If you’re stuck indoors right now, some of the best games you can play right now are those that allow you to immerse yourself in a vast and engaging environment at your own pace. If you have an itch, the Spirit of the North may be a scratch.

Spirit of the North is a product of American power developer Infuse Studio and Epic Games’ infamous MegaGrant. This is a third-person puzzle game in which you take control of a charming red fox while exploring a long-forgotten Icelandic civilization. On a joyous journey across the tundra, your life is saved by the Northern Lights Guardian, a bright, shining fox spirit who mingles with you and gives you supernatural powers – something every good dog deserves.

The puzzles of the game are quite simple. You’re taken from one part of the world to another, and you’re usually tasked with removing some sort of obstacle to progress. A combination of exploration and platforming (and a little supernatural help from your newfound fox friend) usually gets the job done. As you pass through a transfigured environment, you enter the impact zone of those who disappeared thousands of years ago. Along the way, like a hook for the fox, there is a collection of shamanic spirits that you can free by finding and returning their respective sticks. It’s never as complicated as some players would like, but it’s clear from the start that the simple controls and mechanisms contribute to the overall gaming experience. Complex puzzles and fast-paced action don’t match the mood Spirit of the North is aiming for.

There is minimal text and no voice to guide the player, except for a special barker button to finally answer the age-old question: What does the fox say? That brings you, firstly, to the near-perfect accompanying piano score – which illuminates the events of the piece with incredibly poignant emotional context – and, secondly, to the absolute majesty of the setting itself. The overall tone is calm and you feel incredibly small walking through these landscapes. They’re designed to give you a gentle nudge in the right direction, while leaving you enough room to slowly work your way through every detail of the campaign.

Unfortunately, the devil is in the details, and there are some things you should leave out if you want to have the best possible experience with this title. The game was originally released for the PlayStation 4 last November, but the graphics wouldn’t hurt to reach the port on the Nintendo Switch. Some textures seem blocked and displaced, and although the fox is able to run and jump at high speeds, your four-legged body can be rather wobbly to control during tighter platforming. Overall, I’d say these mechanics are similar to similar independent games, but these hiccups are noticeably repetitive throughout the game.

The final touch to the campaign is a warning about the content. Although the game is E-rated, there is a rather sinister sequence at the beginning of the game where you are injured and play an entire chapter as a fox who slowly sinks and eventually freezes to death. This is the point in the story where The Guardian saves you, but everything in this sequence is dark and unsettling – accompanied by realistic groaning sounds and a swelling piano that contrasts with the uncomfortably slow pace of the entire chapter. It’s certainly a nice emotional backdrop for the story to come, but it’s something that can really strike a chord with people who are affected by animal suffering, which is a very common concern.

While he has these flaws in him, there is no denying that it is an incredible feat to say so much with so little. Minimalist storytelling and presentation are indeed his strongest qualities, traversing the rise and fall of society in this incredibly compelling immersion in Icelandic folklore. It feels like Spirit of the North is an exciting project for Infuse Studios, with so much love and thought put into every corner of the game.

Overview of the Spirit of the North
  • Charts – 7/10
  • Sound – 9/10
  • Gameplay – 8/10
  • Late Call – 7/10

8/10

Final thoughts : GRAND

Despite its Indian origins, Spirit of the North seems to be a masterclass in atmosphere and what to do with it. Despite some remarkably rough edges, the world we are considering is beautiful, daring, and should be explored.

Evan Rude is a journalism student and amateur gambling historian. His favorite Guitar Hero III song was Even Flow.

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