Spirit of the North: Enhanced Edition is a lovely, soothing adventure, but the pleasant atmosphere can’t save the un-intriguing minimalist gameplay.
Spirit of the North: Enhanced Edition is an atmospheric adventure game from indie studio Infuse, centered around a red fox and based on Icelandic folktales. The game follows in the trends set by similar titles that focus on atmosphere over gameplay such as the must-play adventure game Journey or Abzu, telling a story without text or dialogue and leaving much up to interpretation. The atmosphere in Spirit of the North is intriguing and relaxing, but the gameplay is so paper-thin, even compared to its peers, that it is more lullaby than launch window experience.
Spirit of the North puts players in control of a red fox with no special powers or abilities. The fox can jump, bark, and wag its tail. It curls up and goes to sleep if left idle for too long, and it avoids putting weight on a wounded leg after taking heavy damage. These little details give the fox life and character, which add to the game’s atmosphere. The fox stands out as a splash of orange over the sea of whites and teals that dominate the snowy landscapes of the game.
Unfortunately, controlling the fox isn’t as rewarding as observing it. The opening minutes are painfully slow walks through the snow, made more frustrating when a sprint button only appears after these long lengthy segments. Quickly, the fox meets a spirit fox, and spends most of the game following and interacting with the spectral canine, although there is no chance of the other fox being controlled by a real person, unlike Journey‘s unique brand of seamless multiplayer. The player will occasionally solve simple puzzles or do some light platforming, and there is an optional objective to find staves throughout the levels and drop them near frozen mummies to release their spirits.
That’s about it when it comes to game content, though. Obviously, Spirit of the North isn’t meant to be an exhilarating, demanding game. It’s a pensive, relaxing experience, aided by its well-realized fox, striking visuals, and moving soundtrack., but even games in a similar vein tend to provide more consistent puzzles or platforming moments, and shedding them further is a hindrance rather than help for Spirit of the North. The game’s style and presentation is worthy of praise, but spending stretches of time walking or sliding down a hill is more likely to make gamers feel sleepy rather than awestruck, no matter how nice the music is.
The remaster also seems to do little to take advantage of the upgraded hardware. While the visuals are certainly stylish, there’s nothing to indicate that this is a PlayStation 5 game instead of it predecessor; likewise, none of the features of the great DualSense controller are used in a game that would have benefitted from immersive effects. It will certainly benefit from a relative lack of competition, but with many who want a new console still waiting, Spirit of the North isn’t primed to capitalize on that smaller library even with a more captive audience. As a relaxing, meditative experience, Spirit of the North: Enhanced Edition succeeds; as a video game, even within a genre based on light gameplay, Spirit of the North: Enhanced Edition is a pleasant, dull distraction that is hard to justify for those looking to actually play something.
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Spirit of the North: Enhanced Edition releases on December 4th for PlayStation 5. It is already available on Switch, PlayStation 4, and Microsoft Windows. Screen Rant was given a PS5 key for the purposes of this review.
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