Disclaimer: This review was written thanks to a copy of the game provided by the developer of the game, Spaces of Play.
Remember Lemmings, back in '90s? It was a genre-defining game, and one that has spawned countless clones and lookalikes. Now, in the 21st century, Spirits is a promising game that incorporates elements of Lemmings, but in a new and more vibrant way than other earlier games of its genre.
Spirits is simple by nature, with an A to B structure. There are no enemies, rather wind, spikes and cliffs will be your obstacles. You control a group of spirits, born from fallen piles of leaves. These spirits must reach the portal at the end of each level, to leave Autumn and find their way home. Each spirit can assist its siblings by digging, creating a breeze or building a new path. These actions all affect the spirits that come after it, and inevitably these abilities are what determines success or failure in each level. The ability to speed up the game often came in handy, especially when you finish sacrificing some of your spirits and wait for the rest of them to find their way to the end.
There are always a certain amount of spirits needed to pass the stage, and these can differentiate between a casual player, an a professional. As I strived to get as many spirits as I could into the portal, I saw my global statistics. I was often the world #1 on the easier levels, but that soon changed about halfway through. Plants are also found scattered through the maps, and these are essential to achieving that perfect score after your little floaty friends transport to their next challenge.
Spirits' art style is fantastic. Every level you pass has been hand-drawn, and looks akin to landscape scenes in Anime movies such as Spirited Away or My Neighbour Totoro. The beautiful silhouettes contrast against the vibrant reds, yellows and oranges, creating a warm glow like you're playing the game in front of a woodheater. The wind physics were especially lifelike, with tiny particles rushing past the spirits, glinging off sunbeams and swirling through corners. Everything in Spirits feels alive and realistic, even down to the tiniest things only a handful would notice.
The Glow Affect in Spirits was the only thing that turned me away. It is turned on by default, but when I first started up Spirits, the spirits felt blinding and ghostly. I understand that the spirits are meant the be, well, spiritual, but the power of the glow was too strong, so I had that feature turned off. Either way, the spirits looked fuzzy and warm, and their walking and flying animations all seemed carefully thought out.
All things considered, Spirits is a wonderful puzzle game, both in mechanics and in aesthetics. It's a mysterious, dreamlike and calming joy to play, and is a great break from the hectic action and fighting found in a lot of other popular games on Steam. I recommend this game to anybody who's up for a challenge, but at the same time wants a deviation from the norms of popular video games.