Developer: Infuse Studio
Publisher: Merge Games
Platform: Nintendo Switch (eShop)
Version Reviewed: eShop download
Category: Adventure, Puzzle
No. of Players: 1 Player
Release Date: May 07, 2020
(EU & NA) Price: $19.99
Spirit of the North was previously released on Playstation 4 and recently released on Steam and Nintendo Switch. The game was made by a small team of three out of Raleigh, North Carolina, USA. The team has previously done work on 3D environments in Unreal and recently debuted their game Spirit of the North.
Spirit of the North tells its story through the use of glyphs found throughout the world that you will oftentimes light up by infusing a spirit into a bit of wall art. There are some elements of cut scenes that try to convey what is happening in the game world, though I found a lot of the cut scenes to be somewhat obtuse and up to the gamer to decide what is going on.
As far as the details early on you encounter a female spirit of the northern lights who puts you, a fox, on a journey to unravel the mystery of her disappearance and help lift the curse that has plagued the world. Throughout the short campaign, you will trek through vast open plains, leap from rock ledges, and explore caves.
In Spirit of the North, you control a lone fox that slowly gains various abilities complementary to the spirit in which you can absorb and use by howling to turn on switches found throughout the world. As you progress you will also learn the ability to quell malignant tumors that try to cover the world.
These reminded me much like the malice found in Breath of the Wild. There’s a quick jump ability that helps you cover large gaps and move quickly on the ground or in the air. Eventually, you also learn how to rest your worldly body and enter the spirit world which can be used to trigger ground switches, while your celestial body can move on to the next part of the level so you can open up a pathway ahead.
CONTENT & FEATURES:
The game is broken into eight chapters and can be completed in roughly four to five hours. Each section is primarily linear in which you will go from point A to point B progressing through a cave, up a cliffside, or opening up waterways to raise the level of water until you reach the top of the ruins.
The areas tend to be wide open spaces which means a lot of just walking and running around. Since the puzzles can be a bit shy on the details in some areas, I found myself traipsing around looking for solutions sometimes as to where to go next wasn’t always clear. There were a few areas too where the visual details were somewhat bland and dark making it hard to see where to go next in a few spots.
Spirit of the North is a puzzle, platforming game that will have you jumping a lot. The jumping is mostly spot-on, though I did find areas of controlling the fox just to be a bit janky or imprecise. Some of the jumps were often the exact distance the fox was able to jump, and some of the jumps had me seemingly falling before I was on the edge of the cliffside. I don’t know if I was just bad at the game, or if the edge hit detection was slightly askew, but I would err on the latter since I have been gaming for decades and I am a regular platform gamer.
Throughout each section, there are multiple staff and shamans to find. Reconnecting the shamans with their staff would lead to a small cut scene of the awakened spirit thanking you for reuniting it with its staff. Later in the game, you would see a reason behind finding these, which was a neat reward for finding the staff during the main game.
While not every staff is necessary to progress through the game, there are some that are required to move forward. This wasn’t always clear, so if you do find a staff, I would recommend picking it up and carrying it with you.
Spirit of the North contains non-spoken audio. There are some yips and howls from the fox which are decent enough. The music soundtrack is orchestral and fitting for the game. Though if you are stuck on a puzzle you may hear the same loop for quite some time. The games audio does change to moody foreboding tunes when appropriate which helped to get me in the ‘spirit’ of the story.
VISUALS & PERFORMANCE:
Visually, Spirit of the North is a mixed bag. Up close things are blurry both in handheld and on the big screen while docked. Handheld does seem to be more blurry, having that vaseline smear to it. There are noticeable pop-in textures in some of the areas, especially if you are zipping around using the dash or running.
Rock textures are samey and bland and while the grass and water are serviceable, they aren’t the most outstanding. All in all, though the areas look vast and pull from their Icelandic and Nordic source material. There is not a lot besides snow and ice, water, rock, muck, and grass as far as textures though and before you’re halfway through the game you may feel like you have seen a place before.
Spirit of the North is a game made by a small team. And it shows. It’s rough around the edges, but it packs a level of passion and dedication found in small intimate teams that oftentimes is lacking when it comes to big blockbusters. The level of care in telling the story is clear, though despite some of the shortcomings listed above it is still a decent game and a credit to the developers.
I found that on some levels, it’s very easy to get turned around in some of the areas due to their identicalness. I know in one of the later cave chapters where it was very dark, I often found myself going in circles because it was very hard to discern areas I had been in and areas I needed to go to.
Besides the pop-in and the occasional jitteriness when my fox got locked into a background piece, I did get stuck once or twice in the background resulting in my having to quit and reset the game. I didn’t notice any framerate dips while playing in docked or handheld.
If you’re looking for a short story-driven narrative that touches on mythologies rooted in Icelandic and Nordic culture, Spirit of the North may be a game to check out. It iss over rather quickly, but does enough during it’s 4-5 hour campaign to keep you interested and hooked to the end.
THE VERDICT: 6/10
*A Review key was provided by the publisher for the purposes of this review
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This post was written by jonathanober