Spiritfarer Review – Purrrgatory

Things come easily to the Spiritfarer because everything they do is to help others. This utterly marvelous game charges you with the most precious of cargo: spirits making their last pass through a fantastical world between ours and the next. As the Spiritfarer, it’s your duty to aid these souls in their final moments before crossing into eternity. That duty quickly becomes a pleasure as every inch of this spirit world unfolds into joy and wonder. For a game all about death and letting go, Spiritfarer is joyous, full of light and life, while still remaining impossibly true to its raison d’être.

Spiritfarer is a 2D platformer with a heavy dose of crafting and management. Your job is to sail the oceans, visiting islands, landmarks, and anomalies to gather and expand your abilities by finding shops, resources, and even ability-granting shrines. Your life as the Spiritfarer is not just a simple ferryman for wayward souls. Instead, you’re there to help. It’s more than just listening to tales of past lives and learning about your guests–they have needs to be fulfilled before they can move on, too.

Some may want to eat certain foods to reminisce, and you’ll need to discover the ingredients and recipes to cook for them. Others may want to visit places that spark their imagination, or even just learn how to be comfortable on their own. The knowledge and materials you bring back to your ship will help to expand your enterprise. You’ll create a temporary home for the spirits that choose to join you, caring for their every need while strengthening your ability to make these journeys possible, so that when their final one comes, you’ll be ready too.

There are a lot of moving parts to this adventure. Thankfully, Spiritfarer smartly condenses its multitude of tools into the handy Everlight–a sort of ethereal Swiss Army Knife. This glowing pendant adorns both the protagonist character Stella and her cat Daffodil (who’s playable in co-op) and morphs contextually so you can complete a wide variety of tasks. You’re never without it and it doesn’t break–the Everlight is present in everything you do, and its magic makes everything a breeze. It eliminates the busywork of switching and maintaining tools found in other management games, and despite this consolidation, every Everlight action still feels unique.

Releasing a perfectly timed long-press to achieve mining feels distinctly different from the back-and-forth thumbstick motions to saw down a tree or the single tap of a button to water a plant. This applies to using crafting facilities, too. The longer held press of the loom is distinctly different from mashing buttons on the crusher. Even working with different materials within the workshops will feel distinct, like metals needing to be held at specific heating points while smelting. There’s a beautiful mix of ease and variety that keeps repetitive actions from feeling dull and even makes you feel more involved. I genuinely enjoyed performing all these little menial tasks throughout my entire playthrough, which is a small miracle.

The loop of finding resources then bringing them to your facilities to make things is infinitely rewarding. Finding a new food ingredient was like discovering a world of opportunities and had me excited about the new dishes I could make. A new ore discovery could unlock the potential for new buildings, and new buildings might, in turn, let me change that ore into something new again. Spiritfarer even allows room for creative experimentation–for anyone who’s ever really wondered what might happen if you place an old boot in a smelter, or wanted to loom metals, the game has you covered in a whimsical and wonderful way. You feel like there’s always a little more to discover throughout the entire duration of the game, but not so much that you won’t lose your satisfying sense of mastery of these materials and how to get the most out of them.

As your abilities and resources grow, your ship will reflect that. Homes will be built to shelter the various souls you’ve touched, and you’ll also see kitchens, gardens, looms, and all sorts of other utilities. As you upgrade, you can place new buildings virtually anywhere on your ship, meaning orchards can sit high up on stilts and houses can be stacked on top of each other, with myriad ladders reaching to the sky all atop your deck. The result is a delightful vessel that always feels like something uniquely yours. Because I placed (and sometimes moved and replaced) every element on the ship, I was able to internalise it and make my way around like I actually lived there. Helpfully, every building is instantly recognisable, and later, I was able to add traversal elements like zip lines and bounce pads, letting me swing around my floating refuge with great efficiency and genuine joy.

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