Now that the Google Stadia is ostensibly on the decline, it seems likely that we will get the return of plenty of small indie exclusives that never got the fanfare they were hoping for. This gives them a chance to shine in a bigger player pool but also makes them compete against a much wider range of games. Young Souls, like the Stadia itself, is well worth the look but may not have what it takes to hang around long term.
To give you the elevator pitch, Young Souls is an RPG / Beat 'em up set through the eyes of orphaned twins Jenn and Tristan. Shortly after the start of the game, they realize they may be able to punch, kick, and stab their way into a mysterious plot threatening to tear apart their little town. Not very well-liked and known for skipping off school, Jenn and Tristan are outcasts, taken in by an equally isolated scientist.
They are bored with their life, looking for something more, when the scientist disappears, leaving nothing but his inventions behind. Spotting the clues, they stumble upon a machine linking their universe to one filled with marauding goblins. You have to go in, gear up, and take down the threat at its core.
Though this initial plot feels ripped straight out of a young adult novel, the way it characterizes the twins gives some depth to the whole thing. Starting out as caricatures, they grow and change, ready to take on the world in front of them. Young Souls has a rather jovial tone to it that the twins embody well. It is brash and often over the top but in a way it mostly gets away with. You feel like you can take on the world and can do just that.
Young Souls' combat is rather simplistic by design. You can compare it to pretty much any beat 'em up but I think Castle Crashers is a good place to start. Building on the staples of the genre, it's a bit more floaty and stat upgrades, new weapons, and abilities shake up the gameplay just enough to retain some interest through its runtime.
This being said, limited movesets often left me repeating the same tactics just because it worked. This repetition can feel a little tedious. It would have been nice to see more experimentation in the moment-to-moment combat.
Young Souls has a pretty rudimentary leveling and upgrade system but the best thing about it is being able to customize each twin to have certain characters nail certain abilities. Where one may be quite tanky and focus on magic, another bashes goblins the hardest.
Every time you get enough exp from exploring the goblin world, you have to come back and rest in your bed to level up. This then increases your resistance, strength, and stamina, affecting how much damage you take, how much you do, and how many times you can roll in a row, respectively.
Every few levels, you are given a ticket to the gym, allowing you to put an extra focus into any of those three. While your twins won't be wildly different, they are often different enough to make playing with them feel unique. You can then further hone your build with unique weaponry, armor, and skills. This never feels all that in-depth but it adds a nice extra sense of progression to the gameplay.
If you play the game single-player, you can swap between the twins on the fly, having access to individual health pools and equipment. Despite this customization, Young Souls doesn't feel like an RPG first, instead feeling like a beat 'em up with RPG elements. The storytelling is linear, the game itself isn't all that huge and progress is kept at a steady pace.
The visuals go from great to good, almost always fitting the atmosphere it tries to hold. It's cartoony but not off-putting, fun but not insincere. Animation is clearly something the team has given particular attention to and it pays off for the most part. Where some odd glitches can get in the way, the flow of combat normally looks pretty good. The game is infused with these red and purple tones, giving it a very distinct look - something I'm quite fond of.
This being said, the somewhat shallow leveling system and combat that refuses to really grow leaves the latter half of the game feeling a slight bit tedious. This is only heightened by the fact that many of the arenas, and even some of the bosses feel very similar mechanically. With so much of the game doing the same thing, you are often rewarded when you stick to the same tactic over and over again. It still looks nice and plays decently but it starts to feel like a bit of a grind - an odd experience for a game that only lasts about ten hours.
Young Souls - Verdict
Young Souls is a game with lots of things I like. It can look pretty good whilst moving, the two central characters add a levity that can be quite enjoyable and the mix of beat 'em up and RPG can be pretty infectious initially. Unfortunately, many of its greatest points start to falter near the end as the shallowness of these systems colliding leaves a vacuum in the gameplay. While I still wanted to watch what was going on, my urge to actually play it dwindled a little too quickly. Though the twin's souls are bright, they don't last very long
TechRaptor reviewed Young Souls on PC with a code provided by the publisher. The game is also available on Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Google Stadia.
- Nice Art
- Good tone and atmosphere
- An interesting premise
- Not enough experimentation with combat
- Tedious enemy and area design
- Shallow upgrade systems