Let’s say goodbye.
Spiritfarer is a relaxing game about death. You play as Stella (or her cat Daffodil if you’re the second player) who takes over for Charon in helping spirits deal with their final wishes, turmoil, and trauma. You are given a boat that you can upgrade to absurd levels and meet a cast of colorful characters.
The basic gameplay is a sidescroller with a ton of verticality. Charon gives you a spirit orb that can transform into any needed tool at the right time. You’ll spend a lot of time mining, cutting down trees, and growing crops to upgrade your ship, cook food, and upgrade your passengers’ cabins.
The boat upgrades are a blast.
There is no point in stalling my opinion, this is a beautiful game with some truly touching moments. I often debate with folks as to whether videogames should be considered art (I usually think yes) and this one is an artistic and contemplative experience with no contemporary rival on themes. Finding out who the spirits are, how they died, and how they view their own place in the universe is often told in excellent ways. Simply put, this is one of the best narrative experiences I’ve had in a game in a long time. The true sense of completion, peace, and accomplishment is commendable.
The basic exploration is a lot of fun. Some of the trips take a little too long (but if you’re playing single player it might be needed). Managing the boat is a lot of fun, and I loved finding new recipes for food and trying them out on the passengers.
The locations range from pretty to decrepit, and more information on the world would have been welcome. We are left to put the pieces together on a lot of the story. Usually, this is a fun experience. It was never a bad one, but more background in some areas would have been nice. Honestly though, I’d buy another game from Thunder Lotus Games without even knowing what it is about.
There are a couple negatives to mention. One relates to the spirits and one to the gameplay. I’ll start with the spirits. The game does an admirable job making spirits that aren’t likable. This is something that would be a reality in dealing with death. However, in my opinion, they stack the best characters early and leave the more obnoxious ones for later. Dealing with a bully is a pain, and it feels a little bitter to do so after saying goodbye to some of the more powerful and moving stories. Without spoilers, I’d flip the arrangement of who you get and when to have more of a balance. (Those who play will know the couple spirits I’m referring to).
The gameplay usually works great. I played as the cat, and Daffodil is an adorable character. Both Stella and her pet have so much expression and character that it is simply great. Running and jumping around the ship is a blast! Exploration is usually a ton of fun. However, we do have a couple of issues.
First, the screen stretching favors Stella significantly more than Daffodil. I tend to take the lead in exploration, and we ran into several issues of Daffodil falling off a cliff and missing a jump because the screen didn’t catch up. Obviously, this is also due to my impatience, but adjusting the screen stretch to equalize would help. This wasn’t a chronic issue but made some of the more challenging platforming sections a little frustrating.
The controls work better before you get more abilities. Some of the more complex jump skills are a little wonky (at least for me). I couldn’t ever get the bounce ability to work reliably, and this made some of the areas more frustrating than fun, particularly when time is a factor.
I should note that the day of writing this I did notice an update for the game. Thunder Lotus has maintained a strong sense of updating and communication with the community, so the gameplay issues may already be fixed.
Small issues don’t detract from the overall gameplay experience. This is a must play game and might be my favorite game of 2020. Overall, this is a fantastic and thoughtful videogame. For 98% of the game, the co-op experience is a blast. I highly recommend playing this two-player.
Buy it on whatever your primary system is!