Nearly four years ago, The Arcade Crew and 1P2P revealed Young Souls, a promising new entry in the oft-overlooked beat ‘em up genre. Then in 2021, the game launched as a Stadia exclusive and… well, we all know how that went. Unsurprisingly, the studio soon set about porting the release to other platforms, and it’s finally arrived now on the Switch. Young Souls proves itself to be a remarkably quality release that builds well on the foundations of the genre with some well-implemented ideas, making for an experience you won’t want to miss.
Young Souls follows the story of Tristan and Jenn, a set of orphaned headstrong twins living with an eccentric professor on the edge of town. The professor is an expert in Cryptozoology, and though he clearly cares about the kids in his care, he spends most of his time toiling away in the lab on some mysterious project. After a quick trip into town, the kids return home to find the place ransacked and their beloved professor gone, while an ominous portal stands open in his lab. They follow it through and find themselves in a lost world far beneath the surface of the earth, populated by a warring race of goblins that are mounting a plan to take over the surface. After pairing up with a friendly goblin, the two thus set out on a long guest to dismantle the key players of the war effort and hopefully save their professor in the process.
For a beat ‘em up, Young Souls proves to be a surprisingly story driven experience. This isn’t just a typical ‘find the mob boss and the beat the tar out of everything that moves’ story, but a coming-of-age narrative that deals with a charismatic duo of protagonists. Elements like the ongoing sibling banter between the twins makes them feel that much more endearing, while a filled-out cast of villains proves to have a little more substance that makes each fight with a rogue feeling suitably climactic. The story never gets in the way of the gameplay, of course, and you can always skip the cutscenes if you’d rather jump right back into the action, but we rather appreciated that the plot is more than just a throwaway framing device here.
Gameplay follows the flow of a typical beat ‘em up, but with several additional elements thrown in to make for an overall more rounded experience. Most of your time will be spent in small arenas where you cut through a few waves of foes by all manner of punches, kicks, grabs, and throws. Once you clear a room, you then typically move to another arena just to the right, but the level design proves to be more varied than just a linear A-to-B sequence.
Each region of the goblin world is broken up into a series of levels scattered around a small hub level. Some doors are mandatory, others are optional, and others are locked using keys that you’ll only acquire later on. Each stage has a suggested level requirement displayed before you enter, giving you a hint of the ideal stats you’ll need to deal with the enemies contained within. What’s nice about this non-linear system is that it gives you some agency to make progress on your own terms. If the boss at the end of one stage is just giving you way too much grief, you can always try another level instead and come back later once you’ve gotten better gear. Young Souls is still plenty difficult, but it never feels like you’ve hit an insurmountable wall—there’s always something else you could be doing to still make progress.
Those of you that are put off by high difficulty games like this will be pleased to know that there are a few difficulty levels here so you can scale the game to meet your skill level. We’d encourage you to go with the intended difficulty, however, as the hard-hitting enemies and patterns feel like they’re at that perfect mark where they’re manageable, but not on the first try. You’re constantly being pushed to learn enemy tells, wait for proper windows to get in a few shots, and make full usage of all the techniques and attacks at your disposal. Victories thus feel properly earned once you’ve achieved them, making Young Souls a consistently rewarding experience.
There’s quite a bit of technical depth to combat, as well. In single player, you can only play as one twin at a time, while there’s an interesting ‘tag’ system to encourage you to use both. A certain percentage of the damage a twin takes won’t immediately drain from the health bar, and if you tag them out before they take any more hits, they’ll slowly recover that health while their sibling fights instead.
In another example, you’re given two meaningful ways of avoiding damage. One is a limited use roll that gives you precious I-frames, but has a small cooldown to keep you from spamming. The other is a block with your shield, which can also be used to parry an attack if you press it at just the right time. Things like this help to imbue Young Souls with an impressively high skill ceiling, while giving you plenty of variety in how you can approach a battle.
