After six years of development, The Arcade Crew (publisher) and 1P2P (developer) unveiled Young Souls, a spunky new beat-em-up available on Xbox GamePass or direct purchase. After about 14 hours, completing the campaign and achieving a Gamerscore of 610, I feel ready to share my thoughts about it.
Young Souls is a dungeon-crawler, incorporating role-playing elements and the ingredients of a 2.5D brawler.
The aesthetic is stylish and unique, with a strong focus on shades of purples and pinks that do it well, and a richly detailed animated appearance. That, and the fact it allowed players the opportunity to enjoy Young Souls with local coop were among the driving factors for why I was drawn to Young Souls (and the simple fact it was on Xbox GamePass didn’t hurt either).
In Young Souls, Jenn and Tristan are two siblings who find themselves lost in the world, until a scientist adopts and brings them to his small port town. They’re more than a little reluctant, deterred by their past experiences and not yet ready to trust him. Their attitudes can best be described as that of rebellious youth, with edgy dialogue masking wounded souls. Their live in Portsbourgh is mostly pedestrian, that is, until the scientist is abducted and they find themselves tasked with navigating portals to another world, in an attempt to save the world.
The gameplay sees the siblings progress through dungeons, gaining experience and new weaponry, armors, and abilities that will help them defeat smaller enemies, as well as any boss battles they may encounter in their journeys.
Everything about Young Souls is fairly straightforward and familiar, but that isn’t necessarily a complaint. Personally, I enjoyed myself throughout my playthrough and found myself interested in either a sequel or whatever may be instore for everyone involved hereafter.
I will admit, however, that I had a lot of problems with Young Souls that make it feel like a foundation to build from and not the achieving of the potential they have.
Like I said, the dialogue sees Tristan and Jenn cussing and acting both bratty and with well intent. This in itself isn’t something I’m bothered by (although, from a marketing standpoint, I found Young Souls felt like a videogame that, aside from its dialogue, could have appealed to a younger demographic), however, it is the way they correspond with the other characters that makes it feel … first-drafty? Cheesy? Or, perhaps, simply, weak? What it reminds me a lot of is a series targeting a young demographic. The way Tristan and Jenn one-up the adults or try to pass clichés off as insightful, only for everyone around them to mostly come off like afterthoughts – it all feels … weak. I am endeared to Tristan and Jenn from a visual standpoint and even an empathetic standpoint, but I never felt like I became invested narratively in either of them as people.
Likewise, the story is a mixed-bag as well. I can see and appreciate some of what they did, of how it tries to offer insight on both sides of war (the age-old quip of “everyone’s a hero in their own story” comes to mind), and that in itself, I think shines through with Young Souls. However, the storyline of Tristan and Jenn’s reluctant relationship with the scientist feels both undercooked and thrown together. The story beats can be telegraphed from a mile away and every time they come, they feel unearned and like more time should have been spent on their development.
I had a lot of fun with Young Souls’ gameplay. As I mentioned, it feels straightforward and familiar, and yet, has enough uniqueness to it that it amounts to a memorable experience by the end. Through the use of special abilities and different weapon choices, I found my wife and I were both able to play in ways that were unique to our own playstyles. I, for instance, often am more of an aggressor, whereas she is more at a distance and indirect in her attack (and somehow, someway always manages to find a power with a special NPC helping them – this time, it was a spider). The shared special attack was a simple addition that offered a new dimension to gameplay, with us both strategically navigating the dungeon in-order to stun our enemy. Likewise, the ability to revive your partner made it a truly immersive, challenging experience.
The 2.5D perspective did, admittedly, lead to some frustrations throughout. This was about what you might expect – the 2.5D component and the way the characters are animated (flat-characters on a 2.5D plane) made it sometimes difficult to know when your attack would connect or see you swatting at the air. Likewise, there were sometimes instances where too much was happening on the screen to pinpoint your character within the chaos.
Young Souls is an indie videogame, which so often means less resources to go around. Thus, I try to be empathetic when I write about certain shortcomings. Still, I encountered a handful of glitches through. I had more than a handful of crashes, instances where one character would glitch off the screen, or articles of clothing would not accompany me from portal to portal. None of it was game-breaking, thankfully, but it did make me feel apprehensive throughout, like I was playing a ticking timebomb, so to speak. Hopefully, they are able to patch some of these glitches later on.
Young Souls may not live up to what I hoped for it, but I think that speaks volumes to what I think it had the potential to be. It is a fun cooperative experience with compelling gameplay, but finds itself bogged down by its weak narrative and issues with functionality. I would recommend it to players searching for a cooperative experience, but with the mentioned caveats.