Spirit of the North: Enhanced Edition PS5 Review

December 2, 2020 by  
Filed under Reviews & Features, PS5, PlayStation

Publisher: Merge Games  Developer: Infuse Studio  Genre: Adventure

Players:Age Rating: 7+  Other console/handheld formats: PS4, Nintendo Switch

Spirit of the North is a whimsical adventure in which you take control of a fox, and experience its journey throughout a varied Icelandic-inspired world. The game contains no dialogue, text speech, or narrative, though hints are given as to what the story is about via murals and other fantastical imagery, and is inspired by the Nordic mythology “Tulikettu”.

While gameplay is mostly the fox walking around the environment and uncovering the world’s history, there is some interaction. You can interact with the dead corpses of past Shamen, awakening their spirits by finding and giving them their staffs, and can also interact with magical standing stones which light up and reveal new paths. Sometimes you’ll need to match up images on the stones in order for them to reveal your the next destination. Your fox is imbued with the power of light, courtesy of a spirit fox, and it’s this power that enables your fox to interact with the aforementioned stones.

Unexpectedly, there is some element of a threat in the form of a mysterious red gas that causes your fox to sneeze (and on some occasions, to pass out). Your fox can use his newly gained light power to blast this red mist away, which opens up more pathways to explore.

You’ll be rewarded with different colour skins as you achieve certain goals.

As much as the game is about exploring your environment, it has puzzle elements that you need to work in order to move on to your next location. The fox can pick up new abilities that will help with figuring out where to go and what to do, such as a dash manoeuvre, which can be used to get through fast closing doors, as well as the ability to astral project to reach areas you can’t reach in your physical form. There will be a few times when you’ll be left wondering where to go, as some areas can look quite samey despite each chapter having its own design. However, I was never stuck for very long. There’s even some platforming as you find your way to different locations.

As enchanting as Spirit of the North is, it does have its fault, especially some of the animations of the fox. Foxes are supposed to be graceful, but, as my partner so eloquently put it, the jumping movement can look like a taxidermy model is being thrown around. It feels very floaty and stiff, and after jumping the fox seems to get stuck with its butt in the air as it falls face first. It’s unintentionally funny, but you soon learn to ignore it as you immerse yourself in the experience. There have been some complaints about numerous bugs, but I never experienced anything remotely game breaking, and never needed to restart a chapter (of which there are 8).

You’ll be followed around by a wisp, which can help guide you in the right direction, and can also be used to solve puzzles.

As a remaster (hence the Enhanced Edition part of the title), the game also runs in full 4K, with 60fps and enhanced textures, bumping up the quality all around, and the environment also does a good job of evoking a sense of isolation and history. Murals and stone etchings around the environments give a sense that the place was once lived in, and that something happened to cause it to become so empty. The music is also a lovely and fitting soundtrack to your lonely and wondrous journey.

Besides some sections feeling tedious and controls feeling a bit clumsy, overall Spirit of the North: Enhanced Edition was interesting to play, a short and sweet 4-5 hour adventure. It didn’t really push boundaries in terms of what could be done with the new gen technology – some of the water effects looked lovely and refreshing – and some players might be put off the fact that they will need to piece together the story themselves, but even so, it was a game that was still enjoyable to simply walk around, admire and lose myself in.