The years is 2590 AD and the Atlas Corporation is merrily busy digging up crystals in the core of a massive asteroid that is in orbit around the earth. Then, disaster strikes as a failure in the asteroid system causes its orbit correction to be disabled. This leaves only ten hours before the asteroid reaches a point where its orbit cannot be restored and it will impact catastrophically with earth. The only hope is reloading the asteroid system to restore its orbit, but this can only be accomplished via a spherical device, called the Technosphere. You have the honor of controlling the Technosphere, navigating the treacherous depths of the asteroid and, hopefully, saving the planet from certain destruction.
Technosphere Reload clearly drew inspiration from the Atari classic, Marble Madness. It features the same objective of making your way through tricky courses that are filled with obstacles to overcome while keeping your eye on the time limit. Another thing that TR has in common with Marble Madness is the fact that it doesn’t offer any compromises when it comes to the difficulty. This game is hard in a way that frequently becomes frustrating, but it also means that conquering it is all the more satisfying.
The most striking thing about TR is definitely the visuals as it makes use of the Unreal Engine to render its science fiction setting. Levels are set in very large spaces that feature volumetric illumination, so the sense of scale is quite impressive. There are also so many moving parts all around you that it really does feel like you are moving around inside some complicated machine. Because the entire game is set inside the asteroid the environments do not change that much, but in general, each new level is packed with a number of interesting visual elements. The volumetric lighting in particular looks very impressive, but on maximum detail the game can be a bit blinding at times.
In terms of gameplay, Technosphere Reload is a bit of a contradiction. It is the type of game where you have to take things slowly and be very careful or you’ll end up falling victim to the myriad of deadly obstacles that litter your path. However, you can’t take it too slow either as you not only have to deal with a ten hour time limit, but also fuel that depletes while your Technosphere rolls. This fuel, called Energon, can be replenished by rolling over the relevant pick-ups, but feels a bit unnecessary and puts a damper on exploration. Speaking of exploration, your path through each level is fairly linear, but there are a few secret areas scattered about if you wander off the beaten path a bit. Due to the size if the levels, it is also easy to become disoriented and a few times we lost track of where we needed to go after activating or deactivating certain switches. This is not helped by the fact that the camera cannot be adjusted apart from flipping it in four different directions.
In addition to having to worry about time and energy, your Technosphere also has an armor meter that can be damaged by explosions or other impacts. One level in particular took pleasure in hurling around drones that started shooting at our Technosphere on sight, which means the shield can be worn down very quickly. Other hazards, such as bombs and turrets can also chip away at your shield if you are not careful. However, we usually didn’t have to pay too much attention to the shield as most of the hazards in Technosphere killed us on sight. Whether it is from straying too close to the path of a laser or rolling off the edge of a platform, death in Technosphere can come swiftly and often if you are not careful. This can be even more frustrating if the death was a result of a dodgy camera angle or cheap hazard. Making matters even worse is the fact that you have a limited amount of lives and dying sends you back to the last checkpoint. Run out of lives and it is back to the last save spot, which can be immensely frustrating on some of the later levels. Technosphere Reload is definitely not the type of game that holds your hand and appears to relish in throwing as much rage inducing obstacles as possible in your way. Some players will thrive on this kind of challenge, while others will throw their hands up in despair after the hundredth time they get pushed off a ledge by a piston, fried by a flamethrower, run out of energy in the middle of a maze, or shot into a laser by a passing drone. Judging by the percentage of players who have managed to complete the game based on the Steam achievements, it would seem that most people fall into the latter category.
Seeing as players have to maneuver around with a giant metal ball, the controls in Technosphere Reload is a bit tricky to say the least. Thankfully, the game has full controller support and we can’t imagine playing with anything apart from an analog stick. The controls are actually a little bit more complicated than simply rolling around too, as your Technosphere has three different “modes.” In “Normal” mode you have full control over your sphere and can jump over obstacles as well as press brake to come to a full stop. This is especially useful in difficult spots where staying still can save your life. Then there is the “Limited” mode where your ability to jump or brake is taken away. This obviously complicates things immensely as you can no longer simply jump over hazards. In addition, you will have to take your momentum into account when moving around in this mode as you can no longer depend on your brakes. The last mode is “Advanced”, which is also our favorite, but sadly the least used. In this mode, you not only have unlimited armor, but you are also given endless acceleration, which is limited in other modes by the amount of batteries that you have collected. The Advanced sections are mostly viewed from the side and some sections feel like they could have been in a classic Sonic The Hedgehog game, which makes them quite enjoyable. However, the mode of your sphere is altered automatically when entering certain segments of the levels, so players have no control over when the change takes place.
There’s not much that we can say about the Technosphere Reload soundtrack as there isn’t one. The game doesn’t fare much better in the sound effects department either as some of them can be ear piercing after the relative silence of rolling around and solving puzzles. In addition, as if the game wasn’t challenging enough, we also encountered a couple of bugs and glitches that often required us to restart the entire level. These ranged from blocks ending up on top of barriers, making it impossible to progress past certain obstacles, to falling off levels and ending up in an endless void from which there was no coming back. For the rest, the game ran pretty smoothly, but it is amazing how much more aggravating these kinds of glitches are when you are on the verge of completing an extremely challenging level and get hit by them.
Overall, Technosphere Reload is definitely not a game that is going to appeal to everyone. In fact, if it wasn’t for some friendly rivalry with a colleague over who could get the furthest, we might have thrown in the towel long before the end. There are times when doing some parkour style wall-jumping through levels while navigating through death traps can be extremely fun. Then, there are also times when the end is within sight, but you lose your last life to yet another tiny mistake or unforeseen obstacle. This means that the amount of enjoyment that you will derive from Technosphere Reload is going to depend very much on how patient and persistent you are. If you can still remember the 8-bit days when things like frequent save spots and unlimited lives were unheard of, then you might be up for the challenge that this game has to offer. If, on the other hand, you are expecting something casual and relaxing, then we suggest you roll right past for the sake of your own mental well-being.
Review based on Build 1.0.5.
Update: Technosphere Reload was updated to Build 1.0.7. This version grants players infinite lives, which removes a lot of the frustration from the game.
- OS: Windows 7, 8, 10
- Processor: Intel Core i5 2500K (or equivalent)
- Memory: 4 GB RAM
- Graphics: GTX 760 with 2 GB VRAM compatible with DirectX 11
- DirectX: Version 11
- Storage: 2200 MB available space
- OS: Windows 7, 8, 10
- Processor: Intel Core i7 3770K (or equivalent)
- Memory: 8 GB RAM
- Graphics: GTX 1070 compatible with DirectX 11
- DirectX: Version 11
- Storage: 2200 MB available space