Spirits is a puzzle solving game for iOS and Android. The game was released on iOS almost two years ago but was released on Android this month.
The game won awards back when it was launched and features simple gameplay with beautiful artwork and a soothing soundtrack. Let’s take a closer look at it.
Spaces of Play
In Spirits, you indirectly control spirits from fallen leaves who are now on their journey back home. Your goal is to direct them towards their destination indicated by a swirl placed somewhere in the level.
At the start of a level, you’ll notice these spirits slowly appear out of a stack of fallen leaves. Once they materialize, they start walking. How they walk depends upon the terrain. They can go up or down a slope but they can’t climb up on a surface.
To help them get to their destination, you have to sacrifice some of them for the rest. By tapping on a spirit, you can get up to four options depending upon the level. You can turn them into a cloud, where they blow wind that lift other spirits up in the air. You can turn them into a vine that acts as a staircase or covers up a hole in the ground. You can make them drill through a surface to create a new path or you can use them to block the wind, so you can direct them in a different direction.
At the beginning of each level you are told how many spirits you have to save to progress to the next level. This number is usually small, so it’s very easy to complete a level. But those who prefer more of a challenge, there is another goal, where you have to save a much higher number of spirits and occasionally collect plants so that you can get a perfect rating for that level.
The second one is a bit more tricky, as it requires you not wasting any spirits and sacrifice as few as possible to save the others. As for the plants, these are usually placed in strategic positions, which make it even more difficult to conserve the spirits and in order to get them you either have to make the spirits walk over them or tap them mid-air while they are above the plant.
In theory it all sounds very simple but the level design can often leave you scratching your head. You have to make good use of the spirits’ various abilities so that you save as many as possible. The early levels are fairly straightforward but the later ones require a bit of planning and trial and error. Also, because the spirits keep walking without your intervention, timing is a key and you have to make the moves just in time or often watch them fall to their death (can spirits die?) on a bed of thorns.
The gameplay of Spirits is often described as relaxing but I found it anything but that. Having thirty tiny white creatures walking all over the screen amidst a bunch of spikes and obstacles is not my idea of relaxing. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, though. I found the challenging nature of the later levels what kept the game from becoming boring. If it was all very simple and easy I wouldn’t have made past the 10th level. And speaking of levels, there are 48 of them in this game, which is plenty of gameplay for the money. Besides, you’d often want to play some of them again to get that perfect score you missed out the first time.
Graphics and sound
This is one area where the game is heavily praised and I agree with anyone who does that wholeheartedly. The game looks stunning, with beautiful level character and level design and animations. The game uses a mellow amber and black color palette for the background and pearly white for the spirits. You can also see some lovely particle effects used to denote the flowing wind.
This review was done primarily on an iPad (where the game looks absolutely stunning thanks to the Retina display) but having played it for a bit on a Nexus S I can say the game runs fine even on older hardware thanks to the basic 2D graphics that don’t demand too much in terms of processing power. I would recommend playing it on a tablet though as the experience is much better, as usual.
Spirits also features a nice and soothing background music that goes well with the visuals. I would have, however, liked more variety in the music, or any at all. Right now, there is just one tune that keeps playing repeatedly and over time I found myself getting tired of it. The developers should have considered adding more tracks, like in some other great games of similar nature, such as Osmos or Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery EP. Turns out there are seven different tracks in the game. Some of them do sound similar, which would have been the reason for my confusion. You can listen to them all here.
Spirits is an enjoyable game for anyone who likes a bit of puzzle solving. The simple premise and gameplay means it can be played and enjoyed by people of all ages. Just don’t go into thinking this is a relaxing game, especially if you like getting a perfect score in each level because you will have to work those brain cells for that.
Rating: 4/5 Pros: Beautiful visuals, soothing soundtrack, fun and challenging gameplay Cons: iOS version is not a universal app