Sometimes a silent adventure can be the most moving, as seen with recent games like Journey. Games as an interactive medium not only use words to convey important and meaningful messages, but images as well. A picture is worth a thousand words, but even a not so great game can be worth millions. Spirit of the North is a beautiful interactive adventure that I’d liken to a childhood storybook. Without any words, this game has spoken to me in a way that I not only adore, but feel like more should. It’s almost like the next generation of bedtime stories, and Spirit of the North was just at home with that title. Not only was it incredibly immersive and interactive, the large swaths of ground to run on and the beautiful environments felt like they were really telling a story.
While games can test your reflexes, Spirit of the North tends to use most of its time testing the player through puzzles and exploration. While only ever referenced once for progression, there are monks that you can lead to the afterlife using staves, and typically these are hidden around very large stages so they can be very easy to miss. Once I realized I had missed one, I spent much more time exploring and looking for the staves, which light up and rumble the controller the closer you get to a monk. While I felt like there wasn’t much incentive early on to do this since it wasn’t for progression anymore, I found myself going back and searching stages more often, which really led to my appreciation of the environments. Aside from the monks, Spirit of the North takes heavy influence from Legend of Zelda-esque puzzles. I found many of the early puzzles reminiscent of the Zelda series, especially the water puzzles. It’s nothing too hard, but if you’re enjoying the free running of the landscape and taking everything in they can feel a bit like roadblocks. When taking the time to appreciate the landscape though, it helps to be slowed down a bit just to take a solid look around. There never is a sense of feeling lost, it’s really a sense of adventure.
The main gripe I have with Spirit of the North is that it’s pretty janky. Not the game-breaking type, but in a way that can kill immersion. Collision boxes sometimes have your fox at weird angles on rocks, and this makes platforming more of a chore than it has to be. It’s fun to jump around and try to get on top of everything, but in reality there are some hard limits to what you can and can’t do, and it’s sometimes hard to differentiate where you’re supposed to go and what is off limits. There are times where it seems like you can circumvent a puzzle by jumping on a ledge to walk to the goal, but in reality there’s a wall there when there isn’t a wall on other platforms like that one. Small things like this, as well as clipping into objects relatively regularly while platforming makes the gameplay feel a little less tight. These problems almost disappear when you’re running through giant landscapes and exploring the world, open plains and sliding on ice. The speed and freedom is unparalleled, and really feels like you’re traversing a large world. This is only amplified by how beautiful the environments are. Initially, I had thought there wouldn’t be much variety and every landscape would be snow filled with a red and white theme throughout the entire game. This is absolutely not the case, and these environments not only look beautiful, but they tell a story. Spirit of the North is one of the very few games I couldn’t help but mess around with the camera mode with, and I was never disappointed.
Storytelling in games is constantly evolving, and Spirit of the North is just another lovingly crafted title that takes time in introducing you into a beautiful world. While the game does have its issues, it’s generally very fun and relaxing to just run around like you own the world. Beautiful environments with incentive to explore and a story presented silently in a way that is still easy to understand make Spirit of the North a nice game to sit down and relax with.
Score: 7 out of 10
Reviewed on PlayStation 5