Sometimes you just need a break, a few moments to collect your thoughts and regroup, so to say. For me games like My Time at Portia, Animal Crossing, and Ooblets all help to create that safe space where you can wile away the hours, just pottering around and not having to save the world or destroy some new big bad. The latest game to have this vibe is Spirittea developed by Canadian solo studio Cheesemaster Games. On paper it looks like a life sim and management RPG with a “cozy” core, but after a few sips of tea, everything moves up the gears a little into a more supernatural offering.
Spirittea starts out in the vein of the genre, seeing you play as a writer who moves to the country from the big smoke, in the hopes of starting a new life and getting time to work on your new book.
After a whistle stop tour of the new town you find yourself in, you quickly spot things are not quite right. There are spirits causing a number of issues, but fear not… after a cup of “special” tea and the help of floating cat called Wonyan, you quickly find it’s your job to help and appease these lost souls. This is mainly through giving them a place to crash in the form of a bath house you are doing up. However, getting them there will see you solving a few cryptic clues and puzzles, all while making friends and getting to know the colourful cast of locals better. If this all sounds a bit formular to you, I don’t blame you as there are strong tones of the brilliant Studio Ghibli’s animation epic – Spirited Away, which isn’t a bad thing if I am honest as it puts a new spin on the genre.
Gameplay in Spirittea focuses on the moment to moment running of your bath house, which you get a beefy data dump on from Wonyan; about how to run and upkeep, but it’s a lot to take in all-in-one go, as there are a lot of moving parts. It also highlights a bit of an issue in that, if you miss something or forget, there is no way to revisit the info. So, you better be paying attention to it, however, there is a picture driven guide, but these can sometimes be a bit tricky to decipher. A lot of the gameplay is really down to suck it and see: from cleaning towels to keeping the fires burning. It’s worth noting that there isn’t really any pressure around this side of the game and it’s all laid back for the most part, other than telling who to sit where, as some spirits don’t get on well with each other. But it’s easy to lose hours just doing jobs and tinkering around, which will see you grow more spiritually. Meaning you’ll be about to spot more customers when you are in town as well, which offers up quest like missions to complete and is a welcome change of pace. When on down-time, there are a number of mini-games you can try out; from fishing, to actually writing your book… so there is always something to keep you going.
Visually the game has a nice pixel art style with a good level of detail to be found in the world, though oddly your character and those you interact with, lack the similar level of care it felt. Sound on the other hand is mellow and easy going, helping setting the tone and vibe perfectly, with an almost lullaby element to some tracks (no, YOU started to nod off). On the down side the main issue is just having more access to what the game tells you after the fact. A notebook or the like would be welcome, with more detail than just a pictorial explanation. Also, you don’t really make a lot of coin day to day with the bath house, which is a bit of an issue, as there are a LOT of things you can buy. But with limited funds, it sort of becomes a bit of a grind, so more cash for your graft would be welcome. Spirittea is a very relaxing title that is perfect for losing hours to, as you run your bath house and welcome new spirits. Fans of this genre will enjoy its twist of the formula, while everyone else will just have a cozy time.
An Xbox review copy of Spirittea was provided by Cheesemaster Games, and it’s available now Xbox, Switch and PC for around £20.