The Spirit and the Mouse (2022)
Ever since Untitled Goose Game came out, we've shifted into the era of indie games where you play as a little animal out about town. I'm all about this genre (I'm looking forward to the cat game, the raccoon game, and the squirrel game) so when I heard about The Spirit and the Mouse I knew I'd pick it up right away. The Spirit and the Mouse is a puzzle adventure game about a little mouse who gains electrical powers and helps people in a small town. The Spirit and the Mouse is charming in its premise, but is a little repetitive and slow in its gameplay and exploration.
You start the game as a little white mouse, trying to survive a stormy night in the streets of a town in France called Sainte-et-Claire. After being chased by a cat, the little mouse walks around the town and hears unhappy townsfolk dealing with the effects of the storm. The mouse wonders what she can do to help these people. She witnesses a woman's favorite scarf be taken by the wind, flung to the top of an electrical tower. Determined, the little mouse begins to journey towards the big pole and climbs to the top of it, hoping to retrieve the scarf. She gets to the top and grabs the scarf, only to be suddenly struck down by a powerful thunder. The mouse miraculously survives, although her fur has changed color, and wakes up to a strange voice. She meets Lumion, a grumpy "Spirit Guardian" who appears to be made up of electricity. Lumion explains that he and the other guardians are sent to help humans, but since his powers have been accidentally transferred to her, she needs to take on the role of helping the people of Sainte-et-Claire and restore Lumion to his original form. The mouse then goes on a mission to help the local people who have been affected by the powerful storm.
Initially when I saw the art style in the trailer, I thought it was a good mix of realistic and stylized. It's a fairly real looking town but there's sparkly electrical spirits about. However, I found that although the environments looked good, the design for Lila the mouse could've been a little better. With the game having a photo mode and the mouse being the focus of the story, I was surprised that the mouse kinda looked weird in some shots and angles. Regardless, the photo mode was still a lot of fun and the filters made for some really great weird pictures. I also have somewhat mixed feelings about the music in The Spirit and the Mouse. It's very classical, soothing and slow, but perhaps too much so. It almost put me to sleep when I was just exploring around town. There were a few moments of high action and silly moments in the game, but for the most part the music made the entire journey feel very mellow and same-y.
The photo mode is a lot of fun. I spent a good bit of time messing with it to make really silly photos.
As Lila the mouse, you have the ability to run, climb, squeak, and use your electrical powers to shock items and transport yourself through electrical lines. The game was good about teaching you how to play, and allows you squeak whenever you want (I appreciated getting an achievement for squeaking a whole lot). When you climb up to high places you can still fall, and although you can't take actual damage the mouse flinches like it was a painful fall. Much of the challenge of the game comes from a collectibles challenge where you try to find every blue light bulb hidden in the game. I tried to grab as many of these as I could, but as I'm not much of a collectible hunter I didn't really feel motivated to go out of my way to get all of them. However, I collected them enough to be able to gain items such as maps to areas and camera mode upgrades. One thing I really enjoyed is the ability to put on little hats, especially since more would become available as your progress through the game. I also like exploring little corners of town and climbing to the highest point - it's fun to see from the down-low perspective of a little mouse and then climb all the way up to see the whole town. I just wish there'd been more things to do and find outside your main quest. You don't actually interact with any humans, you only hear their conversations from outside and help them. Even though it's nighttime after a storm, it felt eerie that not one single person would be outside their home the entire night.
The Spirit and the Mouse feels like a story out of a children's storybook. I think it's really wholesome and cute, but it just wasn't exactly what I expected. I thought playing as a mouse, I'd get to do mouse things like scurry around, find food, and sneak into places. There was a little more story to it than I expected, which is good, but also makes the gameplay a little less freeform. The idea is that this mouse really wants to "help people", which is really sweet, but just like... it felt like a stretch to make a mouse care that some guy wants to watch an episode of his favorite TV show? The problems to fix are fairly small for the most part. I had a little bit of a hard time getting on board with the premise. The addition of the electric spirits (called Kibblins) explains this idea of guardians with a role to help people, but they really only help people in one way: by fixing the electricity. It's like a world where there's no electricians, just little Kibblins fixing everything. However, the Kibblins are silly and fun, and generally their little mini-game quests were good at breaking up the repetition of the game's format.
I feel that I'm being a little cynical about The Spirit and the Mouse, but I should clarify that I still think it was a fun time, it just didn't meet the expectations I had for it. It feels like they really wanted to make a feel-good fairy tale game in a charming small French town, but they also somewhat marketed it as a silly game where you get to be a little squeaky mouse running around. Regardless, I enjoyed my time exploring, taking photos, squeaking, and doing little Kibblin quests, so I would still recommend it. If you like wholesome slow-paced story games, collectibles, and exploring around with relaxing music, it's definitely a good one to check out.
The Spirit and the Mouse is available on PC and Switch
Played on: PC (Steam Deck)
Playtime: 5 hrs