Sphere

Indie Corner: Spirit Sphere.

There aren’t nearly enough games like Windjammers or just air hockey video games in general. And most games that attempt to approach the prior game always seem to fall short. Along comes Eendhoorn studios’ attempt at making a fun fast paced game in spirit of Windjammers and crossing its design with Zelda. It’s a pretty interesting take on the genre but does the studio manage to avoid the pitfalls other such games fall in? 

 

Zelda in visual and gameplay design. Not story-wise.

Spirit Sphere doesn’t have a story to speak of. While it’s not a game that needs a narrative per se it could have been interesting to see something of a story considering the visual inspirations the game takes. A short dialogue between characters, a legend behind the ridiculous premise and an eventual boss would have been a fun little inclusion. But again the choice to not include a narrative is completely fine.

An old-school arcade ladder is presented as one of the only singleplayer additions to the game.

 

Slow and frustrating. 

Spirit Sphere plays much like Air Hockey or a bit like Windjammers. Two players face each other on opposite sides of the field and try to keep the orb from getting into the goal on their side of the field. Players can choose to hit the orb and angle it by tilting the control stick in a certain direction. The orb can also make an arc after players use a charged attack. Alternatively, the orb can be stopped by using the character’s body and a dash gives players a chance to get to where they want with haste. The premise is simple and fun.

There are several characters in the game each with their own ways of playing. Most of these characters’ playstyles, while changing some elements to make them different, aren’t that much fun to play with. Characters like Lin and Buster are the only real fun characters to play with because they are slight variations instead of using a teleporting dash or only being able to hit in front of them. Items can also be obtained in matches which mix thing up a bit more. The orbs themselves can also be changed to have different properties. While most characters aren’t that much fun to play with instead of the stages, orb and items give the game enough variety but ultimately doesn’t fix the main gameplay problems.

While Spirit Sphere manages to sometimes deliver on the intense exciting battles most of the time matches are more frustrating than fun. Characters control just a bit too stiffly to feel like players can precisely respond with the actions they want to do. Another huge problem is that orbs bounces of off player which might have been fine if it didn’t cause so many accidental points in your own goal. The game was deliberately designed that way but it’s incredibly frustrating to try and stop the orb from going in your goal only to accidentally knock it in yourself. The squash mode is just a very dull and unpleasant mode to play and the lack of online multiplayer is extremely lamentable. Spirit Sphere can manage to be intense and fun but these moments aren’t that frequent and instead, most matches are dominated by a miserable sense of boredom or frustration.

Lin and Buster are the only characters that feel remotely fun.

 

Gets the visuals just right….maybe a bit too much so.

The art style of Spirit Sphere is obviously heavily inspired by The Legend Of Zelda which is a neat idea and for the most part it does so pretty well. The art style is more reminiscent of the Game Boy Zelda games which is a nice style that’s not really done that much. There are some sprites that make it a bit hard to make out what they are but that’s kind of what’s part of the charm. Then there are parts in the game that come dangerously close to almost stealing assets of the Game Boy Zelda games. Menus look very simple and while they manage to do their job they look a bit too cheap. And that is something the entire games has flowing over it. While it doesn’t look bad it looks very bare bones and cheap. Things like scoring a goal are never really celebrated or gives the player that sense of satisfaction. Players score, players lose, players win. That’s it. The game feels like it’s just stating these things that should have some excitement behind it. The presentation nails the actual in-game look it was inspired by but everything else makes it feel like there was a lack of effort or enthusiasm behind the game.

At least the game looks the part.
The good: The bad:
+ art style nails the look – just a tad too slow.
+ has a few moments of genuine excitement. – being able to score in your own goal leads to frustration
– a very cheap look in the menus and presentation aside from the actual game.

verdict:

Spirit Sphere is an honest attempt to make a WindJammers-esque Air-hockey game. It’s just too bad games don’t get made on honest attempts. The game lacks those tweaks in some crucial elements to make it a truly fun and exciting fast-paced party game. Although a story mode isn’t really a necessity in these kinds of games the inspiration used for the visuals of the game allowed for the opportunity of a story which is lamentable. Characters don’t control well enough and most characters that deviate too much from the standard playstyle aren’t fun to use. Items, map and orb variations make up for the character shortcomings but not the lack of fine-tuned controls and the frustrating ability to score in one’s own goal which happens too often. The art style looks a lot like the games it was inspired by. Colors and sprites in the game look nice even if it looks just a bit too much like what it’s inspired by. A lack of any online component is also a huge tick against it. Spirit Sphere can manage to have moments of excitement but most of the time it will lead to frustration or boredom which in turn leads to misery.

2 out of 5:

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I'm a fun loving guy who like piña coladas, getting caught in the rain and long walks on the beach. I work hard, I play hard. Must like cats. Ugos need not apply. If you want to ask me anything you can contact me at yordi.verhoene@gmail.com