[Review] Spirit Roots – Nintendo Switch

Written by Mel Curtis
  • Developer: Fireart Games
  • Publisher: Drageus Games
  • Release Date: 01/11/2019
  • Price: £6.29 / $6.99
  • Review code provided by Drageus Games

Intro

It can be hard to be a platformer on a Nintendo console if you’re not named Mario or if you don’t happen to be a plumber. Platforming is one of those genres where the cream tends to rise to the top in general since there are so many in a given year, especially in the indie scene. I’m sure anyone who has played games for a while can think of some other platforming game that brings them the same level of joy that a Mario title does, and perhaps even more so. Yet, on a console that has already seen in its early years both an excellent 2d and 3d Mario title, there is a big shadow to step out of if you’re going to make any headway towards being a big name on the platform.

A World Divided

Spirit Roots takes place in a world where there are some pretty strict divisions between the regions and who lives in each. Not surprising for your typical platforming game as you want each place to have a distinct feeling and visual style to it. The five worlds of Spirit Roots are certainly distinct enough visually for a game of this type, but they are also distinct in the mechanics that are employed in each. That might seem like a very mobile game thing to do, unlocking a new type of mechanic only in a specific set of levels before moving on to an entirely new mechanic. You would be right, since this is another case of a mobile game coming to the Switch. While, it does better sell the idea that the world really is as divided as the opening cutscene implies that it is, it also means that you don’t often feel a real sense of progression as you won’t be building on the mechanics from one world to another, just getting new ones to play with. This one fits rather well though. What does this mean for the progression, though?

Spirit Roots follows the system of rather than the next world unlocking when you finish the levels of the world that you are in, instead you have the capability to collect up to three points from each level and the next world is unlocked based upon a certain number of points being reached. If you’re like me and enjoy having a full world completed before you move on to another, you may be delighted to find that you may have both the second and the third world unlocked by the time that you defeat the boss of the first.

Going on a Trip

Your journey through the worlds of this game will be incredibly pleasant as the visuals are bright and bouncy along with the music. Enemy designs are varied and unique depending on which world you are in, giving each of the worlds a fairly cohesive feeling. The place where it falls down is in the sound design, though. Most of it is perfectly serviceable for what is happening on screen, but the sound whenever you start moving your character is this little woosh noise that goes great with the little dust cloud that is kicked up with each movement in a new direction. The problem is that this sound plays every time you change directions or go from stopped to in motion. That means that if you’re edging forward a tiny bit at a time as you’re gauging your jump you’re going to hear that same sound over and over in rapid fire. The first time you hear the sound it’s cute, but after the 100th in one level, it gets kind of grating.

The other problem is that while the enemies are varied to each environment, there are very few different types of enemy in each world, which can lead to a sort of repetitive feeling. The levels can feel sort of repetitive too since while the worlds are varied, the locations in the levels are not. Every farm world level is going to have the same sort of assets in it. Do I expect a budget title to have the resources to have a completely different look to every one of the levels? Absolutely not. Do I wish that the levels didn’t blur together so much it’s hard to tell them apart? Yes.

We’re a Little Lost

The place that this game is the most confuse is in terms of difficulty, though. While it presents itself as a cute fun game that is perfect for all ages with a simple, but engaging story, it’s level of difficulty makes it very hard for me to recommend for a child. The camera is very zoomed in on the main character, meaning that  there are a lot of times where you have to either remember the exact layout of the level or make a blind leap of faith in the hopes of actually landing on the platform. There were also several times where I double jumped over a large gap, only to land directly in front of an enemy that I had only a second to react to. The platforming sections on even early levels can be incredibly tight and unforgiving, which could be frustrating for a younger player who is still figuring out the controls. Especially these ones that are so overly sensitive. Even the lightest touch sends your character running full speed so if you have been having trouble with any kind of controller drift, the game would become a terror.

Your hitbox is also very large, meaning things that even so much as brush lightly against one of your feet will be damage. Everything is an insta-kill  that will send you back to the last checkpoint and take one of your three health points (Which are only restored by reaching the next checkpoint in the level). So, if you play perfectly for the whole level, only to struggle with the end of it, expect to be playing that first part of the level over and over again. This wonky hitbox also makes boss fights something of a pain since you could end up playing the same portions of it over and over again. I’ll admit that I had to throw myself at the first boss fight of this game more than I had to throw myself up against most bosses I’ve encountered so far in Hallow Knight.

I’m Going Home

My lasting impressions with this game is just a sense of frustration. It’s a difficult game wearing the skin of an inviting one that might appeal to children but wouldn’t be in the skill range of most of them. A lot of that is down to the controls not allowing for the level of precision that the game sometimes demands of you and micro-adjustments are not only hard to do, but audibly irritating as well. I don’t mind a game wanting to be difficult at all, but this is one of those games that is clearly going for a cheery, bouncy, and cartoonish appeal which attracts a very different type of player than what the gameplay actually presents, which it is important to be aware of when you’re going into it.

Pros

  • Bright and fun visuals
  • Varied world design

Cons

  • Unvaried level design
  • Overly sensitive controls

verdict
This bright and fun game hides a challenging underbelly with some frustrations that will turn off certain players.
3/5

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