side paths until you return later. Accessing side paths sometimes leads to one of the game’s 20 collectibles, which take the form of DVD’s. Finding five of these DVD’s unlocks a special bonus level called Terry’s Dream, which offers an even more difficult scenario that requires you to make expert use of your skills. Also, Terry begins this mission naked (until he finds the ballet suit).

The game’s most substantial powerup comes in the form of a jetpack, allowing the player to boost upward for a short while before the fuel drains, but it recharges instantly upon landing on a solid surface. This powerup allows for new and more complex challenges and will likely be the make-or-break point for most players, due to the increased challenge and the accompanying awkwardness of the control scheme.

Just like the dash maneuver, the jetpack is not assigned to its own button; rather, it is activated by pressing the LEFT and RIGHT buttons at the same time. This means that players can move to the left or right, or they can thrust straight up, but they have to stop using the jetpack to move horizontally again. The 2-button control gimmick makes some challenges significantly more difficult as the player needs to manage controls precisely in order to make very specific maneuvers in the back half of the game.

For instance, one dastardly puzzle involves activating a sequence of nine green blocks hovering in the air over a pit of spikes. Players need to activate these blocks in the proper order or the puzzle resets, but the only way to discover the solution is through trial and error. Jetpack navigation is tough on its own, but even tougher when the player is forced to change directions and dodge obstacles, all while minding his fuel meter, lest the jetpack run out and send him falling into the spikes below. In order to complete the is puzzle, players must press LEFT or RIGHT to reach the spike pit, hold both buttons to get aloft, alternate between LEFT and RIGHT to move between the floating blocks, and then double-tap LEFT or RIGHT to return to safe ground when fuel runs low, all while avoiding accidental contact with other blocks.

Level designs in the opening areas are layered to make use of the player’s ability to dash, break blocks, and eventually use the jetpack, often leading to hidden DVD’s in the process, but later areas require precise use of all of these abilities in tandem for basic environmental navigation. Soon, the player finds himself attempting to navigate past moving obstacles while managing his dwindling fuel and attempting to reach timed doorways before they slam shut, requiring extreme levels of precision.

Necrosphere was developed by Cat Nigiri, a studio formed in 2012 and headed by Caio Gobbi. The game’s art was created by Caio Gobbi and Falipe Gall, and the music was composed by Caio Gobbi and Juliane Andrezzo. The studio previously released Dino Zone, Fenix, and Popeman.