Tugging at your heartstrings and evoking emotions through environmental storytelling, Spirit of the North released a year ago on PlayStation 4. Still, the small team at Infuse Studio has relaunched on PlayStation 5. While the gameplay remains mostly unchanged, the Enhanced Edition provides two exclusive fox skins, along with visual improvements worthy of a next-generation console. Running at a 4K resolution and 60 frames per second, the team has remastered the textures, lighting, and more. You take on the role of an ordinary fox, trodding your way across the breathtaking landscapes of Iceland.
You begin your journey wandering through snow-covered mountains. However, a force drives you towards the red sickness or corruption emanating across the sky without a single line of dialogue. After an incident leaves you limping through icy underground caverns, you'll learn world lore through glowing pictographs, illuminated by the Spirit of the North's energy. An unknown civilization thrived as the spirit fox protecting all life surrounding the mountains until a monolith (I think) sought ruin, causing a volcano to erupt, trapping the guardian in a deep slumber and destroying the surrounding villages. Perhaps society began to worship the glowing red monolith instead, sending the guardian to be forgotten. Without narration or lines of dialogue, it is certainly left open to your interpretation.
Sacrificing themselves to save your life, you are imbued with the powers from The Guardian of the Northern Lights to cleanse the land from corruption. Along the way, you'll come across remnants of the lost civilization, reuniting shaman bodies scattered throughout the chapters with magical staves, releasing their souls and allowing them to rest peacefully. Now, only a floating spirit orb, the former guardian serves as a mentor, guiding you throughout the visually impressive environments. There's no mini-map or anything to follow, but visual cues help guide you along. You'll solve environment puzzles without combat, either by instilling relics with the powers of light or matching symbols carved into stone statues.
Spirit of the North Enhanced Edition can be completed around the five-hour mark, but as your progress, you'll learn new powers requiring the use of spirit energy. The energy can be found throughout the game world from blue flowers, letting you channel it inward or release it into relics that open blocked passageways, or activating an ability such as entering a spirit form and running across flowing water. Besides the powers, you can run, bark, and jump, but the movement feels imprecise. With the amount of platforming required, you'd have thought that jumping would feel better. You'll occasionally slide off edges or be blocked by invisible barriers, but wandering around with the atmospheric orchestrated soundtrack is awe-inspiring.
Spirit of the North Enhanced Edition is a visually impressive narrative experience that foregoes dialogue for atmosphere and world-building. The game is simply beautiful and runs smoothly; however, the gameplay should have been tweaked with the PlayStation 5 release. Occasionally, it is unclear what you need to do, or the imprecise jumping can cause you to backtrack needlessly. It's a solid platforming adventure that successfully tells a tale through pictographs and gameplay.Note: Spirit of the North Enhanced Edition was reviewed on PlayStation 5. A digital copy of the game was provided by the publisher/developer.