Spirits and Spells Impressions

We check out DreamCatcher's first GameCube game.

Spirits and Spells is the first GameCube release from DreamCatcher Interactive. The game is a third-person adventure that puts you in the role of one of two children who must rescue their friends from a mad scientist. The game will feature platforming and puzzle elements, and it will place an emphasis on cooperative gameplay. We recently checked out an early build of the game to see how it's coming together.

The game's story, told with a storybook-style combination of still screens and narration, opens on Halloween night, when a group of children set out to look for house in a nearby forest rumored to be full of treats. Unfortunately, as is the case with most of the mysterious houses you'll find in a forest, all is not as it seems. Upon entering the house, the children are attacked by the minions of a mad scientist. These evil creatures steal the children's souls, turning them to stone. Two members of the group who had fallen behind--a young girl named Alicia and a boy named Greg--find their friends in the wake of the attack. Dismayed by the turn of the events, the pair heads out in search of their friends' souls.

When the game begins, you'll take control of Alicia, who is promptly greeted by a helpful demon who offers pointers on the basics of the gameplay. As you progress through the first level, the demon will pop up regularly to clue you in on different aspects of the game. The game's structure is pretty linear--you'll simply move forward, defeating enemies and solving puzzles on your way to the end of each level. The game's mechanics aren't quite so simple, though, as you'll have to switch between Alicia and Greg to progress. While both characters have basic attacks, they also have special abilities tied to their Halloween costumes. Alicia's witch costume lets her travel among witches and trigger ice magic points, while Greg's devil costume lets him mingle with imps and trigger fire magic points. You'll have to collect a certain number of magic crystals, called sparks, to switch characters, which becomes a key mechanic as you progress.

The graphics in the game are still coming together and were a little rough around the edges in the build we played. The game's look consists of standard dark forests and caves and character models that look like storybook drawings. Greg, Alicia, and the rest of the game's cast are made up of a modest number of polygons, and the environments follow suit, with fairly small areas that feature little touches such as lighting and mist effects. The end result is fairly solid in terms of appearance, but the graphics engine's performance could use some tweaking, as the frame rate and camera in our build were inconsistent.

From what we've seen, Spirits and Spells is shaping up to be a game that is geared toward younger gamers. The graphics are still rough, but the gameplay is solid enough. Hopefully DreamCatcher will be able to polish the game up before it ships later this year.

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