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You’re not going to be able to put Xbox Game Pass’ new Stardew Valley-like down

This town of troublesome spirits and charming townsfolk arrives on Xbox Game Pass today, so chop chop.

A town is showing during the fall season with the Spirittea logo and VG247's review score over it
Image credit: Cheesemaster Games/VG247

I was fortunate enough to spend most of my weekend playing Spirittea; not by choice, but mainly because I couldn’t put this whimsical rural-life sim down. Simply put, Cheesemaster Games has developed something beautiful that most Stardew Valley fans will be enamoured by.

Inspired equal parts by Stardew Valley itself and plenty of spirit-themed anime and manga (namely, Spirited Away), you’ll find yourself winding up in a quaint, rural town where peculiar goings-on are rampant. It soon becomes clear that these strange events are being caused by lost spirits roaming the town, and as their latest inhabitant, it obviously just so happens that you’re able to see them.

Your adventure begins with the accidental discovery of Wonyan after drinking a mystical cup of tea. Wonyan is a cat-like spirit with plenty of cattitude and a grand knowledge of the spiritual realm, and they teach you about the town’s bathhouse - a haven for lost spirits to rest and recuperate - and how it has ended up in complete disarray. You’ll then get to work running the place, inviting spirits inside to rest their bones (or plasma, or whatever ghostly gunk they’re made from), and rebuilding the bathhouse to its former glory.

Managing the bathhouse and keeping its customers happy is far from all you’ll spend your time doing, though. When you’re not running around the bathhouse drying towels and keeping the water hot, you’ll be discovering new spirits as you adventure around this picturesque pixel-art town. Wherever trouble or mischief strikes, there’s another lost spirit to discover and invite into our bathhouse; and as Wonyan keeps reminding us, more customers means more money!

The player stands inside a fully-upgraded bathhouse full of spirits in Spirittea
Image credit: Cheesemaster Games

And with enough money, you can upgrade your bathhouse, purchase new furniture and food, and more. There’s a bicycle store so you can instead ride around the town, shops for those stamina-refilling snack runs, and even a karaoke bar with a patience-testing minigame to have fun with. Around the town, you’ll also find dozens of inhabitants to get to know and befriend day to day; you can even go on certain activities with them, which is a feature I never knew Stardew Valley was missing until now.

Fancy hitting up the karaoke bar and singing a duet with Moby? Or going bug-catching with Ling? These are activities you’ll find yourself doing solo, anyway, as you strive to catch all kinds of bugs and fish to donate to shrines - eerily reminiscent of Stardew’s Community Center - so it’s nice to be able to do these activities in the company of townsfolk, too. What’s better is that each townsfolk has their own likes and dislikes, too, so you’ll have to pay attention when getting to know them if you want to see your relationship soar.

The 'Friends' page in Spirittea, showing how your relationships with characters have progressed
Image credit: Cheesemaster Games

While Spirittea has a satisfying, addictive gameplay loop that makes it very hard to put down, there are two things that stood out to me, making the game as cosy and as homely as it is. The first is its music, which ranges from upbeat and lively to light and relaxing at the drop of a hat. I’ll often play simulation games with my own Spotify playlist blaring, but I found myself leaving Spirittea’s tracks twinkle even when I’d walked away from my PC.

As Spirittea’s charming music fills your ears and you hunt for new spirits to invite into your bathhouse, you’ll also find yourself taking in and interacting with the environment often, and there’s so much to interact with. Even after a few hours with the game, I was finding new, albeit small, things to interact with and secrets to uncover. Exploring the apartment buildings and school was a real delight too, with so much detail poured into each room that you can really learn a thing or two about this town - and its delightful characters - just by looking at where they live and work. Dialogue is fruitful too; it’s far from generic or boring, with everyone having their own distinct personalities that unfold as you get to know them more.

The player rides their bicycle through Downtown, past the sushi shop and karaoke bar in Spirittea
Image credit: Cheesemaster Games

There’s just so much to love about Spirittea, and I’m very glad to be able to say that this adorable rural-life sim has been well worth the wait. As fans of Stardew Valley patiently wait on ConcernedApe’s upcoming game, Haunted Chocolatier, I hope to see plenty give Spirittea a go. It’s certainly one way to bridge the gap while we wait, but you might be pleasantly surprised by just how lovely - and truly addicting - this game and its host of unique spirits and townsfolk are. I mean, I would genuinely live in this adorable town where realities collide, if I could.

My only qualm with Spirittea is with how I initially chose to play. I tested the game on PC via Steam, and its PC controls leave something to be desired, as they’re quite hard to get to grips with. After plugging a controller in, moving around and enjoying the game became a lot more intuitive, so I highly recommend playing with one if you’re not playing on console.

Spirittea becomes available today on Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, PC via Steam, and Nintendo Switch. It’s also available for free to subscribers of Xbox Game Pass.

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