Progressing through most levels will see you building up a small reserve of currency and collectable items that can later be used in shops for buying and upgrading equipment. The twins can be kitted out in all manner of swords, knives, axes, and the like, and each piece of equipment carries its own stats, special moves, and passives. This can help to give the gameplay even more variety, then, as each weapon carries its own playstyle. For our playthrough, we opted to give one of the twins a huge axe for dishing out the pain and controlling crowds, while the other one carried a knife with a lifesteal effect that made them quite nimble and resilient. Good quality armor and weapons aren’t a replacement for the raw skill you need to overcome the challenges of Young Souls, but we appreciated how it added more diversity to the gameplay and sometimes gave you the needed edge to eke out a win.
Those of you who have a friend on hand will be pleased to know that there’s also a local co-op feature for multiplayer. The rules here are largely the same, but there are some changes like how the ‘tag’ button causes you to instantly snap across the battlefield to your partner, or how potions will heal both of you if your partner is close enough when you use it. We felt the experience was well balanced whether playing in solo or co-op, so it’s tough to say if there’s a definitive way to play Young Souls, but it does feel a little more satisfying to overcome a boss with an extra set of hands to help out.
As for its presentation, Young Souls sticks to a fascinating 2D art style that still takes smart advantage of the 3D space. The comic book-esque visuals fit well with the tone of the narrative and the animations give you a nice amount of feedback to really sell the landing of every blow. We especially liked the attention to detail shown in the presentation, such as a quick zoom on feet running up the stairs when the twins go to their room or the artifacting around the screen when you hold the skip button during a cutscene. It’s clear that the developers put a lot of effort into making Young Souls look just right, and we think they really stuck the landing in this regard. This is then matched by an equally quality, high-energy soundtrack that provides a wonderful tempo for the fights you endure.
All of this is great, but the presentation is let down somewhat by occasional performance hitches. While versions on other platforms run at 60 FPS, the Switch version only manages 30 FPS, and even this sees some minor dips from time to time. The worst performance hiccup bizarrely takes place when you try to access your inventory to switch equipment; we encountered loading times here that sometimes exceeded ten seconds. It might not sound like much, but hitting that load every time you want to try a new sword or helmet is irritating, to say the least. We wouldn’t say the performance issues are a huge drawback of the Switch version, but just be aware that it feels a little rough in some parts.
Those of you who were big fans of Castle Crashers or Streets of Rage 4 will find plenty to love here. Young Souls smartly mixes RPG-lite elements with a compelling story, non-linear structure, and some impressively satisfying beat ‘em up combat to make for an experience that you won’t want to miss. Despite some rare performance hiccups which tarnish the Switch version slightly compared to the more powerful platforms, Young Souls still proves itself to be one of the best beat ‘em up titles on the system, and we’d give this one a high recommendation to anyone who enjoys a good brawler, co-op or solo.
So literally the only con is the performance then guess I'll wait for an update/patch to pick it up
Oh this sounds cool
Is this two player or one NPC with one live player?
The Arcade Crew made this? I remember playing one of their previous games in Kunai about 2 years ago and really liking it (as a first ever metroidvania, it wasn't half bad if I do say so myself) so another game by them is great in my eyes. And it's a bloody beatemup? Oh yes please.
Looks like i'm changing my preorder to PS4. I thought the game's graphics looked modest enough that it'd run well on a Switch, but a 30 frame drop plus a 10 second load time switching out gear is a deal breaker.
Sounds interesting. It's also coming to gamepass for people who have that.
Sounds interesting, may pick it up during a sale.
I have been playing this on Stadia for a few months and it is a great game. Yes, Stadia is still alive and running great regardless of how media outlets (including NL) like to indicate that it is dead.
Looks really good.
I love beat em ups but I'm not willing to put up with such downgrades to play this. For triple A ports I can sometimes put up with it but not for smaller games like this.
@OorWullie I like to play the bigger games on my Series X if possible and wait for a sale for something like this
@jirizarr1231 yeah same played it believe it came out July last year on stadia wasn't it ? It's a very good game. And so is dawn of the monsters been enjoying that on stadia also. Will probably double dip on both games in the future
@rockodoodle I've been thinking about getting a Series S (or an X if I can get one) with Gamepass for a good while now as it would save me money in the long run and give me a much better experience with the big games. The one thing that's putting me off is how much games I've bought for Switch. My library and backlog is enormous and I feel I'd abandon many of those games if I buy another console.
