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Windows Spirits of the Forest

D

Divitos

Guest
Spirits of the Forest


Gamejolt
Itch.io
Postmortem


Spirits of the forest is a precision platformer with 30+ levels. Originally made for Ludum Dare 35 and slightly improved upon.

The wolf-spirit Zanakalth has severed his ties with the forest-keeping spirits and is on a self-serving quest to gain power. It is up to the chosen one and his shapeshifting abilities to help the forest spirits protect their world against Zanakalths plans.

Controls
A/D or Left/Right for movement
W or Up for jump (holding it increases jump height)
W or Up in-air as Kangaroo to double jump
W or Up in-air as Squirrel to Glide


Screenshots








Programming and Design by Divitos
Art by Hisan Iwo
Music and Sound Design by Wesley Devore
 
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N

nvrogers

Guest
I wrote this review about a week ago and forgot to post it, so I apologize for the (kinda sorta) necro bump.


Miyazaki’s anime epic Princess Mononoke deserves all the praise it gets. It’s a classic for good reason. The world feels so dense that it’s almost real, despite a relatively simplistic story. The magic is all in the details - the stray roots, scattered rocks, and twisting branches. As it happens, video games are great at this kind of world building. Objects can be precisely arranged to have weight - or to deliberately defy gravity. Blades of grass can sway when stepped on. The background can be packed full of details. All of these subtle touches can allow a game to transcend images on a screen and become something far more visceral. Unfortunately, many developers ignore them outside of 3D epics and slow-paced “art games.” Spirits of the Forest, despite its uncanny narrative similarities with Mononoke, suffers from a very “gamey” aesthetic.

Before I dive into art direction, I must praise the gameplay itself. The different creatures you can shapeshift into are different enough to allow for interesting platforming challenges while not so different as to feel like they belong in different games. The level design is takes full advantage of the different abilities, with later rooms forcing the player to switch between animals, making shape shifting feel more like a fully fleshed out mechanic than a gimmick. However, the gameplay is not entirely perfect. The hitboxes often feel slightly off. This is less likely a result of poor collision code and more likely a result of too precise collision code. The player is biased to think they made jumps that they just barely missed. To make the game feel fair, the hitboxes must be slightly smaller than the sprites themselves. This is exactly what GameMaker’s “mask” feature is meant for. Another minor issue is the death system. Every time the player dies, they are required to press “R” to respawn. However, the shape shifting mechanic incentivizes the player to keep their hand on the space bar. Therefore, every time they die, they must move their hand to the “R” key. Not only does this get confusing when you’re not looking at the keyboard, but it also slows down the gameplay. I died 141 times. All of that time pressing the “R” key piled up. The final glaring gameplay flaw is that the lack of slopes makes vertical movement tedious. Those are two very minor complaints, however, in a game full of otherwise excellent gameplay.

As far as the presentation goes, the individual assets range from acceptable to great. The tiles work well together, the animal animations are visually interesting, and the background has just enough detail to work. The music is atmospheric and the sound effects, unlike most Ludum Dare games, are present and effective. The issue is the way in which all the pieces fit together (or don’t). Why do bee hives just float in mid air? Why are there only trees in the distance behind the forest? How does this giant cave the game seems to take place in hold itself up without any supports? The subtle little details that give game worlds life are almost entirely absent. As an example, here is a screenshot of Spirits of the Forest:
Now, here’s some screenshots of Shovel Knight:


Note how solid the level design looks in Shovel Knight. In the first image, everything is supported and shrubbery is included to help the foreground fit with the background. The second image includes a floating platform. However, because the platform is not connected to anything and is a simple, solid block, it still looks like it belongs. The spiky overhang in the screenshot from Spirits is looks like it is supposed to be connected to the ceiling. However, because of the curvature and the fact that the blocks only touch at the corners, the formation looks artificial and “gamey.” Of course, no game is perfect, but the frequency of such unnatural looking formations in Spirits is genuinely distracting.

I would like to clarify that I very much enjoyed Spirits of the Forest, and I think that has the potential to evolve into something quite impressive. However, the poor level architecture is the game’s largest weakness, and what holds it back from feeling like a professional effort. Just a few more passes through the details of the level design could take this game from good to great.



The opinions and points of view offered in this review are not the opinions and points of view of the GMC Rad Reviewers, but from the author of the review. We are all humans; as such, we might have made a mistake or misinterpreted something when playing your game, so please share your thoughts of this review with us.

[GMCRR]
 
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D

Divitos

Guest
Hey there nvrogers, I love the review. It raises a lot of good points, a few I even missed myself (such as having to press 'R' being distracting to some players).

I definitely agree with you that the level design and architecture is the games biggest weak point. A lot of that's because I had to rush through the levels for Ludum Dare, but there's no real excuse to why I didn't redesign them after. We've all talked about it and it's highly likely we're going to come back to this someday down the road and give it the attention it deserves to make it into a unique experience vs just another game.
 
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