Spirit Roots has the air of a forgiving platformer - a game designed to ease you into its experience, giving you the time and space to breathe in the world that it's built for you. Sadly though, that's not the case.

Instead the game uses an old-fashioned progression system that can leave you frustrated, especially when you die close to the end of a level. And you will do that, because the controls here feel ever-so-slightly off.

It's just one of the ideas that the game throws into the mix that doesn't quite manage to stick. Instead of making the game feel fresh and original, they make it feel juddery and uninspired. And that's not the sort of thing we usually look for in our mobile gaming.

Root it out

The game sees you bouncing through a series of platforming challenges. From the outset you're going to feel like you've seen everything before. There are gold coins hanging in the air for you to grab, moving platforms, plenty of spikes, and a whole host of other concepts that are the bread and butter of the platforming genre.
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There are a few strange decisions here - for one thing you hit the bottom of platforms when you jump up. Most platformers give you a little bit of leeway here, letting you pass through the bricks a little to give yourself more chance to make your jumps.

Because of the familiar nature of the game, that's a bigger problem than it could have been. It's almost like Spirit Roots is punishing you for coming to it with a preconception, all the while encouraging that preconception to take hold.

Spirit Roots iOS review screenshot - Climbing some vines

It's not that Spirit Roots is bad or particularly broken, it's more that every step it takes to add something new to proceedings seems to add to the frustration. Sometimes the platforming will be flowing, and a single misstep can chuck you back half of the level. If that wasn't enough, getting hit three times will toss you back to the start of the level completely.

If Spirit Roots positioned itself as a hardcore platformer then that wouldn't be too much of a problem - instead it just feels like the game is being backhandedly cruel, which leads to the sort of annoyance that's going to see you putting the game down and playing something else.

There's some heart here, and it's obvious that the game is trying to recapture some of the thrills of an era of 2D platforming when the polish was high and the backgrounds were pastel, but it falls short where it really matters - the lack of balancing here throws everything off kilter, and exposes the underlying problems with the game.

It's got spirit

I really wanted to like Spirit Roots. I wanted it to be a platformer that I could wax lyrical about, a picture painted in rose-tinted hues of the past. Instead it's stuck in the middle of a crisis of identity, unsure whether it should be sharp or soft, angular or rounded, simple or difficult.

Instead of making a choice, it pitches itself somewhere in the middle - instead of being all things to everyone, it's a collection of mechanics stitched together in a muddled and far from entertaining way.

The truth of the matter is there are lots of better platformers available for mobile, and you'd be better off giving them your time and attention than this one.