@OorWullie while was planning to get one anyway, I bought this on impulse with GameStop bundle. Not the best deal, as I had to buy a pro controller that’s nice, but very overpriced. But I got it two months ago, and it doesn’t look like they will be easy to find anytime soon, so I feel ok about it.
I really almost exclusively play in handheld mode, so I like the bigger games on X to have better load times and smoother overall experience.
I'm not a fan of the art style. Although everything else sounds alright.
@jirizarr1231 lack of ads and alphabet not supporting is why it's on it's deathbed.
I liked the look of this, and so put in my LRG preorder for a physical version on Sunday (which, sadly, was the deadline).
I'm relieved to hear positive things about the game!
Hopefully the long wait till shipment (I think they estimated 6-8 months) will give them time to patch the technical issues and then include them on the cart. 30fps I can live with. But having to wait 10sec to open up an inventory screen would be truly annoying!
The art style would be a con for me. I love beat 'em ups, but this one probably isn't for me, especially not at $25 USD.
@OorWullie not had my series s for long and already saved £100+ by May when two point campus releases I think the Xbox will have paid for itself.
Also if you use Microsoft rewards and play quite a few games (short ones preferably), you get points after a couple month for achievements and other random stuff. I usually get a free month gamepass every few months. Honestly my only regret was waiting to buy it!
Pix n Love also have a Limited Edition of this game for sale for those that are interested.
Limited to 500 copies.
I bought the NMH3 CE off them and they were very fast and the packaging is beautiful.
It reminds me of Full Metal Furies, which is a very overlooked and great game (and better than Castle Crashers IMO). That comparison is enough to make me want to play Young Souls.
Sounds like a fun one. I'll play it on gamepass. Maybe they can even get it running at 120fps on series x...
I adore my OLED Switch, but will always jump ship for 60 or 120fps and vastly reduced to non-existent load times.
I wish Nintendo would release another upgraded Switch with SSD and fast load times (and with faster internal memory RAM the newer Switch could be easier to program for higher frame rates too).
@AlexHarford Full Metal Furies is an awesome Switch game, and has online multiplayer!
@Teksetter I’m in the same boat!
It sounds a lot like River City Ransom but I haven’t heard anyone make the comparison for some reason. Must be missing something. Will have to play for myself.
Heads up, game is on Gamepass too.
Nice! Fingers crossed they'll optimize the game more by the time it reaches us.
It's not that long a wait when you don't think about it, and there's already so much to play, and we have those totally radical TMNT beat 'em ups supposedly coming later this year, too!
@Teksetter yeah 2022 is off to a FANTASTIC start! I have so many games preordered idk how I’m going to play them all. My backlog is about to be looking pretty thicccc
To be honest, I initially thought these were the Boy and Girl Octolings when I first saw the picture lol.
@SwitchForce Read the review. It says it's either 2 player coop, or 2 characters that tag in and out with each other in single player.
@AlexHarford Highly agree with you there, that game got robbed hard. And it's from the makers of Rogue Legacy, too! You'd think that pedigree would've gotten it more attention.
@SwitchVogel @AlexHarford The pair of you just combined to get Full Metal Furries another sale. I'm not sure if I'd heard of it before now but I really enjoyed Rogue Legacy and I love a good beat em up. Cheers.
@Mince Cheers for your views. I meant to get back to you sooner. I'll definitely get one eventually and like you, will probably regret not getting it sooner. I have been more careful with what I buy on Switch recently though. Most of my new purchases are retro games and indies I really want to play. Other than the 1st party games I want this year, I'll try to stick to this while chipping away at my backlog. I've skipped buying a few 3rd party ports I want with the intention being to play them on Xbox.
been playing on XboxS and it is a great game
on switch it is excruciatingly slow in the menus and crashes very often
still a great game though.
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