After Jotun and Sundered, Thunder Lotus Games returns this time with a third game called: Spiritfarer. Announced as a sweet management game about death, the title had something to arouse curiosity, but is a concept alone is not enough to make a good game. Let's see what has to offer this adventure much calmer but above all much more intimate than its predecessors. So I decided to test the game on a standard PlayStation 4 over approximately 30 hours of play with English subtitles. Although a French version is already available on Steam for those fellow French Canadians and Europeans of course, it will only arrive on consoles in the days/weeks to come, while the update is validated by the various manufacturers.
To infinity and beyond
Spiritfarer, this is your new function. After a brief introduction telling you that you will have to accompany the spirits on their way to the next world, you are let loose aboard a special boat that only you can operate. What strikes you from the first moment is the artistic direction of the title. The drawings, like the animations, are magnificent while the carefully selected colors instantly create various moods, which is even more true when you add the music full of sweetness that will follow you for about thirty hours. Concretely, the app asks you to welcome spirits on your ship after meeting them on the different islands that make up this universe. Designed like that of a Metroid, the world will prompt you to travel back and forth to different areas you have already visited in order to accomplish objectives that required other skills or items to unlock as you progress. Although this aspect is ultimately quite light, it has the merit of existing and will push you to browse a rather large and dense map where almost every place has a use.
But back to the ghosts. These spirits who are waiting to pass into the afterlife will have to join you for the last trip. As you go, they will give you quests to complete, some will be used only to improve your ship while others will be used to discover in detail their respective stories. Touching and well written, these emotional script phases are undoubtedly the highlight of the title. Each spirit encountered has its own unique design and character, which is also reflected in the gameplay since each has a level of happiness to manage. This evolves as you interact with each of these characters, so offering them certain items or learning their culinary tastes will allow them to leave this world in the best possible state of mind. In the end, you play the role of a host who must take care of his guests as best as possible, they absolutely need you to eat or have access to their own living rooms, among other things. These shared moments will allow you to forge more or less strong bonds that will make the inevitable goodbyes more touching.
Manage your death
We were talking about your ship earlier. The latter is highly customizable and you will have to manage its improvement throughout the adventure. Bringing together different materials for this purpose will represent the majority of your playing time as this management aspect is so important. In fact, in order for your guests to feel comfortable, you will have to make your houseboat as welcoming as possible. It will be necessary to enlarge your ship in order to increase the area where it is possible to construct various buildings. Whether it’s a new kitchen, a garden, or even a character-specific room, everything will be crucial to successfully complete your journey. The layout of your boat is up to you. Buildings can be stacked on top of each other on multiple floors to save space, and everything can be rearranged as you wish and very easily via a control panel. But the management aspect does not end there. As explained above, you take care of your passengers. It will be necessary to prepare dishes for them, so you will have to go and put them in your kitchen yourself, but before that, you will have to cultivate your vegetables or fish your fish in order to provide the ingredients. Sometimes the spirits will have very specific requests which must then be successful or their morale will drop drastically.
This management side is a success when you look at it overall, but it still has some weak points. First, the animations. If they turn out to be magnificent, we must admit that after 15 cut trees or dishes out of the oven, they become annoying because they are very long and impossible to pass. Likewise, it will happen from time to time that you leave a room and want to harvest a plant, the key used for these two actions being the same. Finally, it will not be rare to be drowned by the requests of the different characters inhabiting your boat. They all have their own demands, and these sometimes add up to quite alarmingly. If there is no game over in the game or time limit, it is still a shame to have an insurmountable avalanche of work feeling in a title that advocates both calm and the search for serenity
In terms of pure game mechanics, Spiritfarer comes in the form of a 2D horizontal scrolling game with a fairly pronounced platform aspect. However, don't expect to have to cross precipices or jump over razor sharp spikes since this platform aspect presents no real risk to take, its only use being to vary the exploration. We can thus jump, even double jump, or even slide according to the skills that we unlock as we travel and the islands we discover. So the core of the gameplay is really minimalist, but that's not necessarily a problem in this type of game, just know where you are stepping your feet. At the same time, each of your particular actions will trigger mini-games usually based on pace or skill. For example, chopping wood in order to make planks will require you to move a blade up and down following a given path as best as possible, while collecting bottled lightning will require running as fast as possible to the points of impact before the lightning does not stop. Quite a lot, all of these little games in the game undeniably bring variety to an adventure that needs it. Unfortunately, not all of these activities are created equal, and weariness sets in quickly (the chopping board game almost knocked the controller off our hands more than once). Let's finish by specifying a small detail: the game is entirely feasible in local cooperation with two players. The second person then takes on the role of the cat accompanying our heroine and can perform the same actions and interactions as player 1, except for triggering a conversation with NPCs.
Spiritfarer is a game full of good intentions, the message it conveys is aptly delivered. Despite its few concerns about rhythm and purely playful interest, the experience remains interesting and touching. A success as long as you know where you are going. For more information, I recommend you visit the Spiritfarer official website for all details.