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Spirit - Stallion of the Cimarron: Forever Free

Score: 80%
ESRB: Everyone
Publisher: THQ
Developer: The Fizz Factor
Media: CD/1
Players: 1
Genre: Adventure

Graphics & Sound:

Spirit - Stallion of the Cimarron: Forever Free is an adventure game based on the movie Spirit. Using modest graphics, it attempts to tell a tale of the horse Spirit, as he nurses his love interest, the beautiful Rain, to health. He also works to free the rest of the horses from his herd, which have been captured and sold to various people in the game.

The visuals employed are attractive 2D graphics, and the detail can be lowered for low-end computers. The game ran slower on a 400MHz AMD K6 based computer, but looked fine and generally performed fine. On the faster 2GHz computer, the graphics were sharper, with a larger palette of colors, and the game play was smoother.

Animation is good, as Spirit can run, jump, and kick, and eagles, rabbits, and other creatures move about. They aren't as detailed as they could be, especially considering the fantastic graphics in the actual movie. Sound is good with plenty of ambient sound effects and music taken directly from the movie. Overall, for what is basically a kid's game, graphics and sound are well done.


Gameplay:

Forever Free is an adventure game where Spirit must perform quests for various people or for various animals in the game. Game play ranges from the many fed-ex style quests to little mini-games. The fed-ex quests are simple 'get an item from a particular location or person, and deliver it to another person' style tasks. Mini-games, on the other hand, allow Spirit to race the rabbit to gain carrots, which make him go faster, or race the eagle in order to gain feathers, which seem to have no purpose other than to collect them.

Arrow heads are spread throughout the various areas, sometimes in plain sight, othertimes in tree stumps, barrels, or other breakable items. Spirit can kick open the breakable items, and then accumulate the arrow heads and use them to buy items from a trader. Spirit can carry one additional item beyond the various arrow heads and feathers, but can use arrow heads to buy bags that can carry additional items.

Since Rain is sick and Spirit must help nurse her back to health, Spirit will occasionally have to bring apples, sugar cubes, or water to Rain, and over time she will heal completely. Meanwhile, Spirit will encounter the horses from his herd, and have to perform tasks for their owners in order to free each horse. Sometimes they are item related tasks where Spirit must just find items and bring them to the people or horse, and other times they are time related item tasks, where Spirit must bring items back to the person in a set amount of time.

Game play is generally interesting, and being able to upgrade Spirit's gallop speed through the mini-games helps pace the game, as certain areas are not available to Spirit until he can run fast enough to jump over a ravine or stream to get to them. An additional gaming element is involved, as the rustler that originally took Spirit and his companions, the evil Jake Riely, will occasionally station himself in one of the areas Spirit must travel through, and if Spirit falls into his flashlight's path, he will capture and attempt to break him. This provides another mini-game where Spirit must attempt to throw Jake Riely off his back.


Difficulty:

Reading is definitely required, so smaller kids who are not strong readers will need help from a parent or sibling in order to know what to do next. Jumping, and racing mini-games or time related quests can be difficult to complete, so these might be frustrating for younger kids.

There are no difficulty levels, and it would have been nice if some game play elements could be switched off to make the game easier. Also, if all of the dialogue in the game were spoken, that would make it more accessible to younger children.


Game Mechanics:

Navigating through the areas can be quite trying. You often find an open path, but unless you travel exactly where the developers mean for you to travel, you will not be able to make it through. So just moving Spirit becomes a matter of trial and error, although eventually you learn the lay of the land and it becomes less problematic.

The racing mini-games take many tries to finally learn the routes, and then it's a matter of having enough speed (carrots) in order to beat the eagle, or just following the right path. These can also be frustrating, though, as the paths seem to go through heavily populated areas, which makes the races quite difficult.

Overall, Forever Free is a pretty good game. It has nice graphics, good sound and music, and enough of the charm of the original movie to interest most kids, or even adults. It can be frustrating to play, though, and that's what keeps this reviewer from whole heartedly recommending it. But if your child has to have a Spirit game, and they are a good reader and have the patience to keep at it, they should enjoy it.


-Gordy, GameVortex Communications
AKA Gary Lucero

Minimum System Requirements:



Windows 98/ME/XP, 266MHz Pentium II, 64MB RAM, 8MB Video RAM, DirectX 8.1 compliant sound card, 8x CD-ROM.
 

Test System:



Windows XP Home, 2 GHz Pentium 4, 256MB RAM, GeForce 4 Ti4200 w/64MB RAM, SoundBlaster Live! Value, 32x DVD-ROM.

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