John and Sam's abilities are also key in some of Eastward's more challenging boss fights, in moments where slapping enemies with the frying pan (later, John will also acquire a gun, flamethrower, and cog weapon, alongside different bombs) is simply not enough. These boss fights are often simple in theory: dodging hits, stunning enemies, and taking a swing, for instance. But, like the puzzles, they require a precision that can be hard to master; the sheer simplicity is clever and deceiving.
Instead, Chicory asks, "What if there's a better way?" A person's worth is inherent, and it's not chosen for us. If we tear down those systems and rebuild something new, we can shift legacies and choose them for ourselves - it's no longer a gift bestowed upon us by some unfair, undated structure. With a little practice, maybe anyone can wield a paintbrush.
It's Mo's grandmother who urges Mo to go to a place she has always feared. The place, it turns out, is not anywhere near as repulsive as the intricate musculature of the underground caves, or the harsh reality of the island being killed by fungus. Instead, it's beautiful; the full scope of Minute of Islands' colors are on full display, with intricate, marvelous mushrooms growing out of what was once flesh and spore. But this is also a place Mo can only enter without the comfort of her Omni Switch. Her fear, it seems, is not tied to the monstrous, but instead, to vulnerability.
Anyone that's played New Horizons will be familiar with the sorts of errands necessary to complete the spirits' tasks. Much of the time, the spirits have lost things that the player needs to find around the island. There's a lot of fishing, harvesting resources, and collecting items. These tasks can be finished within a half an hour or so most of the time, especially if I just have to do something like find a recipe book that's been stashed in a pile of leaves, but sometimes a task can require me to log in across multiple days. Say, for instance, I need to bring salt to the spirit baker on the island. That can only be purchased through Cozy Grove's shopkeeper, and I'll have to wait if it's not there on the day I need it.
It reminds me of a relationship I had, one that I thought I would never see myself out of. It's these memories of mine that give Maquette's narrative that emotional weight, even when the writing is clumsy or stilted. When I look back at that relationship, it's only just a speck in my 32 years of life, something that hardly gets a thought. It's hard to imagine that there was a time when it was so much bigger, where I lived in a fantasy world of my own creation - but I did. And Maquette has the right beats, and recursions, to bring up that feeling in me, that conflicting sense of scale.
Valhalla’s most intriguing story is one about faith, honor, and family, but it’s buried inside this massive, massive world stuffed with combat and side quests. That balance is not always ideal, but I’m glad, at least, that it forces me to spend more time seeking out interesting things in the game’s world.
Spiritfarer works because the entire game is built around creating these connections to the characters, all of which are complex people with tangled stories. And none of the spirits are purely good or bad; some are people leaving a mess behind for others to grapple with.
It’s refreshing and meaningful to see a complex story in which all pieces of the characters’ lives are considered, each part of a much larger story of a life, and the fantasy that such a life might also produce. There are painful, real moments in If Found…, but the game also revels in the support of friendship and family, too.