Phoenix Spirit in review – Watch me pull a rabbit out of my hat…

Sometimes it’s nice to have a game that’s not all about “how fast can you get through it” or “how many things can you blow up”.  A game that’s about exploration and discovery.  A game that lets you go at your pace – one where you can actually stop to enjoy the scenery. Phoenix Spirit tries really hard to be that game, and at some levels it succeeds quite well.  Unfortunately, for me to consider something a game there has to be a sense of accomplishment, and this is something that Phoenix Spirit lacks.

Phoenix Spirit is your typical “the forest has been corrupted by an evil force and you’re the only one that can stop it” type story.  You play the forest’s last hope, a Phoenix spirit that as many have pointed out looks a bit like Rocky the Squirrel. You must fly through the forest and find the amber (mystical power) that will help you fight back the poison that has barricaded you from parts of the forest so that you can ultimately defeat the root of the evil. Along the way you’ll encounter these odd floating head things and some plants that have gone rogue, all of which can be dispatched with the first amber you collect, which is the Cleanse amber.

So what are these ambers?  They are objects that enhance your abilities so that you can fight whatever comes your way.  The Cleanse amber allows you to heal the rouge plants and dispatch the floating heads, while another amber lets you fly more quickly so that you can zip through passageways whose winds are so strong that normally you couldn’t penetrate them.  There is also an amber that increases your maximum health. The problem with all this is that you never really feel like you’re getting anywhere.  You’re not really “cleansing” the forest, because every time you revisit an area roots have gone rogue again and the floating heads are back.  Plus, the background in every single room is the same, so it never seems like you’re progressing to a new part of the forest.  There just needs to be a bit more variety and purpose to it all.

To control the spirit you tilt the device in the direction you want it to move.  Then, depending on what ambers you’ve collected, you either hit the dive button or speed button to gain momentum.  The issue I have with the dive button is that, as you can imagine by the name, you have to dive first no matter which direction you want to go in.  You can only shoot in the direction you’re facing as well, so if you want to attack something and be relatively sure that you don’t end up running into it, you need to rest on a wall first.  To then get off the wall there’s a jump button.  I’ve found that a lot of games that use tilt for a full 360 degree range of motion tend to not respond as well to movement as those that only use tilt for left and right, and this seems to be one of those cases, at least for me.

The game looks decent enough.  The backgrounds are nice, and I like the way the plants transform when you cleanse them.  I also like how there are rays of light near something important like an amber or save point.  On the other hand, the floating heads are a bit odd looking, and the spirit is small and lacking in detail. The music is nicely done, as it is calm and relaxing, which really fits with the whole theme of the game.

I think there’s lots of promise to Phoenix Spirit.  It takes a relaxed approach to the platform exploration type game, and that’s good every once in a while.  There is certainly a lot to explore as well, as I’ve only made it through about 40% of the game so far.  However, they need to spice things up just a bit.  Add different sections to the forest so you can have different backgrounds.  Throw in a few more enemies.  And add a couple of side goals to the main mission of cleansing the forest.  Personally I’d like to see the controls revamped a bit, but if some of these other things could be dealt with, I could live with the controls.  Finally, give the user the ability to save anywhere.  I’d rather have that than sporadic save points that refuel my health.  As it stands right now Phoenix Spirit is not bad, but it has much more potential than it’s letting on.

App Summary
Title: Phoenix Spirit Developer: Spearhead Entertainment
Reviewed Ver: 1.0.2 Min OS Req: Compatible with iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad. 3.1.2
Price: $1.99 App Size: 22.3 MB
  • Tries to be different
  • Mostly relaxing
  • Decent visuals
  • Good music
  • Controls are frustrating
  • No intermediate goals
  • Uses save points instead of save anywhere


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