28th Mar2015

‘Spirits of Xanadu’ Review (PC)

by Paul Metcalf


If there is anything as creepy as an old abandoned house it has to be a spaceship floating at the edge of the universe and a crew that appears to have simply vanished. Spirits of Xanadu puts you as the player in the position of salvaging the ship and investigating what, if anything has gone wrong…

Alien and 2001: A Space Odyssey are two movies that prove how ships like the Xanadu can easily fit in being a haunted house style setting and while the research ship may not be as dark and Gigeresque as Alien’s Nostromo it still manages to have its own character. As an indie game Spirits of Xanadu takes its graphical inspiration from games such as Deus Ex and System Shock, not surprisingly going for that old school style that pays homage to those games. With a love shown for eighties sci-fi and horror there are references around the abandoned corridors just waiting for the player to discover.

With the start of Spirits of Xanadu the first thing you notice is the lack of help, with only a few hints given to what keys to press on the keyboard and what the mouse buttons do, a gamepad can be used too if that is your preferred style of play with similar hints given. Other than that there isn’t much guiding, I found myself missing the briefcase that gives you a flashlight and your mission briefing on my first attempt on the game, finding myself searching around in the blind for a while until I figured out what I’d missed and rectified the situation.

The main task for the player is to explore the ship, find out what happened to the crew and to get it in working order so that a course can be set for Earth. You’ll soon find by the use of audio logs, book pages and incident reports something strange has happened on the ship. Through discovering where all of this evidence has been hidden you’ll soon piece together the story, though don’t expect the plot to be simple, this is where the main interest for the game comes from, its cryptic nature.

For the more adventurous who want to get a fire space guns there are plenty of robots moving around the ship, and a few turrets placed around to make your job harder. You’ll find some weaponry hidden around the Xanadu that make destroying your metallic foes easier, though for those who want to bypass these battles setting the difficulty level to peaceful will make sure the robots tend to ignore your existence. Show aggression though and they will fire back.

There are three endings to Spirits of Xanadu, and so far I’ve managed to find two of them. The easiest ending comes with little challenge but the other two are more cryptic, based on clues around the spaceship. I won’t mention how to get them, as the clues are there to be found. Spoiling this element of the game is just detrimental to your enjoyment.

Spirits of Xanadu is a short game, but once you complete it you do tend to have a nagging feeling that you need to go back in to find more of the secrets that the ship holds and the other endings. For fans of indie games who want plenty of references to games from the past and the eighties Spirits of Xanadu definitely knows what this audience wants. Some won’t like the lack of hand guiding when it comes to any help in the game, others may not like the graphical style, but for those whose interest is piqued by what they hear of the game Spirits of Xanadu is waiting to be discovered and well worth a try.

***½  3.5/5

Spirits of Xanadu is out now on PC, Mac and Linux.

Review originally posted on PissedOffGeek

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