Spheroids has a simple plot that is well-suited to a platform adventure game. Giant alien blobs known as "the Spheroids" are attempting to take over the world, and it's up to a brave Canadian boy named Lucas - with the assistance of a crazy scientist known as Otto - to save the day.
Based in a comical science-fiction universe, the setting - according to the developer - has been inspired by films and television series including Back to the Future, Futurama and Rick & Morty. We see Lucas travelling around the world, visiting locations such as Japan, Brazil and Egypt across 32 levels in an attempt to wipe out the alien threat. The design of Spheroids draws on the bubble popping mechanics of Pang / Buster Bros. and also features plane-swapping as seen in Mutant Mudds.
Further separating Spheroids apart from an average sidescroller is the modified drilling-hook Otto lends Lucas to aid him in his fight against the alien army. This hook transforms him from a generic platform character into an agile and dangerous hero. Lucas eventually acquires a grappling hook and even gravity-inverting boots during his adventure, which increases the overall complexity of the platform challenges on offer in the game.
A noticeable pattern emerges the more you play Spheroids. As you work your way through each level overcoming a variety of blobs, at certain points you are confined to an area where you must eliminate every enemy sphere in sight in order to progress. While a unique concept, this design disrupts the pacing of levels from time to time. The hook and grapple mechanics also challenge the conventions of a traditional platform game, with Lucas required to eliminate batches of enemies at once, and even travel through levels by clinging to the roof with his grapple ability.
The level design as a result of these special items naturally evolves over time. At first Lucas will be jumping across a few platforms and shooting enemies by pressing A and B; then, before you know it, he's high in the sky swinging about like Tarzan attempting to make contact with a high-placed switch in order to activate a door at ground level. No Wii U Pro Controller support is a pity, here, as it's the pad best suited to some of the tough challenges to be found.
As mentioned, Spheroids includes plane-swapping as seen in the likes of Mutant Mudds. This concept has been utilised in a relatively simple way, with the player often having to fulfil an objective in the background and then jump back across to the foreground when it is solved. It isn't as well designed as it is in Mutant Mudds, for example - it feels somewhat forced at times, not always hitting its marks.
All of these twists in Spheroids are supported by standard platform elements - including checkpoints, health top-ups and currency to collect. There are also items that appear after defeating enemies or destroying blockades. The in-game currency allows Lucas to purchase upgrades and power-ups at arcade terminals so he can improve his chances of success against the alien forces. Temporary power-ups include shields, a double hook and extra lives. Upgrades give Lucas permanent improvements like enhanced extra life capacity, the ability to stop time and slow down time for longer periods, bigger dynamite explosions and stronger shields. These upgrades all provide additional assistance as enemies become harder to defeat; they also add some sense of strategy to certain moments.
You would think the enemy variety would be limited given the fact Spheroids are spheres, however, Eclipse Games has managed to create plenty of different creatures. There are idle Spheroids that cannot be damaged, larger Spheroids with protective shields, bouncy Spheroids and also ones that split up into multiple blobs. The larger Spheroids that split when shot are the most troublesome. The other enemies aren't too much of an issue. The visual design of the hero characters, compared to the enemies, is noticeably different as well - the heroes do nevertheless draw some artistic cues from the cubic world around them. The visuals in general are a mix of pixel-art with vector graphics, forming blocky but vibrant environments. The sound and music is reflective of the presentation, with upbeat tunes running on loop and plenty of beeps and bops when taking out the enemy.
Spheroids is definitely rough around the edges and has a distinct lack of polish when compared to more well-known franchises within this genre. In saying this, the title still manages to provide a competent adventure platform experience that is sure to entertain players for at least a few hours. It is tough to suggest this over the range of quality platformers on Wii U, but if you're in the mood to eliminate some aliens this is nevertheless one to consider.