Developed By: Infuse Studio Published By: Merge Games and Signature Edition Categories: Adventure Release Date: 05.07.20
Spirit of the North is not a typical adventure game. There is no standard story to speak of, no dialogue, no text, no characters even. Just you as a fox, trying to make it’s way to the goal. Very much in line with games like Journey, Spirit of the North is minimalist in how it presents itself. There’s no combat, almost no real conflict, just your ambition to reach the end your journey.
With nothing in the way, right immediately off of the title screen, you start your journey in a barren, cold field of snow near the mountains, with red smoke seen in the distance, you start your adventure to get to it’s source. Throughout the game’s eight chapters you go through the previously mentioned field of snow and ice, to a calm, green ravine, to a field next to a lake, to a war torn, destroyed castle town covered in in tumor-like growths and full of corpses of the past residents. The game never outright says why things are the way they are or why you want to go to the source of the red smoke, leaving it up to the player to discover on their own what the game is showing.
ON ALL FOUR PAWS
As you play as a fox in the game, movement isn’t industry standard and in a way feels almost antiquated. Jumps are final and take commitment, turning around isn’t instant and you need to way for your whole body to make a wide turn, moving you around in the process. On their own, neither of these are a problem, as long as a game feels it’s designed with that in mind, but the multiple platforming sections are often moments of frustration as you will constantly miss jumps. I never quite got the hang of how running worked in the game either, as at times you’ll just stop running, even when holding down the button for it, adding to the earlier issues, and when you’re timed for anything, it makes it a much bigger issue.
RIDDLE ME THIS
When you’re not going through vast open areas, you’ll be locked in areas that require you to solve puzzles to proceed. Puzzles in the game are either bringing a light spirit to a sigil or barking at statues to make them match. While majority of these are meant to just block you off from advancing, at points in chapters starting from 3, you get new spirit abilities. These abilities enhance your mobility and assist with obstacles you’ll see later in the game such as a burst of light to destroy the previously mentioned growth, found more and more near the end, a light dash to reach further distances and faster, and the ability to have your spirit double phase scout out places you couldn’t normally reach in a physical form, or fill sigils from afar. Throughout the game you’ll also occasionally find staves and are required to take them to the corpse of a monk to release their spirit. While majority of these are completely optional and are meant to act as collectables for unlockable skins, in sections near the beginning and end of the game more of these become mandatory.
RED AND BLUES
Upon starting the game, immediately you’ll notice how visually striking the game is, even on Switch. Environments have a realistic look, but when colors are used, they’re rather vibrant and stand out especially well. Every chapter has it’s own color sceheme from white, light blue, grey, green, red, and black giving variety to each chapter. Your character model never gets lost in the environment or blends in with your surroundings. However, the staves that you need to find for the monks all blend into the background where they are hidden, even ones required to advance. While them being hidden ultimately serves their purpose for being optional and for unlockables, it feels out of place when everything else stands out.
IS IT WORTH THE JOURNEY
Much like other minimalist games, your mileage may vary on your tolerance for being thrown into the open and told to just get to it. This doesn’t impact the game’s quality as a whole, but does limit the potential playerbase. If you’re not a big fan of slower, less actiony involved games, you probably won’t enjoy the game and might be better off avoiding the game. At less than ten hours long, it’s not too lengthy of an experience, but it does feel like it recycles assets and setpieces a bit too much near the end of the game almost as if ideas were running out. This makes the game end up feeling like it might be longer than it actually is .
$24.99 Digital / $34.99 physical
*Game download code provided for review purposes.