The imitation game
If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery then Ubisoft must be blushing. Spirt Roots, from Drageus Games, pulls no punches in its attempt to capture the 2D platforming madness found in UbiSoft’s classic series Rayman. With a legendary pedigree to live up to let us see if this indie title is a love letter to one of gamings most recognisable platforming heroes or just someone trying to copy his homework.
So what’s the story?
Set on a distant planet that was formed by the remnants of two ravaged war-torn worlds, the new Stitched Together World is equal parts mysterious and familiar. The player assumes the role of a young adventurer, who embarks on a journey breaking the one rule that held the world together, don’t cross the boundary. Off on the other side of the world our player, must run, jump, slash and shoot, yes shoot, their way through the 5 distinct worlds. This is the story… while I appreciate the stitched together world aspect, the uninspired story left an empty feeling that never quite left during the play sessions.
Visually, Spirit Roots is not afraid to show its admiration for the previously mentioned title. The big bright colour palette helps the world leap from the screen as you navigate your way through the 50 levels of spike pits and homicidal plant life. The characters feature a limited animation set but show just enough wrinkles to be convincing as inhabitants in this fantastical world. With 5 distinct worlds (odd phrasing given the setting is on a singular world) the levels do begin to suffer from a repetitive feel.
Each world consisting of 10 levels, means what you see in level 1 will most likely be reused in a different part of another level and so on. The overall level of “cute” in the design lends itself well to the targeted family gaming market. The character design is adequate and really captures the feel they set out for. Enemies become repetitive but there is variety when switching between the 5 unique worlds. Everything is pleasing and inviting to the eyes with little to no chance of scaring off the little ones venturing into the realm of videogames for the first time.
Controls may scare off younger gamers
Platforming games require timing, precision and just enough luck in order to flow properly. Spirit Roots unfortunately is lacking precision. Movement is controlled through the left thumbstick. On paper, this is a no brainer, in practice however it is less than optimal. There is floatiness to the way the character responds while using the Joy-Con. Often times death was the reward when trying to land a jump on the edge of the platform only to overshoot the jump and glide right into an enemy ready to end you with the one-hit deaths. The touchiness is made even more apparent when you switch to using the D-Pad. Simply switching, insert sound effect here, gives you more control over your character but at the expense of ergonomics and comfort.
The control issues extend themselves into the combat as well. You can effortlessly swing your carbon copy of Cloud’s Buster Sword easily dispatching foes but with a hiccup. If you are too quick for the game your combo attack will actually miss, as in ghost through the enemy, leaving you open to instant death as the aforementioned one-hit kills offer no quarter from the not so intimidating attackers.
Audio is an unexpected knockout
The booming score accentuates the feeling of wonder and discovery as you traverse the 50 levels. Sound effects do a good job of adding the right amount of weight to the combat. Sword strikes sound just right as they connect as does the band from your sing shot pistol, which oddly finds itself in this family-friendly title.
Recreating the formula perfected by industry giants UbiSoft is a tall ask of a tiny Indie. Spirit Roots has its heart in the right place. The standard platforming mechanics, complete with mini-puzzles and boss fights while far from perfect does have its place in the Switch library. Is this for the hardcore gamers of the world looking for a lengthy journey… no, but this does belong on the SD cards of younger gamers discovering this new fancy world called gaming.
Review code provided
Platform: PC, Mobile, Nintendo
Release Date: 01/11/2019
No. of Players: 1
Category: Action, Platformer, Arcade
Developer: Fireart Games
Publisher: DRAGEUS GAMES
Download link: eShop