Spirit HD: Far More Than an Arcade Game

Everyone loves arcade games. They’re addictive, immersive and, of course, fun! The problem is that most of them have been ‘done before’. We all love to play Space Invaders or Pacman, but if we play a clone of it on our phones, it hasn’t really got that ‘classic’ feel. Spirit HD is an original arcade game which is designed for phones, and immensely fun to play!

Gameplay

You control a little spacecraft called Spirit (which I cannot help but see as Eve from Wall-E). To make Spirit move, you drag your finger around the screen; the relative movements are relayed to Spirit, who flies across a ‘grid in space’. The overall aim of the game is to capture and destroy the other entities flying about on the grid. To do this, you must use the trail that comes out the back of Spirit to make a complete circle around one or more of the targets. Once an end-to-end connection of the trail is made, regardless of shape, a wormhole-like void opens up which the targets are sucked into. This removes them from the wave and earns you points. Sometimes new entities generate during a wave, in which case you have several sets of targets to get through before moving on to the next one.

Capturing multiple entities means a lot more points!

After a while I learnt that you definitely don’t have to focus on one entity at a time. If possible, you can quickly draw huge circles around multiple entities to destroy them all and earn combo points. After a few waves, you encounter an entity which quickly flies from one end of the grid to the other at high speed. It is nearly impossible to catch them by circling around them, so instead you must fly in behind them, and lay a trap for them on their return pass.

When waves mix the type of entities you have to capture, the game becomes more and more challenging. In order to succeed you have to mix different tactics together.

There are no time limits or restrictions on how long you play each wave. However throughout the game you must not touch any of the entities with your ship. If you do, your ship explodes into sparks and you lose one of your three starting lives. During gameplay, entities will occasionally generate with an extra life icon being towed behind them. Capture the entity and then steal the icon to restore lost lives, and gain extra ones if you haven’t lost any yet. Just be careful when capturing the entity, the icon will also be destroyed if it moves into the wormhole.

Alternative Gameplay Modes

The gameplay I have described above is from the ‘Classic’ gameplay option. There are two alternatives available for you to play, from which you can choose each time you start a game:

Extreme

This gameplay mode uses the same basic rules as ‘Classic’. However everything is far more intense and fast-paced, starting from the first wave. If you aren’t keen on progressively moving from relaxed to more challenging gameplay, and would rather jump right in at the deep end, this will probably be preferable for you. I found that after about ten levels, the waves get quite absurd. Very fun though!

The first wave I got in an 'Extreme' game.

Pulse

The Pulse game is quite different from Classic and Extreme. Instead of creating your own wormholes to capture entities, you fly into ‘pulses’ which randomly move around the map. When you fly into one, a wormhole is generated around you, also attracting the entities towards you. Once destroyed, entities leave behind little gold rings which are score multipliers.

If you don’t capture entities quickly enough, then they spawn faster and faster. They soon seem to multiply exponentially and you begin to lose the opportunity to use pulses, since you can’t get anywhere near them. Just like ‘Extreme’, this game style focusses on speed and quick thinking.

As you can see, when playing in Pulse the game quickly becomes quite hectic.

Pulse is my personal favourite way to play. Classic and Extreme are just as fun, but I find the idea of using the pulses and collecting rings a bit more challenging.

The Good

There are many good points to be made about this game! First and foremost, the game is fast-paced which helps make it immersive. When I first got it I found that I was able to play for about half an hour non-stop — and then an hour or so after that I would be tempted to play some more. Most 2D arcade games wear off and loose their fun fairly quickly, but not Spirit.

Another good point to be made is that Spirit HD has tablet optimisation! I love this game on my phone, so I can imagine it being heaps of fun on larger screens.

The visual effects are a bonus too; though the game would be fun even if these effects were not included, they definitely add some flair. The entire grid has the ability to warp, which is seen when wormholes are created (note the screenshot above, plus the effect around the pulse and the three entities to the right). It also shakes and waves violently when your ship explodes. The associated sparks are a nice touch too.

The Bad

One of the negative points is immediately noticeable to new players. There isn’t a set of gameplay instructions – neither in the game, nor on the Android Market page. It seems that the developers either assumed everyone would pick up the game really quickly, or creating instructions slipped their minds. No indication is given that you need to draw circles around the entities on the grid, you have to work it out for yourself. This review is unfortunately the closest thing you will find to instructions.

Another niggle is that due to the game’s arcade nature, waves are not ‘unlocked’ or otherwise earned. Each time you get a Game Over, you have to start over from the lowest difficulty. Although each wave has a fixed difficulty level and is randomly generated. It is still quite annoying to have to go through all of the skill levels before reaching your last personal peak.

Final Thoughts

Altogether, this is a fantastic game to play and I thoroughly recommend it. I also think it’s a great deal too, since the cost of the game is a mere £0.79 ($1.28). [Ed: the price has since risen to £1.49 ($2.40).] The gameplay is immersive and the effects are crisp and attractive.

For a rating, I award Spirit HD a big 9/10. The only thing stopping it from being a 10/10 is the fact that no instructions or gameplay guides are ready available for it. The gameplay may be simple, but it isn’t clear to new players.

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Summary

Intense retro-inspired arcade mayhem, reinvented for touch screen! One app works on both mobile and tablet.

9
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