Games like Flower, Journey, The Unfinished Swan, Gris and The Last Guardian blur the lines between art and gaming. They offer different and unique experiences with little or no dialogue and invoke a sense of wonder and discovery. That’s why, when I heard about Spirit of the North Enhanced Edition, I jumped at the chance to review it.
Developed by Infuse Studio and published by Merge Games, Spirit of the North is inspired from Nordic folklore and Icelandic landscapes. The game is filled with exploration and puzzle solving that takes you across a wide variety of tundra including mountain sides, glaciers and a magical forest.
Spirit of the North Enhanced Edition Details
Platform(s): PlayStation 5
Developer(s): Infuse Studio
Publisher: Merge Games
ESRB Rating: E (Everyone)
A story without words or narration
As mentioned above, Spirit of the North doesn’t include any type of dialogue or narration. You play as a fox and begin the game in a snowy mountain landscape. During your course of wandering and exploring you become injured and cross paths with a magical fox spirit known as the Guardian of the Northern Lights. In order to save your life, you bond with the guardian to discover more about a lost civilization by finding the source of the red smoke in the sky and saving the land from the evil that is destroying it.
While it may sound disjointed and confusing, discovering where to go and what to do next is one of the best things I like about this game. From the very start, it’s apparent that Infuse Studio designed the game for everyone to enjoy. This means that it is never difficult to figure out where you go next and how you will get there.
Traverse diverse landscapes and solve puzzles
There’s nothing in Spirit of the North‘s gameplay that’s revolutionary. There is no UI or map to use for navigation. And, again, much like its story, this simplistic and minimalistic approach to gameplay is another draw to the game. The control of your fox is standard fare who can run, jump and swish his tail. For the most part, the game controls fine. However, I did encounter some issues with movement, which results in sluggish and unresponsive gameplay.
At times, traversing the landscape requires you to find the correct path to make it across caverns and rivers. And, just when you think there is no way to cross, you come upon a cave that helps you on your way. Puzzles in the game are what I would categorize as brainteasers and near the end of the game may take a few tries to complete.
Each level of the game includes shaman staves that are randomly laying around. Totally optional, you can return these staves to the shaman corpses to free their souls. There are a total of 8 chapters in the game and you can expect to spend somewhere in the neighbourhood of 6 hours to complete.
Stunning landscapes and a beautifully orchestrated score
Spirit of the North is breathtakingly beautiful! The game’s visuals help tell the story and set the mood from what is to come. Inspired by Iceland, the stylistic design brings the large, detailed and lively environments to life. In fact, they are so beautiful and serene that I often imagined what it would be like to explore them, untouched from humankind.
From the white snowy lands to the dark cavernous areas, Infuse Studio made use of a wide variety of colours that range from bright and colourful to dark and dingy. Much like the game’s visuals, Spirit of the North‘s soundtrack plays an integral role in telling the story. The game’s orchestral score is composed by Joseph Gifford and contains 14 original tracks that beautifully match each of the game’s environments.
Spirit of the North Enhanced Edition is an emotionally stirring journey
All things considered, I found Spirit of the North Enhanced Edition to be an emotionally stirring journey. Exploring, solving puzzles and taking in the environment all at my own pace without the stress and challenge of high action games was a pleasant departure from the norm. Everytime I put my headphones on and started playing, I was transported into an experience that is both calming and relaxing.
While the gameplay does have a few issues and is nothing revolutionary, its simplicity is refreshing and a welcomed change. If you are looking for a game that is full of exploration, puzzle solving, and lets you play at your own pace, I highly recommend Spirit of the North.
+ Beautiful stylistic graphics
+ Story that blurs the line between art and gaming
+ Orchestrated score that helps tell the story
+ Easy to pick up and play
+ Game’s atmosphere invokes a game of wonder and discovery
– Once you finish the game there is little to no reason to return
– Controlling the fox at times can be frustrating
– Doesn’t really take advantage of the PS5’s capabilities
OVERALL ASSESSMENT OF SPIRIT OF THE NORTH ENHANCED EDITION
Lasting Appeal/Replayability: 3/5