Originally released on Steam back in 2017, Necrosphere Deluxe is an updated version of Cat Nigiri’s metroidvania-inspired retro platformer. It’s available now as a cross-buy title for PS4 and the Playstation Vita, and we tested it on the latter.
There’s a narrative to Necrosphere Deluxe, but it’s thin and you’ll barely see any narrative development during your playthrough. Playing as agent Terry Cooper, you find yourself in a version of the afterlife (called the Necrosphere) after being fatally wounded in real life. Eager to find your way back to the world of the living, you start on your quest….
Since Necrosphere Deluxe looks like any other 8-bit inspired platformer on the surface, that sounds easy enough, even with the absence of a tutorial. That’s before you realize that Terry doesn’t react to anything you do with the d-pad though, nor does he react to you pressing any of the Vita’s face buttons. Just when you think your Vita (or the game) is broken, you hit the shoulder buttons and find that they move Terry left and right, setting him off on his adventure.
Yes, this is assuming you didn’t read up on the game beforehand, as one of Necrosphere Deluxe’s biggest draws is its creative control method – the game only uses these two buttons to control the entire game. There is no jump button, so all you can do at first is move left and right to fall off ledges. It’s not long before you encounter bubbles that can launch you upwards and over obstacles though, and a platform game or careful timing and navigating is born.
As you progress, you also gradually unlock new abilities, including the ability to dash – giving you more options mid-air as well. This is the Metroidvania aspect of the game at work, since it will also allow you access to areas you previously couldn’t reach. It does, however, also reflect the exact moment where you start missing the simple pleasure of pressing X to jump (or in this case, dash). When extra moves are introduced to a control system like Necrosphere’s, a subtle and clever ballet of moves turns into hard and sometimes frustrating work, which is a shame. Games like Super Meat Boy also gradually get harder, but you always feel like it’s your own inability that’s stopping you there – not the controls. There’s an “extra buttons” option in the menu, but don’t let that fool you – it’s only meant to map the same controls to additional buttons. It can help a little when performing certain moves, but I ended up playing the game without the option turned on.
The controls definitely aren’t a game-breaking issue though, and Necrosphere Deluxe feels like it’s very well at home on the Vita. The control system’s novel enough to stay interesting despite its shortcomings, the music’s very well done and there’s a nice sense of progression – levels are designed in such a way that most challenges offer you a way to get out and head in a different direction if you feel like temporarily giving up. Visually, the game’s comparable to Vita titles like League of Evil, with a familiar 8-bit look to the graphics.
Because this is the Deluxe edition of the game, it also includes a mini campaign entitled Terry’s Dream – which is punishingly hard to play but a nice extra to have for after you complete the two to three hour main story. Thanks to the game’s control novelty and well-designed challenges and levels, it’s certainly a quest worth undertaking. The Vita’s not exactly swimming in new games these days, so Necrosphere Deluxe certainly is a welcome addition!