Right off the heels of the latest Wholesome Direct, a demo for The Spirit and the Mouse, one of the more interesting-looking titles from the presentation, wouldn’t be unplayable long. Of the things on offer during the Steam Next Fest, this was one I was actually looking forward to most. Something about the nature of the game—running around as a mouse, helping people with their issues—appealed to me. Maybe I was destined to be a mouse… harboring god-like abilities.
Quick structure disclaimer: Given this (and all the others) is only a demo, I won’t be too in-depth with my coverage, and will only reflect on the good and the bad. No overly long personal history or filibuster. No nonsense. That said, I will provide a synopsis for the game below.
“Bring kindness and light to the people of Sainte-et-Claire as Lila—a tiny mouse with a big heart! Explore a quaint French village, make electrifying new friends, and do good deeds for those in need in this lush narrative adventure game.“
You play as a mouse in a French village that harbors more ambition than the average rodent. It’s Ratatouille with a twist. An almost whimsical playfulness, which I believed was apparent in the trailer, resides within the cracks of every little step within the game. The game’s synopsis refers to the village setting as “quaint,” but I’d argue the entire game is.
Silly, upbeat, and perhaps suitably family-friendly. Playing this gave a sense of enjoyment present in things that resonate a blissful charm. Not particularly complex in many ways, its straightforward mechanics don’t do anything more than need-be, allowing for an easy-to-follow and manageable objective-based gameplay loop that doesn’t aggravate.
Most of the pleasure derived from this game is simply in exploring all that you can and can’t climb. “Helping people” is just a cover; the real majesty is being a mouse and maneuvering the environment in a way humanity cannot. Coming into contact with little light-bulb creatures and shocking random inanimate objects are commendable set dressing.
How everything was situated environmentally was also nice to really dissect. Specific placement of everyday items and materials, situated around the village, tell a subtle story of how the townsfolk live their lives on the daily. Even on of the objectives within the demo, where you pick up people’s mail, pokes fun at the fact that no one wants to acknowledge coupons, bills, and other unwanted notifications. Quite fun to imagine what goes on during the more active hours.
Everything from the cheerful writing, appreciable French ambience, varied visuals, and environment scaling makes The Spirit and the Mouse something of a special package. One that, with all hope, doesn’t wear itself out by the time of a full release and other scenarios. Because if the demo is any indication, there may be a little room for error.
It did not take long for me to think to myself, “Hmm. Where am I supposed to go, exactly?” Of course, in the end, this ended up being my fault for not exploring. However, let me serve as a warning for others: explore everything. Even those far-off pathways, which seem to lead to nowhere. They might just lead somewhere.
For as fun as scaling buildings and steps are, it can be a little hard to gauge offhand what is and isn’t scalable. A couple times I found myself stuck not knowing how to progress, assuming something was too high for me to reach. Lo and behold, I actually could reach it. Experimentation is your best friend in this game; do not be like me and assume.
One thing that was a legitimate gripe was the tracking option they provide you if you’re stuck. You can go to a specific machine and, for a price, you can have a light shine down on where your next objective is. Well, I did this, and it told me, “Look to the sky,” so I did. I saw a sky. No lights. After fumbling around for a bit and eventually finding where I needed to go, I notice they had a big ray of light surrounding them, presumably from the tracking. Were the buildings blocking the ray?
This is especially interesting decision-wise because you can track objectives in the pause menu, and they give you an actual visual onscreen that tracks how far away you are from said objective. Why you couldn’t just do that, I’m unsure.
By the end, I was slightly burned out with going back and forth between travel points, randomly shocking buckets, and looking for more hidden goodies. Though I acknowledge some of this was my own ineptitude, I only hope that the full game does a good job of varietizing objectives and means of travel. One can only collect things and pick up mail so often before it loses its esteem.
Simple and refreshingly “quaint,” it’s only hampered by the hassle of transportation and potential repetition down the line. Otherwise, it exudes the kind of charm you’d find from a children’s picture book, harnessing the wonder of aiding people in fantastical ways. Should they continue to make the people as interesting as the set pieces, this could turn into a wonderfully majestic game. Let’s see how it fares when it’s slated to release later this year.
The Spirit and the Mouse has a demo you can play now on Steam. (Link under “Game Summary.”)
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Thank you for your time. Have a great timezone.