Spirits of Spring

App review by
Patricia Montic..., Common Sense Media
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Subtle message, stellar design teach empathy through play.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this app.

Educational Value

Kids can learn about empathy and bullying as they journey with Chiwatin. On the more subtle side, they can also learn about concepts such as metaphor (what do the animals represent? The changing seasons?) and think about how different situations in the game can be compared to real-life experiences. Spirits of Spring is a gorgeous, warm gaming experience that gives kids tools to think about friendship, bullying, and being human. 

Ease of Play

Chiwatin can be a little tough to control -- but that turns out to be part of the story. Less-experienced gamers may get frustrated in the meandering landscape.

Violence
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What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Spirits of Spring is a game that teaches kids about weathering bullying and learning empathy. Kids play as a Native American boy named Chiwatin, exploring four levels of a magical world filled with streams, trees, and animals, and they have to solve puzzles and challenges along the way. Although the narration and story don't explicitly lecture kids on any particular subject, clear messages about the importance of friendship emerge. Kids can happily play this game solo, but its impact will be greatest if kids and parents play together and discuss the story's themes and implications.

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What's it about?

SPIRITS OF SPRING follows a boy named Chiwatin and his friends Bear and Rabbit. Their world is threatened by bullying crows who destroy the spirit trees that preserve springtime. As the crows become more powerful and more present, permanent winter looms over the friends and their world. The characters face new tasks in each of the game's four levels, and Chiwatin must finally choose how to best address the crows and their bullying. 

Is it any good?

The game's great on the surface: Gameplay is fun and engaging, and it's challenging without being too hard. The rich images and sound design will keep kids engaged on their own, but it's the subtle, powerful messages that emerge slowly that make this game great. For example, it's clear early on that Chiwatin's movements can be a little tough to control, and it turns out that this isn't by accident. Bear and Rabbit's movements are significantly easier to control, and they use this to help Chiwatin; meanwhile, the crows and fox tease the boy for his clumsiness.

The depth of the game is subtle, giving kids lessons in friendship and bullying without being overt. There's an entire sequence of the game in which the soundtrack is the taunting, menacing laughter of the crows as Chiwatin flails through a complex level, and kids get a taste of the unnerving, anxious experience of being verbally bullied. Ultimately, the game succeeds on the surface because of its great visual and sound design, but its real success and emotional resonance stem from its thoughtful, powerful story about friendship in the face of bullying. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • If you had to sum up what this game is about, what would you say? What happens to Chiwatin in this story? Can you think of some examples of how this game relates to real life?

  • What does it mean to be a good friend? What does Chiwatin learn about friendship in this game? What did you learn about friendship?

  • Lots of things in this game seem symbolic, such as Permanent Winter and the crows' feathers that get stuck in Chiwatin's back and Bear's fur. What do you think these things represent? How might these things be related to themes in the story? 

  • In the game's final levels, Chiwatin gains powers from the fox and his body changes. Later, he confronts the crows and his body changes again. What do you think these changes represent? 

App details

For kids who love learning life skills

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