Spirit of the North: Enhanced Edition is a visually updated version of the same game that released on PC this time last year. If you played the game then, you’re basically getting a prettier version of the same thing here, without any substantial updates to the core gameplay. That being said, what is here is still an enjoyable, atmospheric adventure that I enjoyed far more often than not.
This is one of those strange games to review, because on the surface – there’s not a whole lot to talk about. Spirit of the North: Enhanced Edition has a relatively short runtime (you can beat it and clean up the remaining trophies in about half a dozen hours), there are not a bunch of progressively deepening gameplay mechanics at work here, nor is this an overly structured narrative. This title relies very heavily on two things – atmosphere and puzzle-solving.
The atmosphere is the easiest aspect of the game to talk about, because the expansive, often breath-taking visuals and lovely orchestrated soundtrack deliver a serious punch in this regard. This is not a big, AAA title fully leveraging all of the horsepower that the PlayStation 5 has to offer, but kudos to the development team for fantastic use of color, animation and environmental scope to create an engaging world to explore. This was one of those titles where I enjoyed playing it at night, lights off in the room, and just peacefully wandering.
There is a tale here, as you take on the role of a red fox – but it’s not narrated. You don’t have walls of text to read, people to interact with or some old, warmly toned voiceover detailing what is going on. That abstract form of storytelling is obviously not for everyone, but I think in Spirit of the North: Enhanced Edition it works rather well. It stays out of the way of the lovely presentation and I felt encouraged just to wander about, soaking things in.
The other major aspect of the gameplay is in some simple puzzle-solving, and here is where things can be a bit inconsistent from my standpoint. The puzzles are nicely backed into the environments, but they are not always especially clear in terms of explaining what you are supposed to do. The fox you control moves rather slowly at times, and the lack of context in narrative applies to the puzzles you’re faced with. You eventually will figure it out, but when I did – it was sometimes less rewarding than others.
There is a side quest / collection objective of gathering staves through the stages and plopping them on the ground to release the spirits held within. Thematically speaking, at least this makes sense, and there were certainly a handful of quiet, somber moments for me as I completed these little side fetch quests. This provides a bit more to do, but these are the primary gameplay elements and may leave those looking for a bit more action left wanting for more.
I would probably best use the terms ‘distraction’ or ‘escape’ to describe Spirit of the North: Enhanced Edition. There is really precious little outside of the updated visuals to separate this title from the version that was released about a year ago (you can read Susan’s review of it for the Switch earlier this year here). Given the relatively lacking release library for the PlayStation 5, this is probably a perfect time to release this title. It is quite enjoyable in its own right, but will also fill a void for owners of the new console such as myself.