Windows Central Verdict
A charming and amusing way to spend a spare hundred hours managing your own bath house and meeting troublesome spirits. This is the kind of game that Xbox Game Pass is perfect at getting into the hands of players. Spirittea is a small and quirky but otherwise amazing adventure you shouldn't miss out on.
The city is surprisingly large, with plenty to explore.
The spirits and NPCs you encounter are creative and charming.
Over a hundred hours of playtime.
Some minor glitches when fishing, though a patch is on the way.
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I try to limit myself from getting excited about games, especially indies, because there's a lot of potential room for disappointment these days. However, Spirittea has had my heart since its initial reveal. I already have a soft spot for cozy and wholesome games as it is, but when we start to integrate what I like to call the "morbidly adorable" in with cozy and wholesome, then I am just sold. I can't help myself.
The premise of Spirittea blends those two sides of my personality nearly flawlessly, and my anticipation grew to a fever pitch in 2022 when the game was originally meant to be released. When it was delayed into 2023, I began to worry that I'd hitched my hopes to a game that could not deliver on my expectations.
A year later, with a full and successful release to Xbox Game Pass, I'm happy to report that Spirittea was absolutely worth the wait.
What is Spirittea?
Spirittea is a wholesome adventure where players create their own character as they board a bus to run off to a strange town. Once there, you're welcomed by the community, and a local farmer gives you a sample of her tea leaves. After brewing and drinking tea made from the special leaves, the player finds themselves in the company of a cat-like spirit named Wonyan.
With Wonyan's assistance, the player is able to see and communicate with the spirits who have gone rogue and are terrorizing the citizens of your new hometown. Solving the spirits' problems helps them shed their shadowy forms and remember their true selves. Once the spirits remember who they are, they become customers of the bathhouse that Wonyan entrusts you to care for. I hope you like washing towels.
Spirittea: Performance and stability
Spirittea is a labor of love by a lone developer, and there are certainly moments where that shines through. While I didn't experience any hard crashes, there were certainly a few bugs and glitches that would creep in during playtime, both on Xbox and PC. Most of them were small quality-of-life things, like the black loading screen before you could launch the game.
Others, like the bug that would cause you to get stuck after casting your fishing rod, were a bit more problematic. The fishing rod glitch in particular would make it so that your only choice was to force-crash the game, causing you to lose any progress made since the last time you had slept. In a game where random luck can send you on a wild goose chase for rare collectibles, the loss of progression or game time can be a harsh blow.
The developers and publishers behind the game have been very active on the Spirittea official discord and have been forthcoming about the update process. Xbox and Microsoft store-based PC games need to go through the Xbox certification process, which can take 5–10 days. The developer has decided the best course of action for performance updates on Xbox is to test them out on Steam first.
Steam updates are instant, so the Steam version of the game can be updated constantly without waiting for certification. As feedback on the Steam version is provided by the players, the developer can decide which updates are best to push through to console certification.
In the short time period since the game was released, a 1.5 update is already on the way that will fix some of Spirittea's more pressing issues. The black screen and fishing glitch, as well as quality-of-life improvements that the community has asked for, may all be a thing of the past by the time this review goes live.
Spirittea: Visuals and soundtrack
Spirittea has a distinct pixel art style that is comparable to what we see in other wholesome life sims, which is not much of a surprise given that Stardew Valley is an inspiration to the developer. The NPC portraits and designs of the spirits that you help are very well done, though there are a couple — I'm looking at you, Clarence — that are just a little off-putting. The same could be said for the pixel sprites of the player character and the NPCs. I think it may be the absence of a neck that is messing with me. That said, it's an extremely minor thing that you just accept and eventually ignore while in the actual throes of the game.
The soundtrack for Spirittea is composed by David Linares and features 47 beautiful instrumentals that match the tone and ambiance of the game's ever-rotating seasons. The music is both stunning and perfectly complimentary to the game. Thankfully, the soundtrack is also on Spotify, so you can listen to it anytime you just want to vibe.
