Game Review: Spirit Of The North: Enhanced Edition

More game reviews, this time I’m taking a look at Spirit of the North: Enhanced Edition from developer Infuse Studios and publisher Merge Games. Now, this is another one of those previously released games that have been given a bit of a facelift recently. Improved textures and lighting, 4k and 60fps gameplay, etc. I guess I had better cover what the game is all about first? Well, you play as an unnamed fox, just a fox. Walking around the landscapes of Iceland. You soon cross paths with the guardian of the Northern Lights and you two become intertwined. The two of you then go onto explore the world and clean up a mysterious red plague that is corrupting the Nordic land.

How best to describe Spirit Of The North? It’s a third-person, adventure-puzzle, walking simulator game… I think. The first thing to note about the game is just how pretty it is. From snow-filled tundras, ice caves and even wonderfully impressive-looking grassy mountains, Spirit Of The North sure is a looker and does its setting of Iceland very proud. I’ve never been to Iceland, but after playing this, I really want to go now. Even the little fox you play as looks great and full of nice little details, it is beautifully animated, its fur moves in the wind, it’ll shake itself dry after coming out of the water. Really, Spirit Of The North: Enhanced Edition is a stunning looking title.

In terms of the story, there’s zero narration, zero dialogue, zero direction. The game is very minimal with absolutely no storytelling in a conventional sense. You do get to find various murals on walls that depict scenes that work as a background story, I guess. But aside from that, there is nothing else and you kind of have to piece together what is going on from nothing more than a handful of murals. When you start the game, your fox has the bare minimal of skills. You can walk, run and jump… Oh and bark. When you do meet up with the guardian of the Northern Lights, that is when the little fox begins to pick up a few new skills and abilities.

SPIRIT OF THE NORTH SCREEN

The skills are not unlimited though and you have to ‘power up’ before you can use them, you do this by seeking out blue flowers called Spirit Blooms. These flowers contain something called Pure Ancient Energy and the fox absorbs that energy, which then allows you to use your powers. Only one use at a time though, so you’ll find yourself continually seeking out more flowers to get more energy all the time. The skills you acquire include transferring power to stones (these are basically switches that make things happen in the game), release a burst of energy that destroys the red plague and you can even leave your body and turn to a spirit, which is used to reach places your physical body can’t. All of these skills are used to solve various puzzles and help you progress to the end of the game.

The game is spread over eight chapters and you can get through the whole lot within a few hours. This is not a big game at all, about four hours at the most I’d say. Even then, the pace of Spirit Of The North is very slow. This is not a high-octane action title, this is a leisurely stroll of a game. Now, I have to confess, I never played this to the end. I got a good way into chapter six (about three hours of gameplay) and gave up. See, there’s really not a lot going on in Spirit Of The North. It’s just not a game with a great deal of content. The puzzles are very samey and hardly taxing either, the locations are really quite small and offer pretty much nothing in terms of exploration. Despite some faux openness (you can look for staffs to return to dead people), you do follow a very linear path. And that’s really about it. There are only eight chapters and I gave up a good way into chapter six. So I’m pretty sure I’ve seen all the game has to offer already. If it hasn’t picked up this close to the end, then it’s just not going to.

SPIRIT OF THE NORTH SCREEN 2

As you can tell from this review, which itself is not very big and lacks content… This is a perfect reflection of the game really. There’s just not a lot going on. Plus, there are some really stubborn controls too, particularly when it comes to jumping. I looked up a few reviews of the older version of this game, pre-enhancements and they all mentioned the same thing, that the jumping in the game is very awkward. I find it strange that given this is the enhanced and updated version of the game, that it still has the same problems it did pre-enhancements. The game does include some pretty precise platforming too, so the awkward jumping really does not help at all.

Look, Spirit Of The North: Enhanced Edition is not a deep or very involving game and it really is incredibly short too. But it does look gorgeous, the improved textures and lighting effects really make this game very nice to look at indeed. However, it is a difficult game to outright dislike as Spirit Of The North really does have a lot of charm and personality, just a shame it doesn’t have much in terms of gameplay. This is a game first and foremost and for me, a good game needs to have good gameplay over everything else, this just doesn’t do that.

SPIRIT OF THE NORTH SCREEN 3

With a price tag of £19.99 (I played the Xbox version), I really can not honestly say it is worth the money. That is £20 you could spend on a far more impressive and rewarding game. However, Spirit Of The North: Enhanced Edition is worth a look at, but just watch a playthrough on YouTube and save yourself a few quid instead.

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