Spirit of the North: Enhanced Edition Review
Spirit of the North is beautiful in that it encourages you to wander, to explore, and to take in your surroundings. At first glance it is unassuming – it is a short story about an ordinary red fox running and jumping around in a snowy tundra. And then the visuals, the lore, and the music starts to play, and the scenes change from icy caves to lush grasslands. The whole world seems to wake up around you, and finding out where you’re going is part of the charm and frustration of the game.
Directionless like life itself, we take on the role of an ordinary red fox on a quiet journey through the ethereal landscapes inspired by Iceland. Accompanied by a fox spirit and very little background as to what we are doing, the game heavily relies on the player’s sense of adventure and creativity. Without a narrative, dialogue, or any hints telling you what to do and where to go, it is up to the player to solve the environmental puzzles and discover new sceneries to explore.
A Beautiful and Quiet Journey
Broken down into different chapters, Spirit of the North introduces new environments for the fox to wander and to find clues to advance in the story. Since there are no characters to talk to or even a narrator to tell you what is happening, oftentimes you have to rely on visual cues to know where to go next. There are puzzles scattered across the land, where symbols and glyphs need to be activated to reveal something new. Sometimes you may find a staff lying on the ground and you can look for its shaman, and other times you will have to dispel plague tethers in order to progress further. The game is relatively straightforward and easy to play, and despite there being a lack of instructions it isn’t hard to figure out at all.
It isn’t unusual to get lost and wander around for a couple of minutes before you realize you just walked in a large circle. Part of that can be seen as the beauty of exploration, whereas the other part is the frustration of not having any sense of direction. However, you are always surrounded by the beauty of nature, and the gorgeous backdrop encourages you to slow down and take in the view. There is no map, and quite frankly I think having one would ruin the purpose of discovery.
While the game relies on solving puzzles to progress, there isn’t much variety in this regard. The challenges are simple and repetitive, making the actual gaming experience rather ordinary. Though it gets a little more difficult, most of the time was spent finding out what to do next. Arguably Spirit of the North was not meant to be tough, but it was also not motivating enough to complete in one sitting. Being lost is not exactly fun and being patient is not my greatest strength either. You have to be in a certain mood to play this game, and if you’re looking for something with constant action then you won’t find that here.
When You Lose Control, Patience is Key
Spirit of the North provides easy enough controls that allow you to run and jump smoothly, but where you land is another story. The game is muddied with clumsy platforming where you’re better off stepping away and jumping back on again instead of readjusting your position. Sometimes you also get stuck in random corners, and the only way I’ve found to get out of it was to quit the game and restart the chapter. As an exploration game, this is disheartening, but luckily it doesn’t happen often enough to make it a dealbreaker.
Despite the aforementioned issues with the controls, the vibrant scenery and experience make the struggles more forgivable. When you couple gorgeous artwork with enchanting music, there is something magical about it. The visuals were breathtaking and I could not stop staring at it, and the soundtrack oddly made me feel emotional about the whole experience. It felt nostalgic somehow, yet this was my first time taking this journey. Every couple of minutes I would stop moving to take a look around and wish that I could see landscapes like this in real life one day.
Even as a fairly short game, Spirit of the North managed to accomplish what it had set out to achieve – to tell us a story without words and to slow us down. A truly unique experience where the visuals and music were its greatest strengths, it shows that a game does not have to be filled with excitement for it to be gratifying. It wasn’t a perfect adventure, but it served as an important reminder to always be curious about your surroundings, to take your time, and to stop and smell the flowers.
*** PS5 code provided by the publisher ***
- A visual masterpiece
- Magical and emotional soundtrack
- Easy and relaxing
- Clumsy controls
- Glitches occasionally trap you in random places
- Puzzles get repetitive