- Developer: Infuse Studio
- Publisher: Infuse Studio
- Release date: 1st November 2019
- Genre: 3rd Person Adventure
- Platforms: PlayStation 4
- Reviewed on: PS4 Pro
- Game Supplied by: Developer
When you first start the game, the thing that will immediately impress you is the graphics. The first area you start in, a snowy area, is introduced with a cutscene showing off the surroundings, and it is breathtaking. Shortly after, you’re thrown into the game to witness the smooth animation. After that, you come across a glistening blue cave of ice. Just this minuscule part of the game shows off the glorious artwork and movement. The graphics in the rest of the game live up to the standards of the first area well.
Another thing I should mention is the audio. The audio suits the game exceedingly well and adds a lot to the experience. The music in this game is very calm and tranquil. It works well as background noise and the game would feel empty without it.
The controls in this game, however, are atrocious. It takes much longer than in other games to turn around, and it’s extraordinarily hard to get from one place to another without missing a jump at least once or twice. Sometimes the character decides to simply jump on the spot without moving forward, And this jumping issue has caused me more than one problem – I once had to restart the chapter since the awful leaping mechanics left me stuck in mid-air, unable to move. I might’ve enjoyed the game just a little more if the controls weren’t so horrible.
When you can control the character, the objective is simply to advance the level by switching on special rocks by using the power of flowers found scattered around. Proceeding through the level, you may come across staffs that ‘crackle’ once in a while. These staffs can be used by putting them down where they crackle the most and revive the dead spirits of humans. The staffs aren’t always necessary, though.
What makes a good puzzle is when the game clearly lets the player know two simple aspects. The first is what and where the puzzle is. The second is letting you know what you need to do to solve it, eg, you need to get past this gate. Unfortunately, Spirit of the North consistently does neither.
At one point, midway through the game, you can wander all the way from the beginning of the level to what appears to be castle ruins. It takes you five minutes to walk there, and you can spend 30 minutes trying and failing to progress, as it looks like there are jumps you can make to gain height and move further into the level.
However, the frustration levels build when you eventually realize you can’t, and after consulting a YouTube walkthrough guide, realize you needed to find a cave entrance near the beginning of the level to solve a puzzle and unlock a new ability. So back you trudge, bemoaning the fact you’ve just wasted 35 minutes of exploration for nothing.
The issue here is that the game does nothing to explain itself and therefore becomes very frustrating. How is the player supposed to know they need a new ability, located in a hard to find puzzle, near the beginning of the level when, by design, there is no instruction that’s what you need to do? Why does the game let you wander so far into the level knowing full well you won’t get anywhere as you haven’t solved a puzzle near the start?
When the game does clearly make it known what and where you have to go to solve a puzzle, it’s glorious and rewarding. When it doesn’t, it’s frustrating and confusing, and unfortunately, as the game moves on, the puzzles and obstacles to overcome become more and more obtuse and frustrating and therefore drains away much of the joy of the opening chapters of the game.
In conclusion, the gameplay let the whole experience down. If this was a film it would be amazing, however, that’s sadly not the case. I enjoyed the first few minutes but quickly got agitated and confused. As the game is quite short, a second playthrough knowing where you are supposed to go and what to do is a far more enjoyable way to play the game and enjoy the scenery and music.