Semispheres feels impossible. Not that it, as a puzzle game, actually is unsolvable, but it very often feels like what it wants from you would require you to rip your brain in half. The key, however, to the game is that it doesn’t quite make it necessary and instead teases you with the possibility of it.
In that way, Semispheres is a brilliant yet soothing experience involving jellyfish orbs and (interdimensional?) portals. The crux of it is that you control two blobs navigating two disconnected but identical rooms that may or may not have differing setups of items, enemies, and those aforementioned portals. Each blob—each with their squid-like tendrils—is controlled with their respective analog stick on the controller, though, and that’s where all that brain ripping starts looking rather inviting.
Enemies, you see, patrol these rooms, but you can circumvent them usually with the aid of your other half. If you pop into a BioShock Infinite-style tear between the two with the left side, for example, you can use a noisemaker to get the attention of a guard and allow the right side to pass unnoticed. Or you can pick up an item that moves both to one side, or pick up a different item that simply swaps the two blobs.
Through these tactics and armaments, the game teases you. It eggs you on to try something bold. For the most part, these encounters can be solved independently, simply but deliberately moving each half as required. But as the levels push forward, the singular notion of becoming better invades your mind. It ceases to be just about figuring it out and soon becomes dextrous.
In the same way as you found yourself bumping into things absentmindedly in Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons, you’ll find yourself sending one blob into a wall as you attempt simultaneous movement. But you keep pushing yourself and slowly you discover a skill buried deep within yourself. You progressively silo off a portion of your brain and shove it into the realm where breathing and blinking live, where you thrive on instinct.
It’s uneasy—you never feel like you’re not fighting yourself—but it’s also a completely new experience. More than Brothers or Entwined, it requires a different type of forcing a schism into your thinking. It’s active and dynamic in a way that doesn’t demand foresight so much as reactive awareness.
Granted, its base concepts will be familiar to anyone who has played a stealth game or co-op game in recent years, but smashing it together into your solo hands instead of across multiple brains changes the entire experience. It’s a fresh and rewarding proposition that I highly suggest you agree to. You will be as flustered as you are soothed.
+ Gorgeous and relaxing style
+ Teaches you how to play at a wonderful pace
+ Demands just enough of you while asking if you can give more
+ That god dang soundtrack
Final Score: 8 out of 10
Game Review: Semispheres
Release: February 14, 2017
Developer: Vivid Helix
Available Platforms: PlayStation 4 and PC (Xbox One soon)