Young Souls is a 2-D brawler adventure that looks much more visually appealing and kid-friendly than it often is. And it all comes down to the feisty teen brother and sister at its core.
This game centers on orphaned twins Jenn and Tristan, a red-haired and freckled pair of siblings ready to face off with anything. In fact, they’re gaining a rep in town as being foulmouthed hotheads who may have a twinkle in their eyes, but who’re usually up to no good. (More on that foul-mouthed side in a minute.) The only person the teens deem worthy of their respect is the Professor, a brilliant science guy who serves as a quasi-father-figure for them.
However, Jenn and Tristan’s lives are suddenly tipped sideways when they return to find the Professor’s lab ransacked and the good man missing. What’s even more mysterious is the fact that a room that the Professor always kept locked is now open. And in that room is an elevator that takes our anxious teen heroes down to an underground world inhabited by goblins. Jenn and Tristan befriend one battered and abused goblin guy, but they quickly learn that the professor’s absence is tied to an underground goblin plot to rise up and assault the human town above.
The teens must grab swords and shields and give battle to whatever comes their way as they search for their kidnapped professor—transforming from troublemakers to world-savers along the way.
Gamers can face the beat-‘em-up challenges in single player mode (tag-teaming back and forth between the fiery siblings) or in local co-op with a friend. The battles use various swords and bludgeons and focus on stringing together combos and properly timed blocks and parries. Players battle their way through rooms of enemies to earn treasure, resources, and keys which unlock reward chests and new zones.
This game is well-written and interesting (albeit with one glaring M-rated caveat that we’ll discuss next). The story never gets too grinding or bogged down. And the game mechanics are designed to give gamers a chance to improve Jenn and Tristan’s skill sets while offering mini-game exercises and object trades that let you customize their equipment and physical attributes.
In addition, the game story shows that there are two sides to most warring conflicts, and wars always come at a cost. It doesn’t glorify war; instead, it challenges players to think through the rights and wrongs of all choices made, while showing a pair of teens who begin to learn their own sense of right and wrong.
On top of that, Jenn and Tristan are called upon to display a certain level of bravery and determination that they hadn’t had to rely on in the past. And they ponder their desire for the support of family, even if that’s a makeshift one.
This is a beat-‘em-up that’s packed with constant, ever-more-difficult struggles and battles. Gamers use daggers, swords, hammers, axes, bows and bombs as they hop back and forth on the screen to battle enemies, mobs and massive big bosses.
All that said, however, this isn’t really a bloody or messy game. There’s no limb-lopping or goopy splash at all. In fact, the most you find are colorful sparks and flashes as swords and axes clash. Instead of dying, opponents puff into smoke when defeated. If the twins are bested, they’re simply sent back to give their difficult stretch another try.
So, what’s the big M-rated element?
Language. There’s no spoken dialogue, but for some reason the gamemakers have their teen protagonists spewing the foulest printed-out crudities and blasphemes at every turn. F-bombs and misuses of God’s name explode continually, and other crudities are used as part of the ongoing humor.
(Fortunately, for those who dig into the game menus, there is a language filter that can be used to weed out all that nastiness.)
Some of the 2-D female characters sport a bit of cleavage and sometimes wear form-fitting or underwear-revealing outfits. There’s one school bus reference made to a kid selling drugs.
This is one of those M-rated games that offers quite a few positives in its play and even a way to escape all its nasty content spew. You just need to use it.
After spending more than two decades touring, directing, writing and producing for Christian theater and radio (most recently for Adventures in Odyssey, which he still contributes to), Bob joined the Plugged In staff to help us focus more heavily on video games. He is also one of our primary movie reviewers.