Young Souls is a side-scrolling beat ‘em up action RPG from 1P2P set in an average modern-day city with a big secret. A society of goblins lives underground and is gearing up for a war with the surface.
Either solo or in local co-op, you’ll take control of twins Tristen and Jenn, two red-headed teenagers with foul mouths and anger issues. When their eccentric caretaker, the professor, disappears, they discover a hidden elevator and slowly uncover a forgotten history of conflict between humans and goblins. In order to save their foster father, they must take on an entire goblin army on the warpath.
Despite having the trappings of a kids story, Young Souls tackles its topics in surprisingly adult ways. The enemy goblins have reasons for their war that they believe in, and the twins have to deal with the weight of the lives they take while defending their home and family. The writing is charming, and while the big cast of characters don’t all get equal time to shine, almost everyone at least leaves an impression. However, the profanity from the twins feels wildly out of place and seems like a much more desperate attempt to age up the narrative. There’s a filter for the expletives though if you want younger kids to play.
The beat ’em up gameplay revolves heavily around the twins acting as a pair. When playing solo you can freely tag the other character in to take over combos or rescue a stunned sibling. Standard attacks have 3-to-4-hit combos based on the weapon type. Dealing enough damage will fill your mana bars for hard-hitting special attacks. The combat is deliberate and rewards good positioning and timing; the parry is as important as it is satisfying to pull off. Weapons and gear are shared between both characters, so you’re free to outfit them in ways that either mirror or complement one another.
I had Jenn jump between the slow but hard-hitting two-handed weapons and the much faster twin daggers, while Tristen stuck with the sword and shield as a more balanced damage and defense option. Specific weapons can have unique properties like elemental damage or special traits like life steal. Armor can come with special traits as well and full resistances to certain elements, so switching up your loadout is essential for making progress. On top of all that, equipment weight affects character speed. However, I liked having to consider all these factors because they give you reasons to make use of all the loot you’re constantly finding.
Enemies come in a small handful of varieties, but their changing elemental and special characteristics require adaptation that keeps the fighting interesting.The game can be quite challenging, but Young Souls allows you to change the difficulty setting at any time, even mid-fight. Additionally, various accessibility options can automate some aspects of gameplay like blocking if needed.
Some light RPG elements surround the hub world of the kids’ town. They can cruise through the downtown shops and buy stat-boosting sneakers or cosmetic clothing or spend time doing button-mashing minigames to improve stats. It’s a really cool presentation for largely unimportant side shops, but it adds to the game’s sense of place.
I love the aesthetic of Young Souls. Its character designs are just the right amount of edgy and personable. But while downtown is an interesting strip of background, many of the levels are bland dungeons. It’s also frustratingly lacking in music; the few tunes that play are liberally used in menus, while some sections are just silent.
I had a few minor glitches like the blacksmith going missing regularly, menus bugging out, or clothing I’d purchased disappearing from the game entirely. Although, nothing major impeded my enjoyment over my 10-hour playthrough.
Young Souls is a good blend of beat ’em up and RPG with a quality story and awesome characters. Fans of the genre shouldn’t let it slip under their radar. The game is out March 10 for $24.99 on PC, PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch, Xbox One and included with Xbox Game Pass.
Watch the Review in 3 Minutes for Young Souls.