Young Souls stars two orphans who are used to being overlooked, but you shouldn’t ignore their adventure. This RPG brawler sports more depth than your run-of-the-mill beat ‘em up thanks to slick combat, enjoyable customization, and sharp writing. Whether you’re cutting down monsters alone or alongside a buddy, brawler connoisseurs should take notice.
Orphaned twins Jenn and Tristan feel like they’re up against the world. The foul-mouthed, hot-headed teens are conditioned to fend for themselves, earning a reputation as troublemaking outcasts in their small town. The only person they respect is the Professor, their adoptive father who opened his home to them a year prior. The three enjoy a harmonious though emotionally awkward relationship, but things take a turn for the weird when the twins discover the Professor has been kidnapped. Even stranger, a portal in his laboratory reveals an underground world inhabited by goblins whose leader plans to assault their town. While that’s a problem, Jenn and Tristan’s primary concern is rescuing the Professor, and they are more than eager to pick up swords, shields, and other weapons to cut down goblin after goblin standing in their way.
Young Souls’ solid writing treats players to a likable cast and a more emotionally charged story than expected. Seeing Jenn and Tristan ponder over their actions and discover that both sides of a conflict can commit atrocities with good intentions brings welcome self-awareness. I also found it refreshing to see a villain genuinely care that invaders are systemically murdering his subjects. The twins feel earnest and relatable instead of one-dimensional edgelords, especially when asking themselves if they’re ready to call the Professor “dad.”
Kicking goblin butt rocks thanks to combat’s fluidity and the impactful feedback from landing blows. It doesn’t matter if you’re using daggers, swords, hammers, or heavy axes, stringing combos and air-juggling baddies feels great. The timing window for blocks and parries feels inconsistent, which is frustrating, but a successful parry triggers a satisfying slow-motion effect. Upgradable sub-weapons add further depth, such as a bow, a screen-hopping teleportation spell, mob-clearing bombs, and, my favorite, a chain that yanks enemies towards you or vice versa. Young Souls might not break the mold, but it’s an absolute blast to play.
Goblins pose a more significant threat than the average beat ’em up fodder. They often evade, block, and parry, presenting an enjoyable challenge that kept me from mindlessly swinging my weapon. I was pleasantly surprised at how often I had to consider my offense instead of just mashing the attack button, especially against bosses. A few enemy types are annoying to deal with (shield-wielding spearmen block way too often), but Young Souls brings the fight in the best way. I encourage seasoned players to choose the developer’s recommended difficulty.
Playing alongside a buddy is probably ideal, but co-op is local only, unfortunately. Still, I’m impressed with how much fun Young Souls is to play alone. An awesome tag team system allows you to quickly swap between siblings at a button press which you can use to set up cool combo chains. This is great for making dramatic split-second saves since each sibling has their own health bar and a limited number of revives. I like the fighting game strategy behind constantly tagging in/out to allow the other twin recovery time while mixing up your offense.
Jenn and Tristan initially play identically, but that changes in fun ways since each has their own loadout. Weapons and armor fundamentally alter their playstyles depending on their weight and type. For example, I had Jenn emphasize swift attacks and evasion while Tristan became my death-dealing tank. The game is at its best when you have two distinct twins to cover your bases against all threats, but having them both play similarly is a valid strategy, too. My Jenn’s speedier build fared better against a slow-moving boss, so doubling up on that strategy helped me take it down quicker.
Young Souls’ structure resembles a condensed run-based dungeon crawler. You’ll battle your way through rooms of enemies to earn treasure, resources, and keys to unlock new zones and chests. Level design is largely straightforward to a fault. The game mixes things up with boss rush challenges and encounters against a legendary warrior who rewards a new weapon type each time she’s defeated. The most imaginative level pits players against ghosts that you can only kill using a particular weapon; however, the weapon renders you vulnerable to a one-hit kill. Young Souls can stand to shake up its exploration like this more often as most levels feel too mundane. On the plus side, backtracking to nab every item is a breeze thanks to a flexible fast-travel system, plentiful checkpoints, and the fact that the map marks locked chests. Young Souls may be the breeziest game to obtain 100 percent completion in some time.
In between dungeon runs, you’ll zip around town on your moped to sell items and buy outfits, including buff-granting sneakers. You can even hit the gym to complete simple but enjoyable exercise mini-games to raise the twins’ physical attributes. However, warping home to level up is a tad annoying, as is the fact that you can’t equip battle gear in the human world.
As the kind-hearted Professor learned, give Jenn and Tristan a chance, and they’ll impress you in more ways than one. Young Souls is an exceptional adventure you shouldn’t miss if you’re searching for the next great game to tackle with a friend, or just want a modern RPG brawler done right.
Young Souls may not shatter the mold for beat 'em ups, but its well-designed combat and impressive presentation make it a stand-out.
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