There’s no scarcity of video games the place it’s important to cleanse a city of ghosts. However do these video games allow you to cleanse the ghosts themselves? Spirittea does. Canadian solo developer Cheesemaster brings us this Japanese- and Korean-inspired afterlife sim. It’s a brew of Spirited Away, Stardew Valley, and different issues that largely goes down nicely, albeit with a couple of harder-to-swallow bits.
You create a personality with restricted customisation, and also you’re instructed you’re a author transferring to a small city to focus in your e book. As you compromise in, you realise there are some odd occurrences that the locals can’t perceive or clarify. You’re given tea leaves which, when brewed within the teapot left by the earlier resident, grant you ‘spirit imaginative and prescient’, the power to see spirits invisible to the bare eye. Guided by Wonyan – a cat-like spirit information who’s, nicely, catty – you’ll uncover some ghostly goings-on, and discover the misplaced spirits inflicting them.
Spirittea is extra spirit than tea. Positive, tea kicks all of it off, however you don’t must drink the caffeinated beverage. Your spirit imaginative and prescient will get a set quantity of every day time, and ingesting tea tops it up.
Wonyan will get you to chase two troublemaking spirits, who, when you catch them, relinquish a key to a bathhouse for spirits. It will sound acquainted to anybody who remembers the names Chihiro and Kohaku. The bathhouse is the place you’ll spend most of your time and earn earnings. Right here Spirittea throws you within the deep finish, with a posh and wordy tutorial on operating the bathhouse that you just’ll quickly overlook. A diagram homes the data nevertheless it’s extra complicated than handy.
We floundered at first, however ultimately realised we may forgo some parts and nonetheless preserve a move within the bathhouse. Then we relaxed into the repetitive and meditative gameplay loop: making more cash, opening new rooms and baths, cleansing the run-down areas. Each bathhouse exercise additionally contributes to rising your Spirituality, an invisible stat that allows you to discover extra spirits.
Exterior, there’s one thing unusual in your neighbourhood. The townsfolk are experiencing vandalism, theft, and catfishing, they usually don’t know who’s behind it (spoilers: it’s the ghosts). Yow will discover requests on the bulletin board with clues to assist monitor down the tricksters. Some are extra cryptic than others – one specifically took us an embarrassingly very long time. Just a few spirits even break the fourth wall. We gained’t spoil these, however we are going to say we thought the sport was bugged earlier than the cheeky reveal.
If you catch the spirit – wherever it’s – Wonyan chastises it for inflicting hassle. Then there’s a trippy transition the place the spirit remembers its title and reveals its former self, be it a raven carrying a home on its again, a Yubaba-like lady with antlers, a tree, or different inventive creatures. With such an assortment of spirits, it’s a disgrace they don’t communicate once more after you save them. They’ll come to the bathhouse as prospects, however they don’t have Spiritfarer or Cozy Grove-esque backstories.
The people, nonetheless, supply some good companionship. Different life sims’ love languages could be gift-giving and acts of service, however Spirittea’s is high quality time (we are saying ‘love language’ however there’s no marriage). Sure, oddly, finishing villagers’ quests doesn’t enhance your friendship. However many different issues do: fishing, karaoke, scorching springs, and extra.
The residents we’ve bonded with have had heart-warming tales to inform. One aged lady ruminates on how her divorce affected her daughter. A person reveals how his unconventional upbringing influenced his nomadic way of life. As soon as the friendship bar is full you’ll be able to recruit that individual within the bathhouse. It’s a little bit of a grind if that’s the only objective of friendship. Plus, we are able to’t assist however really feel unhealthy making somebody wash towels after they’ve poured their coronary heart out to us. Canines and cats additionally prowl round city, and it’s simple to bump up your friendship by giving them pats! They will’t work within the bathhouse, although, probably as a result of they will’t chop wooden with their paws.
You may have waves of actions to spice up your friendship, some extra pleasant than others. Many include their very own minigame, which is usually unnecessarily convoluted. They pull your consideration in numerous instructions and mess together with your coordination, often whereas a timer ticks away and speeds as much as punish errors. We additionally discovered Spirittea’s UI fairly fiddly. Opening menus, equipping instruments, and even going to sleep have one button press too many. Store opening hours are nowhere to be discovered. The map is disorienting; the buildings and timber bob up and right down to a monitor that clashes with the overworld music.
The sport largely runs easily. We skilled a couple of glitches the place the clock stopped operating or our character bought caught, however restarting at all times fastened the issue. We additionally discovered issues bought fairly stuttery across the one-year mark.
Visually, Spirittea’s pixel artwork attracts apparent comparisons to Stardew Valley or Eastward, however the distinction is the brown color palette, which not solely suits the dilapidated city really feel, however can also be the color of tea. The colors are too darkish at night time time and early morning — in handheld mode, the display screen could as nicely be off. Handheld mode additionally fares poorly with the textual content, which is teensy in some menus.
Exterior of the map, the music is calming and unobtrusive, if somewhat on the comfortable aspect. Typically it went eerily quiet, however with the occult occurrences on this sport, we wouldn’t be stunned if that was the purpose.
Some irritations, then, which forestall Spirittea from ascending to a airplane of true greatness, although nothing that had us stewing for too lengthy. In the end, its enjoyable mix of domesticity and otherworldliness calmed and charmed us.
Spirittea serves up a inventive and addictive (after)life-sim loop of attending to bathhouse spirits and serving to townsfolk. The instruments and menus don’t supply essentially the most fluid expertise, and the minigames are sometimes overwhelmingly difficult, however there’s sufficient to do right here which means you’ll be able to dip out and in of issues when you do not like them. Something you do like, you’ll be able to soak in for hours.