What happens when you take the classic Windjammers game released on Neo Geo back in the mid-nineties by the now defunct Data East and give it an 8-bit Zelda inspired makeover? You get a game called SpiritSphere! Pitched as a cross between Zelda and air hockey, SpiritSphere is a local multiplayer game where the goal is to try and knock a sphere into your opponent’s end zone to score the required amount of points to win. To add to the excitement are a slew of different characters, spheres, power-ups, and levels to give an extra layer of strategy to the standard back and forth game play. But before we dive into all that good stuff, let’s take a look at the modes that are available to tinker around in.
First off we have single-player mode for all you lonely folks out there. You can play this to unlock new characters and stages while earning coins to be thrown into the Sphere Fountain to unlock different sphere types to be used in the other modes. It consists of 10 stages of ever-increasing difficulty, along with a bonus round to earn some extra coins. Next up we have a practice mode, which really doesn’t need an explanation. Squash mode is a variation of the standard tennis format. Just like its namesake, in squash mode players share the same length of court and must take turns hitting the ball back and forth against the south wall. Points are scored when the player either misses the ball and lets it hit the northern wall, or if a player touches the ball when it’s not his turn. There is a sword icon that appears over the head of the players to denote whose turn it is to hit the ball. If you never played squash before (like me!) it takes a few minutes to get used to, but it adds a little more variety to the game so it’s quite welcome. Sphere Fountain brings you to (yep, you guessed it!) the Spirit Fountain. For every hundred coins you throw in, you unlock a random sphere to use in the other modes. And of course, I saved the best for last.
Multiplayer mode is where the most fun can be had. It is local multiplayer only; no online play whatsoever, which is a shame but it is what it is. It can be played by up to four players. You can choose from any character, stage, and sphere type that you have unlocked so far for your battle. You can also adjust the amount of points needed to win the match, from one to ten. For the purpose of the review, I played many two-player battles with a friend and we both used Xbox One controllers. You can use a keyboard to play if you have to, but I highly recommend using a gamepad for a fast-paced game like this. We both had a lot of fun trying to slam the ball past each other while busting out power-ups to try and throw the other off of their game. I couldn’t scrounge up enough people to get a four player game going, but I can only imagine how fun it would be!
To spice the game up a little, there are seven different playable characters each with their own strengths and weaknesses. All have the ability to do a basic attack, charge attack, and a dash, but the effects can vary from character to character. For example; the wizard Ozo teleports instead of doing a basic dash move. His charge attack causes two circles of energy to lash out on each side of him, whereas another character named Lin does a spin attack when charged up. It’s always better to use a character whose abilities you are comfortable with. You only start off with three characters at first, but you can unlock more through gameplay. To add to the chaos, players can pick up various power-ups that can be found throughout the levels by cutting grass and whatnot. They can range from items that give you a helpful boost, like boots that temporarily increase your movement speed or items that can be used to directly affect your opponent, like a bomb that can be thrown at them to stun them for a bit. There are also eleven different types of spheres, each adding their own twist to the gameplay. Some good examples are the golden sphere that drops money as it flies around the field and the ghost sphere that likes to randomly vanish, leaving nothing but its shadow as a hint of its trajectory. The action takes place across eight stages (some of which also need to be unlocked) which all have their own obstacles and gimmicks to watch out for. The forest stage, for example, has grass everywhere that can be cut to find hidden power-ups, along with a row of shrubs that act as a destructible barrier to help protect each player’s end zone from spheres. It all adds up to make SpiritSphere a much more interesting title than if it were just a basic Pong clone.
The graphics are faithfully created in an 8-bit style that even uses a color palette that stays true to the limitations of the NES generation. Just looking at the backgrounds and character sprites gives me a feeling of nostalgia since I grew up playing games that looked just like SpiritSphere. It’s pretty cool to think that it was all created by one single person (with the exception of the eclectic soundtrack by a man known only by the name of Gas1312). That’s right, Eendhoorn Games is made up of only one person; Martino Wullems. If you are in the market for an easy to pick up, yet hard to master quick-paced skill-based game that you can load up and have a blast with whenever you have some friends over then I highly recommend SpiritSphere. However, if you’re more of a solitary gamer, then you might feel a bit limited with this game since there is no online functionality. There is only so much enjoyment you can wring out of the single player mode.
*Note: A copy of the game was provided for the purposes of the review
Final Score: 6.5/10
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