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Spiritle – Review

If you’ve ever played the Memory card game where you flip over cards to try and make pairs, then you’ll understand Spiritle in a heartbeat. This free to play digital board game takes that premise and adds in RPG battle elements to give it a mild strategic twist.

You’ll choose a character to play from one of four elements and place them on a randomly generated board of hex tiles. Each tile is faced down and as you move you’ll flip the tile to reveal the landscape underneath. The object of the game is to be the last character standing and up to 4 players will be battling it out to stay alive. You’ll do this by matching pairs of terrain, so if you flip a forest tile, you’ll want to match it with the other forest tile. Doing so allows you to attack any other opponent of your choice, damaging them and reducing their health. This keeps going, across multiple boards, until there is only one character left and they are declared the winner.

Flip the tile, guess the pair. The small maps are a problem as it tilts the game towards luck not skill.

What is essentially a memory game is somewhat undermined by the small scale of the boards you’ll play on. I don’t think I’ve seen a board with more than 24 tiles on, meaning 12 pairs at most. This means its more luck than skill because as soon as you flip the second card of a pair, the next player always grabs it. If you do match a pair, you get another turn and that’s critical at the end of a board because you should get a double attack in. I’d have preferred bigger boards to actually push the memory skills a bit.

The other issue Spiritle brings along is the characters themselves. Some have a base attack score of two points, others have seven. Since they have the same health roughly, why would you ever choose the first character? In order to add variety, each character can bring two skills into battle that have a cooldown. Some are far more useful than others, such a proximity attack on anyone nearby. Other attacks like revealing a random single tile to everyone playing has very limited use. Characters unlock different skills through repeated play so you can customise them a bit but ultimately most damage is done by pair matching (as it should) so I’d always pick the one with the best base damage.

Spiritle should be commended for being fully functional as a free to play title at launch – with local play available to all.

For a free to play game at launch, it was great to see servers working well and games matching quite easily. One thing that will need sorting is the lack of ways to boot someone whose AFK as it brings an online game to a crawl. The pace of Spiritle is quite slow already as the game wants to show off its admittedly lovely graphics. I do think it may need to speed itself up a tiny bit though to keep players engaged.

As its free to play, there are microtransactions but these seem to be geared towards more cosmetic things rather than levelling characters up to have more skills to choose from. The actual shop wasn’t working though! In a game so luck dependant, I hope the developers allow peoples ability to memorise things lead the way, not a pay to win philosophy and so far that seems to be the case. Interestingly, you do earn in game coins for matching pairs in each battle and you can spend a move visiting an RNG shop to upgrade your character for that battle. You can upgrade your base damage, buy health potions and reduce skill cooldowns. This feels like a future microtransaction path in waiting but we shall see.

Spiritle is pretty to look at and sounds great too. It is largely playable for free offline against some AI but you’ll only unlock additional skills and characters through online play and grinding. I did find myself growing a bit weary of Spiritle’s small maps and lack of strategy quite quickly but the idea is a sound one. It just needs some other ways to spice up the gameplay so it feels more skill based, less luck based.

Final Thoughts
Pretty but thin gameplay loop leaves me feeling this is more a game of luck rather than a game of memory.
Memory the card game: The Battle Edition
Lovely artwork and sound design.
Paid microtransactions are more cosmetic than tilting the balance of play, which is a good thing.
Boards are too small - so much so you aren't really testing your memory. 4 Players make it too crowded and over too quickly. 2v2 co-op is not much better.
Characters are very unbalanced.
No way to boot AFK players in online mode, making the game feel painfully slow at times.

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