As a journalist who predominantly covers indie games, the constant and daunting threat of losing interest or simply growing fatigued with the very form of entertainment that sustains your career is genuinely terrifying. Over the past few years, I’ve reviewed roughly 86 indie games, previewed 30+ more and played a dozen extra in my spare time. With each title I feel that ever-looming threat grow closer and closer, rarely feeling the spark I felt while playing Lake or Dodgeball Academia way back when. So, it is fortunate then that the engrossingly unique and marvellously stylish Young Souls has managed to simultaneously captivate me for hours on end and regain my waning interest in indies.
“Every single piece of sprite work and environmental design has been handcrafted with a boundless sense of creativity and talent.”
Young Souls’ visual aesthetic is impeccably perfect, an ambitiously audacious vision that perfectly encapsulates the fantastically cartoonish nature of its world and characters. The entire game is gorgeously detailed, the pastel colour palette dominating throughout each location making everything from dank underwater tunnels to glistening cascading waterfalls pop with vividly eye-catching colours.
The intricacy of both the character and environment design is utterly phenomenal, evoking the childlike wonder of Saturday morning cartoons while simultaneously creating its own sense of dynamic and instantly iconic originality. Nothing here feels tired, borrowed or used. Rather, every single piece of sprite work and environmental design feels purposefully unique, handcrafted with a boundless sense of creativity and talent.
Fortunately, that level of unbridled majesty has been applied to both the soundtrack and sound design which both offer a satisfying soundscape that completely immersed me from start to finish. The punchy, heart-poundingly thrilling and consistently quality soundtrack echoes through the perilous caverns, dungeons and boss rooms with such ferocity that it beautifully and succinctly ramps up the tension in a dynamic and unobtrusive way.
“Young Souls’ level of complexity never feels overwhelming, nor does its challenge ever feel too frustrating.”
After being overwhelmed by the staggeringly impressive visuals, I feared that the gameplay would fail to match their brilliance. However, I was pleasantly proven wrong as Young Souls expertly crafts such a delightfully addictive gameplay loop that it was impossible to put it down. This is largely due to its frantically fast-paced combat system that offers enough challenge and complexity that throughout the game’s lengthy runtime it never grew tired or stale.
Thankfully, this level of complexity never feels overwhelming, nor does the challenge ever feel too frustrating. You’re given access to a range of uniquely designed weapons spread out across numerous types that completely shift your style of combat in dramatic ways. This adds a significant amount of strategy to each encounter, as balancing the speed and abilities of either character will ensure that switching on the fly will offer a rewarding bonus in combat.
For example, you could make Jenn a faster fighter with a higher amount of stamina, allowing you to switch to her at any given moment and relentlessly attack your opponent, thus affording Tristan a moment to heal. Likewise, you could ensure that Tristan is equipped with a shortsword and shield at all times allowing him to parry deadly attacks more efficiently, ensuring tougher bosses can be downed faster. It is an intricately beautiful balance that requires a substantial amount of tweaking and practice, but once perfected is engrossingly addictive to watch.
“Everything you earn, be it a common rock or a new blade feels worthwhile and has a practical and useful purpose.”
Additionally, throughout Young Souls, you’ll explore a series of linear interconnected dungeons – alongside a series of varied and oftentimes extremely rewarding offshoots – that are interspersed with substantial pieces of the captivating and nuanced narrative. The sense of progression throughout is consistent, never stalling you to perform mindlessly dull tasks, nor bombarding you with unnecessary story. Rather, the game constantly rewards you for completing levels, beating enemies and discovering new routes in a fulfilling manner.
These rewards come in the form of new weapons to wield, resources to be used to upgrade said weapons, keys to unlock new routes and chests and experience points to further level up your characters. Everything you earn, be it a common rock or a brand-spanking-new blade feels entirely worthwhile and has a practical and useful purpose. This ensures that you never feel let down after gruelling through a particularly difficult boss battle, nor do you feel bored a few hours down the line.
“Outside of a few issues, Young Souls proved to be a smooth experience from start to finish.”
Unfortunately, I did encounter a few issues during my time with Young Souls that I feel are worth mentioning. While never substantial, there were a number of times in which the game suffered from bugs that while not impactful, did ruin my immersion. Fast travelling to a specific location would see merchants not appear and would result in me having to leave and reenter. On one occasion, while loading into a new dungeon, the game came to a standstill and I was forced to restart.
However, these issues eventually stopped persisting and only really affected the initial few hours of my playthrough. A completely fresh restart after my one and only crash seemed to fix the majority of issues. Outside of this, the game ran without a hitch and proved to be a smooth experience from start to finish.
“Young Souls is without a shadow of a doubt a gorgeous, stylish, addictive, hilarious, moving and challenging game.”
It is hard to contain my excitement for Young Souls, a game so fiercely unique and captivatingly beautiful that it’s hard to see a reality in which it isn’t indie of the year. From the moment I started my journey to the final time I put my controller down, this magnificently majestic spectacle moved, impressed and amazed me in once unimaginable ways.
There are facets of this truly tremendous game that I’ve barely touched upon, such as its incredibly nuanced and expertly written narrative populated by wit, genuinely hilarity and touching sentiments. However, a lot of what is present in Young Souls is best left unsaid, unspoiled for those still to experience this unbelievably phenomenal experience.
Young Souls is without a shadow of a doubt a gorgeous, stylish, addictive, hilarious, moving and challenging game that offers up a generous amount of entertainment that is more than deserving of immense praise. This is not a game you’ll want to miss and is absolutely worth the price of admission.
You can pick up Young Souls on PlayStation, Xbox, Xbox Game Pass and the Nintendo Switch now.
*Disclaimer: Reviewed on Xbox Series S, code was provided by the Publisher.