Spirittea: Story and world
Spirittea begins with the player boarding a bus and heading off to a new life in a new town. Shortly after arriving, though, the player is introduced to townsfolk who are in a bit of disarray. A local offers the player a sampling of tea leaves, which has the unique effect of giving the player the ability to see spirits. The spirits, resembling shades, have forgotten who they were and are now stuck in loops where they torment the locals for forgetting about them.
Each spirit has a story, and the player can learn about those stories and what events occurred before the game began to uncover why the little village is in such a state.
There are multiple ways to engage with Spirittea. The player has a unique tea vision after they drink the tea sampler that a village gives them, which allows them to get a glimpse into the spirit world and communicate with the shades that are wreaking havoc. The spirits often have requests that need to be catered to before they will remember who they were, such as one last taste of a special soup. There are no time limits, and players can relax and approach the quests in any order.
Once a shade's quest is met and they remember who they were, they can now become a customer of your bathhouse. The bathhouse is the primary gameplay component for Spirittea, and it's where you'll spend a lot of your time. You'll need to wash the towels, sweep and dust, and maintain a fire using logs from a special root that grows back a limited number of times per day. The spirits that visit the bathhouse will occasionally have special requests for their stay, including scrub-downs, snacks, or special elixirs. You'll need to guide the spirits to their baths and be mindful of where you're seating your friends (and enemies.)
Like many of these slice-of-life sims, Spirittea offers a good variety of mini-games to help you pass the time in the world. There are bugs to collect, fish to be caught, and karaoke songs to play along to. Collectibles like bugs and fish have different variants available that change with the seasons.
Spirittea embraces its status as a cozy life sim, allowing you to manage things at your own pace. While things can become hectic in the bathhouse as the number of customers increases, there are ways to help mitigate the struggle by automating tasks. Developing friendships with the townsfolk gives you an opportunity to hire a helping hand at the bathhouse, allowing you to explore other tasks that the mystical building has to offer.
Spirittea: Accessibility and approachability
While Spirittea lacks an accessibility menu, many elements of the game are still very approachable overall. There is no voice acting, so all dialogue takes place within text boxes, which eliminates the need for speech subtitles. Sadly, there is no closed captioning, but many audio cues in the game are well paired with visual indicators.
The lack of audio dialog could be a problem for visually impaired gamers, however, especially those who would need the assistance of a reader for all that text. The on-screen text is large and typically part of a dialog box. There are some sequences where there is no stylized text box for the speech, but in these instances, there is a black semi-transparent text box that provides contrast.
One particular accessibility feature I would like to see added to Spirittea would be controller vibration or some other sort of feedback for the fishing minigame. Without feedback, you're entirely reliant on spotting a little black dot under your fishing pole's bobber to know when a fish has been hooked. Controller feedback and a visual on the screen, as well as a bell or chime sound, could go a long way to improving the fishing mechanic.
Spirittea: Final thoughts
If there's any one thing about Spirittea that struck me when it was released, it was just how dense the game actually is. I had played an alpha version of the game some time ago. While I quickly fell in love with the premise, I was concerned about the limited content that was available at the time. Mike Rose, the founder of Spirittea's publisher, No More Robots, shared a thread on Twitter recently about the effect of Game Pass on Spirittea's launch state.
The Game Pass deal gave Spirittea's lone developer the confidence to delay the game's launch by a year. This was done in order to add more than a hundred hours worth of content that would have otherwise been left on the cutting room floor. In addition to the extra content at launch, the Game Pass deal also opened up the potential for the developer to continue to support the game with free content post-launch. We love to see a good game get even better, and I am already looking forward to spending even more time visiting with wayward spirits in a little bathhouse on the hill.
$20 $18 on Xbox
Become a speaker for the spirits who are making life miserable for the townsfolk of a small rural village. Help the shades remember who they are, and they'll reward you by becoming loyal customers of your bathhouse in this delightful, cozy game that feels like the love child between Stardew Valley and Spirited Away.
Cole is the resident Call of Duty know-it-all and indie game enthusiast for Windows Central. She's a lifelong artist with two decades of experience in digital painting, and she will happily talk your ear off about budget pen displays.