Spirit of the North (Nintendo Switch) Review

By Nayu 03.08.2020

Review for Spirit of the North on Nintendo Switch

From the opening seconds of its first trailer for Nintendo Switch in 2019, Spirit of the North captured interest for two reasons: first, for being from the point of view of a fox rather than a human, and, second, for the sheer level of detail in the environment, which was based on Iceland's folk tales. Waiting until May 2020 for the release required patience, since the PS4 had it first in November 2019, yet the wait was definitely worth everyone's while.

Apart from the options screen, there is absolutely no dialogue or text in Spirit of the North; a feature which is widely advertised, and contributes to the engaging experience of being the fox. There are no voice commentary explanations about what the story involves - a lot is left to the individual's imagination, which allows people to draw on their own knowledge of foxes and the natural Northern Lights phenomenon which is featured at the game's end. The breathtakingly desolate landscape, and the transparency of the spirit fox, adds to the mystical feel of it all.

Starting in deep snow drifts provides plenty of space for acclimatising to the fox's movements. There is an excellent marriage of both audio and visual effects in the simplicity of romping about in the snow, as well as the repetitive, yet never dull soundtrack. The unique snow crunch sound that can be heard when the compressed snowflakes are trodden on and realistically spread out wherever the fox treads, create what can only be described like drawing lines in a fresh pot of clotted cream. Please be aware the desire for scones, cream and jam after playing the game is no fault of the publisher.

Moving the fox is remarkably flexible. At first only walking and jumping actions are available, with sprinting and other special moves released later on. The amount of fluidity in the fox's jumps is great; how it pants during sprinting; the way it automatically paddles forward without player input to keep from drowning in water while swimming, and automatically shakes itself dry after; and the way it curls up like a cat when letting the spirit fox take over for a few seconds to help solve a puzzle is a marvel to see, especially compared to other animal-themed video game experiences that used a more rigid character model.

Screenshot for Spirit of the North on Nintendo Switch

This mesmerising journey uses the spirit fox as a guide of where to go next, lending its powers on occasion to solve puzzles (which get progressively harder as this goes on), using gravity and other physical elements to unblock the path. The dog-like bark from the fox can be used at any time. Its primary use is to solve specific puzzles, and can also be used as a form of comfort to hear the spirit fox's barked reply to the call, making the uninhabited world feel less bleak. The ethereal mist trail from the spirit fox on its own, and when its power is infused in the main character fox, enhances the mystical side of the tale even more.

Puzzle solving may involve the tail swishing feature, barking, or using the spirit's borrowed power to open up areas. Stones feature prominently both in small piles to highlight the correct direction to go, larger formations to jump across, interactive glyphs set in stone obelisks, and stone archways used for magical teleportation. The puzzles themselves are cleverly engineered, although at times they may prove too tricky to solve without help from the internet for players who simply aren't… well, logically minded. That and the fact that sometimes the environmental details flickered in the distance are the only negative aspects.

There are shamans to be found with a staff on every level, which unlock different types of fox forms that the player can use. Finding the shamans frequently isn't easy, as the staff is needed to activate them, and is not placed conveniently by the shaman. This part can't be completely ignored, because it becomes mandatory in later levels as the sole way to progress. It felt a little unfair that there wasn't a normal and easy difficulty setting for the game, to perhaps give hints to those who struggle with puzzles, and don't want to spend hours and hours in the same section, unable to move on with the, part charming, part melancholic story.

Screenshot for Spirit of the North on Nintendo Switch

Cubed3 Rating

9/10
Rated 9 out of 10

Exceptional - Gold Award

Rated 9 out of 10

Spirit of the North's enchanting journey is magnificent on the Nintendo Switch Lite's screen, as played on for this review, and is even better on a large TV screen. The, at times, challenging game, has collectibles that add to the replay value, and playing as an unlocked snow fox in the snow magnifies the immersion of the game, with levels that beg to be experienced again simply for the fun of enjoying their beauty.

Developer

Infuse Studio

Publisher

Merge Games

Genre

Adventure

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  9/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

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