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Spirits and Spells Review

Developer: Wanadoo Publisher: DreamCatcher
Release Date: September 29, 2003 Also On: GBA

GameCube has a reputation, particularly among PS2 and Xbox fanboys, of being a kiddy system. I personally do not believe that to be true, but it is true that just such an image has influenced some decisions on the part of third parties as to what games to make for GCN. Spirits and Spells, I believe is one of these games.

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The plot of the game is simple, as with just about any platformer. The Bogeyman has turned your friends into stone, and you want to find their souls to revive them. There are some things in Spirits and Spells that are new, but, for the most part, it is simply a hodgepodge of things that have been done before, and one that has its fair share of problems.

Let’s start with graphics. The graphics in this game actually aren’t too bad. This is the first game DreamCatcher has made for the GCN, and they do a very good job of getting all of the effects that they want, primarily a spookier look, since the game is supposed to take place in the world of the dead. I, however, have one major gripe with the graphics; sometimes they are too dark. What I mean is, sometimes you are in such darkness that you can’t tell where the platform you’re on ends and you have to jump over a hole. If they were going to make some sections this dark, the ability to use a button for a flashlight would have been nice, and there are plenty of buttons to spare. Other than that though, the graphics are very well done.

The music in the game is the same as the graphics. It accomplishes very well what it sets out to accomplish and sounds appropriately spooky for the most part. The sound effects can get very old after awhile though, like the yell when Alicia throws her hat to destroy an enemy.

Now, we get to where this game starts to go downhill slightly; the gameplay. The gameplay in this game is not bad by any means. It is your typical linear platformer with platform jumping sections and enemy battling sections, as well as the occasional boss battle. All of the enemies are appropriate to the style and purpose of the game, and most of them are appropriately easy to beat for the fact that the game’s characters die if they get hit, unless they have a protection fairy, which are found strewn about or can be collected by getting crystals. The crystals aren’t hard to collect for the most part either.

My main problem with the gameplay comes in the form of artificial difficulty. The game itself is not overly difficult and is obviously meant for younger gamers. However, there are two things in this game that artificially increase its difficulty. The first one I already mentioned; darkness that makes it difficult sometimes to discern the difference between platforms and holes. The second one is automatic camera angles. You can’t control the camera at all, and, as such, you sometimes have to do things with camera angles that are less than ideal, which can cause some deaths that could otherwise have been avoided.

The two problems described above significantly increase the difficulty, as sometimes one has to resort to a guess and check tactic to clear some areas; this is unforgivable. I understand they don’t want to make a complicated game if they are going to aim it at young children, but it would be less complicated to learn to use a button to change the camera angle than it would be to use some of the provided angles.

In terms of replay, there are two difficulty levels, but even so, I doubt that this game is one that would be worth finishing more than once on one of the two difficulty levels. It seems to be the type of game that one would beat and put down. It is a decent first effort from DreamCatcher, and it shows the presence of high potential from the company, but it is not a game that is really worth buying. Renting it might provide you with a few hours of entertainment though.

Graphics: 8
Sound: 7
Gameplay: 6
Creativity: 4
Replay Value/Game Length: 3
Final: 5.7
Written by Martin Review Guide