I love an excellent co-op beat ‘em up. Games like TMNT: Turtles in Time, River City Ransom, River City Girls, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, and Double Dragon are my all-time favorites. So it takes a lot for a game to break into my top five beat ’em ups, but Young Souls was able to pull it off. The rich story, the fantastic artwork, and RPG elements make this game a must-play for fans of the genre.
The story revolves around teenage twins Jenn and Tristan, who are caught up in a war between two factions from a goblin world. Their adoptive father is a scientist who, unbeknown to the children, had been working with the goblins to smuggle them into Earth to save them from their oppressive dictator. However, the regime has kidnapped the professor, and it’s up to the twins to rescue him.
I love the story because you are learning about the worlds and characters, along with the twins. You’re thrown right into the middle of the action, with no over-the-top exposition from one of the characters. As a result, the story is compelling and keeps driving you forward.
The game starts with a short tutorial, taking place a few weeks in the future, fighting against a horde of monsters attacking your city. Your characters are overpowered at this point, which makes fighting the enemies more manageable and allows you to learn controls without much hassle. You have a few attacks at your disposal: a basic attack with your weapon, a parry/block, a special weapon attack that requires mana, and a tag attack, which is unique for the single-player mode.
After the tutorial, the story picks up a few weeks before the opening events and perfectly lays out the story. You discover a portal under the professor’s house to the other world, and this is how you traverse between the two places.
The beginning weapons and armor are basic and weak, but you quickly build up your arsenal from chests found along the way or dropped from bosses. One of my favorite moments is acquiring the weapon from the first major boss in the game, a giant ax that looks so cool. Each item is unique, with different special abilities. Speed of the weapon is also an essential factor. For example, the ax deals a lot of damage but is slow. Mixing things up and trying new equipment is one of my favorite aspects of the game. And there are a lot of weapons to select. Armor is handled in the same fashion, with the addition of a bonus to your stats if you wear matching helmets and body gear.
As you progress through the story, you will save prisoners in the goblin world who travel to Earth to set up shop in an underground bazaar. Here, they help upgrade your equipment and allow you to buy and sell items. Besides your weapons and armor, you will unlock potions (health and mana) and accessories to help you. Accessories will allow you to use things like bombs or arrows set on a cool-down timer. However, you can upgrade these in the underground market, which lessens the time for the cool-down timer or increases the number of arrows or bombs you can unleash with your attacks.
The game encourages exploration, and you’ll often come across locked doors. For example, I thought I explored the first level, but it wasn’t until I found a key in a later level that I returned to explore. Of course, some of the rooms weren’t necessary for the story to progress, but I found a lot of treasure that I would have missed. Another example is the mausoleums you’ll find of the late Goblin Queen, Yarlanda. In these tombs, you’ll find an “echo” of her, and defeating her echo will grant you new equipment. Again, not necessary for you to unlock, but the loot you find is worth it.
But it’s not just equipment you find; by breaking jars and boxes in levels, you’ll find items you need to bring to the weapon and armor smiths to help you upgrade your weapons. Money is also something you’ll need to collect in the game, and there are two forms of currency: goblin money, which is used in the underground market, and human money that you can use to purchase clothing from the stores in town. Clothes that you buy will increase specific stats.
It wouldn’t be an RPG if there weren’t an aspect of leveling up, and you do so in two different ways. The first is by killing monsters and gaining experience, which increases your level. In addition, your stats increase automatically when you level up. The other way is by utilizing “workout” tickets at the gym, where you play a mini-game to improve a specific stat.
The co-op aspect is satisfying and easy enough for anyone to pick up. You can drop in and out of co-op at any moment as well. My seven-year-old son wanted to play with me, and it was great to have him drop in when he could play. The game allows you to adjust the gameplay to allow for more novice players, like my son, to enjoy the game. You can even turn on a filter for the dialog to avoid swearing (and there’s quite a bit of it too).
Besides the story and the combat, the other aspect that stands out is the artwork. The animation is smooth, and each enemy and level is uniquely crafted. You can tell a lot of time went into the art direction.
My only complaint is the number of loading screens; traveling between the town, your home, the underground market, and the goblin world triggers a loading screen. It’s not the worst thing in the world, but you do notice it.