Young Souls plays two orphans who are used to being overlooked, but their adventure shouldn’t be ignored. This RPG brawler offers more depth than your usual beat ’em up thanks to skilful battles, pleasant adaptation and sharp writing.
Orphaned twins Jenn and Tristan feel like they are going up against the world. The mean, hot-headed teenagers are conditioned to fend for themselves and have made a name for themselves in their small town as restless outcasts. The only person they respect is the professor, their adoptive father, who opened his home to them a year earlier. The three enjoy a harmonious but emotionally uncomfortable relationship, but things take a strange turn when the twins discover that the professor has been kidnapped. Even stranger, a portal in his laboratory reveals an underground world inhabited by goblins whose leaders plan to attack their city. While this is a problem, Jenn and Tristan’s main concern is to save the professor and they are more than eager to pick up swords, shields and other weapons to help defeat goblins for goblins that stand in their way.
Young Souls’ solid writing offers players a personable cast and a more emotional story than expected. Watching Jenn and Tristan reflect on their actions and discover that both sides of a conflict can with good intentions commit atrocities brings welcome confidence. I also found it refreshing to see that a villain really cares about intruders systematically murdering his subjects. The twins feel serious and relatable instead of one-dimensional edgelords, especially when wondering if they’re ready to call the professor “Dad”.
Kicking Goblin Butt Rocks thanks to the fluidity of combat and the powerful feedback from landing strikes. It doesn’t matter if you use daggers, swords, hammers or heavy axes, string combos and air juggling baddies feel great. The block and parry window of time feels inconsistent, which is frustrating, but a successful parry creates a satisfying slow motion effect. Upgradable side arms add extra depth, like a bow, a screen jump teleportation spell, bombs to extinguish mobs and, my favorite, a chain that pulls enemies towards you or vice versa. Young Souls may not be out of shape, but it’s an absolute blast to play.
Goblins pose a bigger threat than the average beat ’em up fodder. They often dodge, block, and parry, which is a pleasant challenge that keeps me from mindlessly swinging my weapon. I was pleasantly surprised at the number of times I had to consider my offense rather than just hitting the attack button, especially against bosses. A few enemy types are annoying (shield-wielding spearmen block way too often), but Young Souls brings the fight the best way possible. I encourage seasoned players to choose the difficulty level recommended by the developer.
Playing with a buddy is probably ideal, but unfortunately, co-op is only local. Still, I’m impressed with how much fun it is to play Young Souls alone. A great tag team system allows you to quickly switch between siblings at the push of a button, with which you can set up cool combo chains. This is great for saving dramatic fractions of a second as each sibling has their own health bar and a limited number of revives. I like the fighting game strategy behind constantly getting on and off to give the other twin time to relax while you mix up your offense.
Jenn and Tristan play identically at first, but that changes in a fun way as each has their own loadout. Weapons and armor fundamentally change their style of play depending on their weight and type. For example, I had Jenn emphasize quick attacks and evasions while Tristan became my deadly tank. The game is best when you have two different twins protecting your base against all threats, but also having them both play similar is a valid strategy. My Jenn’s faster build did better against a slow boss, so doubling that strategy helped me finish her faster.
The structure of Young Souls resembles a compressed, run-based dungeon crawler. You fight your way through rooms full of enemies to earn treasure, resources and keys to unlock new zones and chests. The level design is largely straightforward. The game mixes things up with boss rush challenges and encounters with a legendary warrior who rewards a new type of weapon every time she is defeated. In the most imaginative level, players compete against ghosts that you can only kill with a certain weapon. However, the weapon leaves you vulnerable to a one-hit kill. Young Souls can stand changing his explorations so often that most of the levels feel too mundane. On the plus side, tracking back to snap any item is a breeze thanks to a flexible fast travel system, plenty of checkpoints, and the fact that the map marks locked chests. Young Souls is possibly the airiest game that is 100 percent complete in some time.
Between dungeon runs, you’ll ride your moped around town selling items and buying outfits, including Buff Guarantee sneakers. You can even go to the gym for simple yet fun mini-games to improve the twins’ physical characteristics. However, warping home to level up is a bit of an annoyance, as is the fact that you can’t equip combat gear in the human world.
As the kind hearted professor learned, give Jenn and Tristan a chance and they will impress you in several ways. Young Souls is an extraordinary adventure not to be missed if you are looking for the next great game to tackle with a friend or if you are looking for a quality RPG brawler on your own.