Don’t judge a book (eShop release) by its cover (menu icon). On first glance, Spirit Roots appears to be a cute-as-a-button platformer. Quite literally, in this case – the main character is crafted from wool and buttons. But while its exterior might seem family-friendly, the language it caused me to shout definitely wasn’t.
Let’s start with the initial draw. This 2D platformer from Fireart Games is something of a looker, with graphics that ooze personality coupled with bouncy and vibrant animation. It’s very much reminiscent of the modern Rayman games, even sharing Rayman’s floaty movement.
There’s an amusing explanation of how the game’s worlds came to be. After five planets were almost obliterated by war, it was decided to create peace by stitching the remnants together, hence one world with constantly changing backdrops and a unifying yarn theme. They each introduce new mechanics, such as the swamp world’s annoying sticky floor, and a village with magic ‘Jack and the Giant Beanstalk’ beans that sprout new platforms.
Variety is the spice of life, and Spirit Roots manages a decent amount of it. Levels can be tackled in any order too; an idea always welcome. Of course, each world also has its own enemy assortment. It’s here where Spirit Roots shows its colours, as the focus is not on fast-paced, pixel perfect jumping, but more on using your repertoire of moves to defeat enemies.
You have both a sword and gun at your disposal, helping to give the combat system a unique feel. Using the sword means you really must slow down when encountering enemies, lending an ebb and flow of pace that keeps things interesting.
The sword delivers a hefty whack, making attacks feel weighty and satisfying. If only the collision detection were slightly better. It’s quite possible to hit an enemy while being a little too far apart from it, although we guess we should be thankful for all the help we can get.
The game is tough, you see. Really tough. A well-timed double jump or a ledge grab may help you out of some tighter spots, but still, be prepared to see the ‘Game Over’ screen a lot. And that’s before you count the bosses. The first boss took us easily over a dozen attempts. Luckily, levels are reasonably short, and you’re thrown back into the action quickly. There’s an adjustable difficulty level for those who want either less or more of a challenge, too.
Considering the moderately small outlay (£6.29), there’s a surprising amount of content. Each of its five worlds has nine levels and a boss, along with optional challenges to complete. The levels are nicely designed, with lots of moments where going for an extra collectable comes with a nice chunk of risk. Also pleasing is the attempt to mix them up a little bit, with some stages removing enemies and focusing on platforming, and others playing with verticality. The developers have clearly eked out everything they could from the modest budget.
In fact, Spirit Roots is way better than its bland name would suggest. If you’re up for a challenge, or simply want to scratch an itch for jumping and thwacking, you should give this little platformer a go.