Lemmings was an all time classic, and is still spawning clones to this day. Practically every modern platform has a version or update of the classic save ’em Amiga game, and the iPad is no different. Many of the clones are worthless releases, offering little new to the genre save for new graphics or a couple of extra features.
Spirits, however, is a little different. The developers say that the combination of unique graphics and sound make the game have a poetic feel, and they are right. Playing the game truly does feel like you are working your way through a poem, with wispy spirits blown about on dusty winds with an ambient soundtrack helping to build an ephemeral atmosphere. The art direction extends to the animation and physics, with the spirits themselves having a bouncy, jellyfish feel to them, which, combined with the excellent wind effects make for a game with an unforgettable feel.
So, aside from the outstanding art design, what does Spirits have to offer? Well, it is a Lemming clone in every sense of the word. Spirits appear from set points and automatically walk forwards, and you have to guide them to the exit by giving them different jobs. Touching a spirit selects it, at which point it will stop in it’s tracks, although the others will continue on their way. Selecting one will bring up an option wheel, with different jobs, such as wind blowing clouds or ladders builders, and these all have their own options, such as different directions.
When a spirit reaches an edge, it will automatically jump off and try to find a stream of air, which really helps to make the gameplay smooth, and it’s possible to have some really impressive actions set in motion, with spirits flying all over the screen. If I have a criticism of the core physics, it would be that the spirits are a little too sensitive to wind that seems far out of reach, and can have their flight paths altered, so as to make you wonder why, when the little guys have been making a ledge for the whole level, they suddenly start to miss it. It can’t be that cloud all the way over there can it? You will ask yourself, and the answer is invariably yes.
There are a decent amount of levels, and with special plants to collect (some of these are extremely hard to reach) there is enough content here to justify the asking price. It’s just that you will feel like you have seen and done it all before, with many of the jobs on offer identical to the jobs in Lemmings and the countless other games like this, and even some of the levels feeling very familiar.
Unfortunately, even with the lovely graphics, the spirits just don’t have the character of the suicidal Lemmings, and you find it hard to care about the tiny wisps beyond getting a better score.
So, it is a Lemmings clone, but a very good one, with good level design an innovative use of wind and a frankly outstanding use of graphics and sound to create an excellent atmosphere. If you have never played Lemmings or anything like it, then you should snap this up, but if you have been playing games like this for years, you might just want to think twice.
A solid game with beautiful presentation.