Spiritfarer was worth staying up for.
The Game Awards aired super late for us Europeans. I had some time to waste before the ceremony started. Bored with watching the umpteenth pundit spinning the same point about the UK election over and over again, I jumped onto Steam to try out a handful of the dozen or so The Game Festival demos. Among them is Spiritfarer.
When the game was first announced at E3 earlier this year, I’d made a mental note of keeping on eye on what looked like a promising project from Thunderlotus Games. The daily grind of reporting on the latest gaming news meant I’d all but forgotten about Spiritfarer.
Seeing it feature in The Game Festival jostled my memory, and I wasn’t disappointed by the odd 30 minutes proffered up by the demo.
You play as Stella; a ferry master tasked with guiding spirits to the afterlife. It works as a 2D side-scroller narrative adventure with sim management elements like fishing, cooking, farming, and building thrown in.
A weighty contemplativeness courses through Spiritfarer. It immediately harks to games like Burly Men At Sea and Old Man’s Journey. And, not just because the three titles are side-scrollers, but because they are gentle games.
So far, there’s no combat. The cast of characters is delightful – personified animals, including a cloaked serpent, affable toad, and dignified deer.
You can give them hugs to cheer them up, cook dishes for them, and generally do your very best to make their final hours among the living as painless and relaxing as possible.
The game play in Spiritfarer alternates between navigating the seas on Stella’s decked out ferry and visiting quaint little port towns.
Fluid controls make sauntering around a real pleasure, and there’s a real responsiveness to double jumping on to high ledges and having protagonist Stella deploy her hat as a glider.
A splendid soundtrack and a gorgeous art style that would be at home in a Studio Ghibli animation round things off.
For anyone with even a slight interest in pensive indie games, Spiritfarer is a must. The demo is still available for another 30 hours or so, and its a worthwhile way to spend a half-hour.
The full release is slated for sometime in 2020. Spiritfarer will be available on PC, Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and Nintendo Switch.