Arietta of Spirits (PC) – Review
Intriguing, mysterious 2D island to explore
Heartfelt story of family and friendship
Quiet and calming music will soothe your soul
Takes some time to reposition from missed attacks - need to get used to it
Be mindful of the barrel roll or you'll get exhausted
When a story is good enough, you don’t need a lot of voice acting to make a game narrative-driven. This is the case for Arietta of Spirits, an action-adventure game with colorful pixel art, thoughtfully carried out in all parts of the presentation.
Arietta of Spirits (Third Spirit Games/Red Art Games) is a ravishing story of a young pre-teen girl visiting her deceased grandmom’s cabin on an island with her grief-stricken family for the first time after a year since her departure. A simple family conversation in the car as they take their yearly trip to her grandmom’s cabin in the opening sequences shows how much weight they are carrying on their shoulder. And it was until the first night at the cabin when Arietta gets contacted by a friendly ethereal form from a parallel world, she didn’t know that her grandmom is stuck in the spirit world and is unable to move on to her next life because of an unresolved business that needs to be resolved.
As an emotion-filled adventure game, you might want to experience it at its optimal level and for that, it offers a total of 4 different levels of difficulty with the hardest being ‘Extreme’, which is only unlockable after finishing the game on a lower difficulty. And the difficulty is not the only thing adjustable to your liking, the buttons on the controller can also be customized. That doesn’t necessarily mean that you have a lot of buttons to juggle with, all the essential moves are assigned to three buttons respectively: attack, roll, and shield.
Since Arietta became a medium between two worlds, the human world and spirit world, she needs to deal with both normal human world enemies and spiritual enemies. Depending on the difficulty setting, killing human world enemies like wasps and bats might drop health points, and destroying hostile roamer spirits will drop roamer essence. Earlier boss fights will give you items called roamer core that become larger in size with every drop. Roamer core is used to collect roamer essence and can be activated once it’s filled to its limit, granting extra HP. In the same way as HP, you will also get extra spirit energy points from the boss fights or doing extra objectives. Spirit energy points are needed to activate the shield which is not only for blocking incoming damages but also for other applications the game says to figure out by yourself. Exploration and curiosity are the main attributes you will require if it’s important for you to unlock hidden achievements and rewards.
The player can count how many voice-acted dialogues are in the game. Only Arietta’s exclamations and roamer boss evil laughter are the only things with the voice, other than that everything else is told in the dialogue box on the bottom side of the screen. Even with the lack of voice acting, the story is pleasantly enjoyable and the gameplay is mostly elementary yet taxing to the extent that you have a healthy balance between the narrative and the playability.
Arietta of Spirits isn’t outstandingly different from your typical 2D action-adventure games but is certainly a game with unpredictable turns.
Also available on Switch, PS4, and Xbox One. A free demo is available too.