It has to be said, sometimes less is more. Sometimes, simplicity beats complexity. For me, this is what Spirit Arena embraces, and it is why I have enjoyed playing it so much. But at the end I’ve been left wanting more, so sometimes more is more.
But anyway, you can play Spirit Arena solo, or cooperatively with a local friend. There’s no online play here I’m afraid. However, it’s a hoot playing with someone else, if you’re lucky enough to have a fellow gamer in the house that is. If you don’t, I’m glad to report that Spirit Arena is still lots of fun when going it alone.
But why am I having to fend off waves of cutely animated demons, I hear you ask? Well, the story goes as follows: two sorcerers attempt, and fail, a seemingly harmless summoning spell which in turn goes badly wrong. It’s then up to you to slay the demons that have arose and put the lid back on Pandora’s Box, so to speak. Simple.
As luck would have it, you’re armed with physical spells (red) and spiritual spells (blue). The colour of the spell you cast must match the enemy to have any effect, which is where the puzzle element fits into the fire-fest. You use the left thumbstick to move around, and the right to fire. RB or RT sees you dash, which is critical for dodging incoming enemy swarms. LB or LT will swap between spells as required. It’s as easy as that.
There are four worlds to battle through, each with ten waves of enemies to defeat. The final wave will see you facing off against a boss character and its many minions, with you needing to figure out how to deal damage before you can take them on properly.
Each world can be played at various difficulties, ranging from the always Easy right up to that of Nightmare, but you’ll unlock the harder difficulties as you play. Starting off on Normal, as I did, begins by being perfectly manageable, but will provide a decent challenge for most players by the time they get to the last few enemy waves.
There are ten characters to unlock in Spirit Arena, but you’ll only start with a choice of two. They feature differing strengths and weaknesses relating to the size of their health bars, length of dash cooldown timers and much more. The one thing they all have in common, however, is that every character is adorable in their own way.
Unlockables, whilst we’re on the subject, form a big part of Spirit Arena. There are over 100 items to discover, and three will drop at random after each wave. You can only choose two of these each time, meaning you must leave one behind.
To make your choice more difficult, each item can affect your stats positively, negatively, or in both ways. There are a fair few different elements to consider, including your max health, damage, range, fire rate and more. Striking the right balance is the key to surviving the enemy waves and being in a healthy position to face off against the boss at the end. Thankfully, your health will replenish after each wave, but be warned, there’s no mid-wave items to help – if you die, you’ll have to start the world from the very beginning.
If you wish to view which items, monsters and playable characters you have unlocked, head to the “Grimoire” from the main menu. This is essentially a logbook and its name means “book of spells”.
When playing cooperatively, each character can only control one spell at a time. This forces players to work together, and switch to take advantage of each other’s statistical strengths when necessary. This is because items picked up will affect that player only, which can lead to some tense negotiations between enemy waves.
The soundtrack to Spirit Arena is upbeat, chirpy and actually a really enjoyable listen. The colourful, cartoonish graphical style works really well, looking bright and vibrant. As I’ve mentioned already, but will do so once more, the character avatars are so adorable that they will raise a smile for sure. Don’t mistake this for it being childish however; the right balance is struck, making it suitable for all ages.
The reality with Spirit Arena is that you’ll have probably beaten the game within a couple of hours. However, at just £4.99 you can’t really complain; it’s just that you’ll be left hungry for more. And once you have beaten the worlds, unless you are a dedicated collector there isn’t a lot to be driving replayability.
I really enjoyed my time with Spirit Arena, but there’s so much more potential here. Whether it’s new worlds, items, game modes or a combination of them all, I would like to see more from this release in the future. Online battles would be lots of fun, as well as teaming up to take on the adorable nasties with others online. It would certainly give plenty of reasons to keep players coming back for more. Let’s hope Sweet Dreams Studio and JanduSoft are up for it, because they’ve got a charming little game on their hands here in Spirit Arena.
Spirit Arena on Xbox will challenge you whilst providing plenty of unlockables to go after, if that’s your thing. This doesn’t stop it from being loads of fun, but it’s all over so quickly. I’m unashamedly asking for more, but right now, there’s no reason not to check this one out.