Necrosphere is an ugly, unfriendly, and punishing game… and I absolutely love it for that. In Necrosphere you will go through room after room of incredibly difficult platforming challenges with no breaks or filler in between. The art is lackluster, but that works in the game’s benefit because that keeps the map from ever distracting you from the intense maneuvers you will spend the whole game learning and perfecting. Necrosphere delivers a more challenging and more rewarding experience than most games dare to try.
The game starts and doesn’t stop to offer any guides or tutorials. Necrosphere has no time for that. Instead, I quickly figured out that the only two inputs I had are to move left and right. The game sneakily taught me new mechanics without me even noticing. For instance, the first mechanic they introduce is a little bubble that will bounce you up if you touch it. To do so, there is first a bubble in the middle of the room that’s impossible to avoid. After the player bumps into it, they can then use a later bubble to jump onto a ledge. Through these five seconds of gameplay, the player has the information to do some real challenges. Because of this, I was never confused with what’s on the screen in Necrosphere because it’s not a puzzle. It’s a pure action game.
The main draw of the game is its high difficulty, and Necrosphere delivers in spades. Nearly every single obstacle is hard enough that I didn’t pass it on my first few tries. Luckily, whenever I died, I returned to the beginning of the obstacle instantly. The gameplay felt fluid and the intensity never let up thanks to a lack of respawn time. The music also continued after death, so I never got sick of the first 2-3 seconds of a song. The difficulty doesn’t come from a lack of clarity or obtuse controls, the difficulty comes completely from the level design. There are so many obstacles to avoid and precise landings I had to make, that beating every level gave me a euphoric sense of pride and accomplishment.
Branching paths, one-way doors, and portals connect each room to form a large Metroidvania style world. However, with no actual map, it can be confusing to navigate the labyrinth. When I took a wrong turn or fell into the wrong hole, I found myself redoing previous levels. Replaying levels was still fun and still difficult, so it wasn’t too harsh. There were also tons of collectibles to find, many of which were harder to get than just beating regular levels.
Making such precise movements requires precise controls, which Necrosphere definitely has. In my experience, the Nintendo Switch had no delay between when I pressed a button and when the game registered it. The character doesn’t have any weight or momentum, but that arcade-y movement leads to really comfortable controls. I was worried when the first power-up I picked up told me I had to press left or right 2 times in quick succession. I struggle with pressing buttons quickly and tend to not be able to beat even quick time events in games. Luckily, there are 4 buttons to go right and 4 to go left, so I was able to press a combination of any 2 buttons of the same direction in order to jump.
The art and soundtrack give the game personality, though they are the weakest aspect of the game. All moving platforms, fireballs, and other obstacles look the same every time they appear, which makes the game clear. For example, all the walls, ceilings, and floors look the same in each level, so I was never confused with what lay ahead of me. There are also little tidbits of a story in the game that justify the drab environments and eventually made me appreciate each level looking the same.
I felt like I was speedrunning a game or playing a really hard B game, but Necrosphere delivered a high amount of polish. The satisfaction of beating every level far outweighed my frustration of losing repeatedly. In short, Necrosphere is the most difficult to play, and equally difficult to put down game that I’ve experienced in a long time.