My motto lately seems to be “simple is best”, and Spirit is no exception to that rule. There’s really not a lot to the game play, but it handles well, it looks good and it sounds good. Best of all, in its simplicity it is still lots of fun. I don’t suggest this for the “hardcore” gamers, but if you’re either a mixed breed or more of a casual gamer like myself, you should feel right at home with Spirit.
So what are you trying to do in Spirit? It seems your part of the world has been overrun with bad guys (I’m embellishing, as there really isn’t a story), and it’s up to you to get rid of them. To do this you control Spirit, and you must use Spirit to send the bad guys to another dimension. You create dimensional portals by warping space, which is accomplished when you create a complete loop. Anything caught into the loop will be sucked into the other dimension, never to be seen from again. Even cooler, as the loop shrinks, things can still get caught in it. Bonus! You get combo points for catching more than one bad guy with the same loop. You can also form links with multiple loops, but I don’t completely understand the concept behind that. I think a link occurs if you capture bad guys in a loop while another loop is still on the screen. Either way, you get bonus points for that as well.
You start out with three lives, and when all your lives are gone you die. You lose a life if you run into a bad guy or if you get shot by one in the later levels. The game isn’t just kind enough to hand over extra lives, either. An extra life will look like a smaller version of you and be attached to a bad guy, and you must capture the bad guy to free the extra life. Be cautious, though, because extra lives can get sucked into the other dimension as well. Even once you free the extra life you have to run into it to pick it up – the game doesn’t just give it to you. As for the bad guys, they come in all shapes and sizes. There isn’t really any level design, per se, as the playing field is nothing more than a rectangle. What I really like, however, is the fact that not only is the mix of bad guys different in each level of the same game, but the mix of monsters in level 2-1 of game A won’t be the same mix as that in level 2-1 of game B. You are constantly forced to get used to something new, which is a nice change of pace.
Controlling the game is simple enough. There are no power ups, so all you have to do is move Spirit around. You do this by dragging your finger around the screen. Spirit’s movement is relative to yours, so your finger doesn’t have to be right in front of Spirit for Spirit to move. The plus side of this is that your hand doesn’t have to get in the way of your view, or at least not completely. The down side for me, however, is that I didn’t feel like I had nearly as much control when my finger wasn’t right next Spirit. If it’s something you can get used to, however, I’d strongly suggest trying not to stick right by Spirit. It really does help your perception of the playing field when your hand is not right on top of your character.
Spirit looks great. The objects are simple neon outlines, but the effects with the board warping – whether it be bad guys popping in or a dimensional gate forming – are awesome. The trail that Spirit creates is pretty cool looking as well. I even like the sound effects, though I can’t seem to put my finger on why (no pun intended). There’s nothing special about them, but they just happen to sound good without ever getting obnoxious. The music is wonderful. I’m at a loss to say “it sounds like…”, but whatever it sounds like it’s good. It’s easy to listen to and gives you this false sense of ease so that you’re not prepared for the screen being completely full of enemies. Devious!
I’m usually the type of guy to say “it’s about the game play”, but the truth is Spirit is as much a balance of atmosphere and game play as anything. The game play is almost too simple, yet it can get addicting if you’re not careful. There’s always this anticipation that the next level will bring some strange new creature with it that you haven’t seen before. If you stop to listen to the music for a few minutes, you’ll never want to leave. This is one of those games that should become a classic, because it’s continued proof that you don’t need fancy 3D and complex mechanics to win us over.