Imagine you are a young troubled teen trapped in a small village with your sibling. Everyone around you views you as a delinquent and sees little worth in you. However, your angst and teenage vigour is going to be the saving grace of this town when the goblins attack.
That right there is essentially a sum up of what Young Souls is, it is an adventure into a mystical world while dealing with the difficulties of living in a foster home and managing life as a troubled teen. Well, at least that’s what it aims at anyway.
Young Souls follows the adventures of Jenn and Tristan, two teenagers who have been adopted by a man known only as of the professor. However, your guardian has a dark secret and is soon kidnapped by the goblin forces and it is up to you to rescue him. The story is a slow burn, with the opening showing the twins at their near peak, then dropping back to a few days earlier. I have to admit that I don’t really like this plot device much. While it can help to show the character's growth and what the player should aspire to be, it also feels jarring and makes the 20-30 minutes of the plot feel like a drag.
When things do start to get moving there is an interesting, and almost organic feeling, progression of the characters. The twins are initially really unlikeable and the goblins are all easy to plaster as being evil. However, each character slowly grows, the goblins especially show a much deeper mindset than initially believed. Granted, there are some issues, for instance, the story aims to be real with the character's reactions but the twins are almost disturbingly content to kill from the get-go. Not to mention their ‘wit’ leaves a lot to be desired.
Gameplay is a curious mix of a looter type Diablo game and a Streets of Rage style beat 'em up. Essentially players move through the map fighting small groups in closed-off arenas then receive loot as they go. The mission to save the professor takes a seat as soon the twins need to save other goblins to open up the market and buy new gear. The twins can be equipped with different weapons and armour and it becomes a game in itself to spec them to counter each other's weaknesses. There isn’t much to the combat, just hit the attack button, block at the right time, and charge up a super move. It’s mindless, but the bosses are all varied enough and the loot comes at a good enough pace that it doesn’t get dull.
Special mention should probably be made that this game was designed to be played two-player. There is the option to play one player and constantly switch between the teens, and it works initially, but it becomes much more of a hassle in the later game. I played it single-player and managed for a long time without help but later bosses and enemy numbers really made it a slog and constantly reviving yourself got dull real quick.
Visually the game is a bit of an odd duck. The design appears to be almost childlike but the animation is fluid and the differences in attacks and monsters help to stave off any boredom. However, special mentions should be made to the designs of women in this game border on the almost fetishist. Jenn and Tristan have clothing options in the real world and Jenn can’t wear any trousers that aren’t a form of short shorts. Meanwhile, many of the female characters appear to have their chests on full display with plunging cleavage.
There are a few problems with the game as well, but the most noticeable has to be the loading times. There is so much waiting in this game…so much. You walk to the basement, wait for the magic door to open, walkthrough to a new area, explore for a bit, then wait for the new door to log then walk through another door and wait for the loading screen etc etc etc. It is a big issue and kills the pacing and makes travelling back to the town to resupply a complete nightmare.
All that aside, I found myself having fun after a while. I’ll admit that the attitude of the leads initially made me disinterested but they slowly began to grow on me. The discussions between the evil goblin leadership helped to flesh out the characters I would be fighting and made some of the bosses' battles that little bit tenser. The speedy action during the fight sequences was interesting enough and visually impressive enough that I was hooked. Look, it has its issues, and some weird design choices, but Young Souls is still worth playing. So go kill those probably evil goblins and evil loading screens.
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