I’m not usually a big fan of control simulators, but something about the Spiritfarer from Thunder Lotus Games caught my attention. Maybe it was the simple and charming artistic style, maybe it was the starting point that made me curious. All I know is I’ve been curious about this game for a while now. So, when it came to the Game Pass, I decided to try it. I wasn’t prepared for the depth of this game.

Spiritualist delves into the themes of death, the search for peace and letting go. You play the role of Stella, a brave young girl with a giant hat and a kitten for a companion who has been appointed as the new smuggler for the deceased. During her journey she meets various spirits who accompany her on her boat. It’s your job to get to know them, listen to their stories, make them happy and find out what they need to be ready for the show.

Atul wants a big party with his friends.

Spiritfar is a management simulation. As the game progresses, Stella can equip her ship with new gadgets to avoid obstacles in the area, as well as various buildings and facilities to improve the well-being of her passengers. Stella will start with some basic improvements such as the kitchen and living room for her guests, but may end up building more extravagant elements such as orchards and a crucible. With each device she gets more equipment to further improve her boat and meet the most complex needs of her passengers.

You can call it a big mess, but I call it a big mess.

One of my problems with management simulations is that you soon get the impression that you are always doing the same things for very little money. The beauty of Spiritfarer is that you slowly and steadily purchase new equipment as you progress through the game. This means that you are constantly adding new responsibilities and tasks to your routine to keep your game fresh. This may be the chaotic character of our stream, but I found the simple but captivating game a welcome cathartic experience.

Spiritfire, however, is also not a pure management simulation. Every time you visit one of the many destinations on the map, Stella moors a boat and disembarks. At this point, the game turns into a 2D platform game. When you visit the city, Stella can meet new ghosts, buy raw materials and collect special items. Many special objects and even some ghosts are hidden or located in places that are difficult to reach. You won’t be able to see everything at once.

These altars give Stella new possibilities.

In the beginning Stella doesn’t have many movements or possibilities, but every time a ghost comes aboard a ship, he gives her a special orb. She can then use them to unlock new capacities if she finds a special altar. Eventually she will be able to obtain new movements, such as double jump, sliding and running techniques. She must find and unlock all the possibilities of every change in the world in order to collect everything and meet every spirit. The platform sections are fun, with sensitive controls and pleasant levels of difficulty. This adds enough complexity to the game to balance the simplicity on the control side of the simulation.

In addition, there are cases where a special event is triggered when a ferry crosses a certain part of the sea. These are essentially timed minigames. They range from chasing pulsars to collecting lightning in a bottle, releasing contaminated crystals from a giant dragon and everything in between. They also contain a small platform, mainly to meet dragons. You can ignore them if you want to, but you’ll end up giving up valuable resources.

The meteor shower is one of the most beautiful special events you will ever experience.

The other thing Spiritfarer does is make sure that the functionality of the control simulator is well integrated with the narrative aspects. Each mind has its own preferences and dislikes for food, shelter and even for other passengers. Instead of playing a game where you just perform tasks to create something new or get a cosmetic component, Spiritfarer gives more meaning to your actions. You must carefully plan the crops to be grown, the dishes to be prepared, the fabrics to be forged, etc. By listening to their stories, making them happy and guiding them to where they want to go, they can find peace and move on.

That’s what makes Spiritfire so special: The passengers. Every ghost has its own story. For example, there is an older hedgehog with Alzheimer’s disease and an eccentric falcon that has travelled a lot. The spirits take on the form of an animal as soon as they reach your ship. It’s a small indication of who they think they are, basically. The more you talk to them and think about what it takes to satisfy their wishes, the more you know about their identity. So you can also take them on a personal quest to help them face their fears, learn to let go or deal with unfinished business.

You can accelerate the growth of your plants with a Guitar Hero style mini-game.

I was shocked by how sweet and touching Spiritfire was. Because every mind has a different story, it touches on the different ways people deal with death. I didn’t expect a game with such a beautiful artistic style and such a foundation for the game to have such a strong emotional impact. Although I didn’t feel connected to all the spirits I cared about, I did have a connection with many of them. So much so that I was actually sad when I let Everdor pass it on.

That’s another thing about this game: the feeling of losing. You can see these ghosts on your ship, deal with them and create things to make them happy. But once they decide they’re ready to go through Ever, they’re gone forever. I really missed some of my favorite guests when they left, almost mourning. Every time I saw their empty houses or found a surplus of their favorite food in my inventory, I felt a hint of sadness. It’s really a testament to the quality of game design if it can influence you that way.

Saying goodbye to a dear friend. Or should I say deer lover?

Emotions are enhanced by the soundtrack and the artistic conception of the game. It is characterized by a simple but striking handmade style. Each region has its own unique beauty. My only small problem is that the animations Stella makes during a task can become repetitive over time, because there is only one for each task. However, there is a special button for cuddles and for some reason watching Stella hugging her passengers never gets boring.

Max LL’s music score contains beautiful melodies that will accompany you even after you turn off the game. Each of them helps to set the right tone. Because there is no voice, music and animation are what you rely on most to adapt to the circumstances you are dealing with.

Essentially, Spiritualist is a charming and light-hearted game, but it deals with the themes of death and loss with all due seriousness and respect. I was really shocked to see how much I cared about the ghosts entrusted to me. By getting to know them and helping them move forward, the management simulation has become much more meaningful. It is a fun, cute and surprisingly entertaining game that you will remember long after playing.

The simple but daring handmade style is both charming and visually striking. The animations for performing various tasks around the ship seem repetitive after a certain time in the game. Essentially, it is a management simulation where you have to take care of the work on your ferry. Although there are a few parts of fun platforms scattered around. The stories of each of your passengers are varied and surprisingly profound.
No voice is played, but the soundtrack is absolutely beautiful and creates the perfect emotional tone for any situation. While the driving aspects of the simulator are paramount, the personal journey of each passenger is something to remember.
 

Spiritfarer is now available for PS4, Xbox One, Switch, Google Stages and PC.

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