Title: Spirit of the North
Developer: Infuse Studio
Publisher: Merge Games
Genre: Adventure, Indie, Casual
Official Site: Spirit of the North
Release Date: May 7, 2020
Version Tested: Nintendo Switch
Sometimes it’s good to take a break from the fast-paced first-person shooters and find a game that’s a little more relaxing. Spirit of the North, rich with a dreamy atmosphere and picturesque landscapes, is the relaxing experience we all need right now. This easy-to-play puzzle platformer is oozing with heart and charm, but is in desperate need of some polish.
In Spirit of the North, you play as a nameless fox pulled into something much bigger than themself:
Breathe in your surroundings to solve various puzzles and speculate the meaning of a lost, ancient civilization. With the help of your new companion, shed light on the ruins of the past and overcome obstacles. Play as an ordinary red fox whose story becomes entwined with the guardian of the Northern Lights, a female spirit fox. As you journey over the mountains and under red-stained skies, you’ll discover more about your companion and a land left in ruin.Traverse tundra, glaciers, and mountainsides as you follow a foreboding scarlet trail that paints the sky.
The Journey Begins for Spirit of the North
Spirit of the North tells a complete story without saying a single word. Telling a story like that is super difficult, but the team did a great job. This kind of “show don’t tell” storytelling leaves a lot up to the player, which, in turn, allows for a deeper, more personal experience geared toward the player. Whether you choose to go straight from A to Z or you take your time to fully explore, it shapes the way you interact with the story in a really smart way.
This more laid-back form of storytelling also helps to keep the game relaxing. Instead of rushing from on objective to the other, players are encouraged to find their own way on their own time. While this is something to celebrate about the experience, it can also be somewhat frustrating when you don’t know where to go or what to do. That being said, that same lack of direction really works to enhance the dream-like atmosphere.
The lush yet icy Icelandic landscape really adds the finishing touch to Spirit of the North. Steeped in Nordic mythology, the environments naturally enhance that level of dreamy, almost otherworldly atmosphere. Paired with the bright blue and red light effects, it’s a gorgeous experience to take in. However, on the Nintendo Switch, the graphics look kind of grainy, especially when it comes to the fox’s fur. When ported, the graphics are a little better on a television, but they still don’t seem as crisp compared to other consoles. So, while the gameplay seems perfect for the Switch, I almost feel like I missed out on something by not playing it on a stronger system.
The most frustrating thing about Spirit of the North definitely comes down to its controls. When platforming and puzzles are a big part of gameplay, fluid, easy-to-execute controls are essential to the overall experience. Unfortunately, this experience doesn’t deliver in this department. Jumping from platforms can be extremely difficult and frustrating; sometimes it’s hard to even decipher what can be traversed and what can’t. It’s a shame that the controls weren’t smoother and more efficient, especially when it’s clear that the development team prioritized attention to details in the design of the game.
While lacking in polish controls-wise, Spirit of the North is rich in a lot of ways. From thoughtful touches (like crumbling rocks or the fox shaking out his fur after getting wet) to smart storytelling, it is clear that a lot of heart and soul was put into the development of this dreamy experience. So, it is easy to forgive frustrating controls or grainy graphics when there is so much to appreciate about Spirit of the North.
Verdict: If you are looking for a casual, relaxing experience, Spirit of the North is going to hit the spot. Oozing with charm and thoughtfulness, this is a great example of “show don’t tell” sort of storytelling that really excels. It’s really smart and allows the player to work thought the story in their own way, allowing for a more personal experience. Smart puzzles and beautiful landscapes make up for a certain lack of polish evident throughout the game. All in all, Spirit of the North is a great addition to your pick-up-and-play Switch collection!
- Thoughtful storytelling
- Smart puzzles
- Casual gameplay
- Lack of polished controls
- Grainy graphics
- Lack of direction