One of my early favorites growing up as a wee little Ed has always been Beat’em ups. From those Teenage Turtles to the Toads who like to battle, I’ve enjoyed a wide variety of beat’em up. So, when I was presented with a chance to give Young Souls a playthrough, I jumped at the chance. After seeing what was going to be presented in this game, I knew I had to give it some attention. Beat’em up? Loot? Stat leveling? Yeah, Young Souls, you got my attention.
Young Souls follows a fish out of water story of siblings Jenn and Tristan, orphans whom the local town professor has adopted. Feeling out of place in this town and at the Professor’s home, the twins fall into that trope of getting into trouble and not caring about it. Things change one day when the Professor turns up missing from his lab. Discoveries are made, and the twins must now travel into another world—one with fantastical beasts and labyrinths to rescue the Professor and their new town from a goblin horde.
Young Souls doesn’t do anything too drastic from the beat’em up formula, but the added RPG mechanics and loot drops flesh out this game, putting it solidly in my rotation. Part of that falls upon the combat’s shoulders. There isn’t much here in the way of combos; it’s a reasonably straightforward light attack, heavy attack, and hold-for-charge attack affair. But it’s in how the combat feels that really stuck with me. Attacks feel responsive, and each weapon you acquire along the way responds differently. From axes to dual blades and one-handed swords, each gives your character a different feel. The weight of an ax, slowly barreling down upon a goblin, or the speed of your dual daggers connecting each hit made my connection with the action on screen that much more in-tune. Unfortunately, the game has quite a slow build-up to get to that point. Be prepared for some failures at the start of your adventure.
Early on, you’re only given a basic sword and a basic shield, which makes the standard and hard difficulties quite a challenge. I found myself succumbing to various creatures for not playing my cards right. I jumped in for one extra attack when I should have blocked, blocked when I saw that they were about to do a shield break maneuver, and so on. It was all telegraphed, but I was not strong enough to survive my mistakes. But if you can get through the first few stages and acquire some new gear, the game opens up, and fighting enemies and bosses become challenging yet satisfying; it felt astounding. You’ll be able to unlock new abilities and fancy armors that will aid you and provide buffs, letting you build out your duo to play the best for you. I stuck with a build that let me effectively parry and dodge, more so than block, almost giving some weird souls-like combat vibes.
Co-op is almost always expected in games with two characters, and thankfully Young Souls delivers. Unfortunately, it’s only couch co-op. Not that there is anything wrong with that, I hope more games include couch co-op from here on out, but the only way to play Steam co-op online in Young Souls is through the screen sharing feature. That wasn’t the most stable way to play with my brother and me, as he ran into syncing and lag issues. That’s not putting any blame on the game’s shoulders, it was most likely a connectivity issue, but I have to wonder if that may have been resolved if we just had two copies of the game and connected. In co-op, though, you each take control of one character, and in the difficulty mode we were playing on, we had two lives each. Once you died, the other playing could come to revive you and get you back into the battle; once you’ve extinguished both lives, though, you’re out. This same system, strangely enough, is also included in single-player. Honestly, I think I like the way they decided to handle that.
So when you’re playing alone, you can hot-swap your characters in at any time. If one falls, your free character comes in, and you get a split second to revive them. Once revied, they fall back into your party, and you’re now utilizing the other character. Since both characters had two lives, I could essentially get four lives altogether. Since I can build each character differently, I can utilize one character over another for certain fights or enemies. I had a blast being able to game the system in this way.
In between battles, you’ll interact with a hub world where you can shop for items using either human or goblin currency. That currency can net you new weapons, new armor, buff empowering sneakers, and even a gym where you can level up your skills through short mini-games. Thankfully 1P2P Studio knew that some of us want to be in and out as quick as possible. I applaud their decision in the way they’ve incorporated fast travel. I can hop to the hub or a dungeon right through a menu, choose where in a dungeon to teleport to with discovered gates, and go back and fast travel to any previously completed dungeon to clean up treasures and undiscovered paths. I can get in and out in no time flat and not have to worry about taking ages trying to run to each end screen to go into a new stage.
Overall, Young Souls is a fantastic beat’em up with those RPG mechanics that fed my loot and number cravings. Toss in the satisfying combat and customizability of each twin’s loadout, and I found something that I’ll want to come back to time and time again.
A Steam code was provided in advance by the publisher for review purposes