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‘Young Souls’ Is An Xbox Game Pass Gem No Subscriber Should Miss

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‘Young Souls’ Is An Xbox Game Pass Gem No Subscriber Should Miss

Xbox Game Pass has been pretty dang great lately. Tunic, on day one? An absolute treat and no mistake. Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy, mere weeks, really, after its retail release? Another absolute winner to romp your way through. Paradise Killer, one of our highest-rated games of 2020? Just a dream of a detective game. Truly, the service is singing right now with amazing experiences to sink your eyeballs and fingertips into. (Click those links for our reviews, BTW.)

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With all these very good games, it’s easy to miss the odd gem, something that might not immediately leap out of the pack as it’s arrived with little fanfare, doesn’t carry much in the way of brand power, or reviews have been thin on the ground. And I’m here to tell you that Young Souls is very much one of those gems. Even I missed it, sort of, to start with. I saw it added, read the description, downloaded - but I only started playing it the other day and, well, more fool me.

Check out the launch trailer for Young Souls below…

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Young Souls comes from publisher The Arcade Crew (previous form: the very excellent Contra-like Blazing Chrome and the pixel-art Soulsborne Dark Devotion) and developers 1P2P (definitely some arcade connotation to that name), and on first impressions is very much an old-school coin-op-era beat ‘em up in the belt-scrolling style. Think SEGA’s Streets of Rage, Capcom’s Final Fight, Konami’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles series. Run from left to right, bashing enemies and playing alongside a pal if you want - the game stars twin protagonists Tristan and Jenn, who are swappable at any time (subject to a short cooldown) if playing solo.

And yet, it’s much more than that. The twins live in a weird old mansion with an eccentric professor, who suddenly disappears one day, leading to the siblings’ discovery of an underworld beneath their town populated by goblin-like creatures intent on conquering the surface. There’s your story, in a nutshell. As you play you encounter non-human allies who can craft items for you and provide other helpful services, and the goblins’ domain can only be explored at night, leaving the twins fairly free in the daytime to… do what, exactly?

Young Souls / Credit: The Arcade Crew
Young Souls / Credit: The Arcade Crew
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Well, there’s sleep, for one thing. Unlike standard arcade-style brawlers, Young Souls has a levelling-up system where our heroes gain strength, stamina and health, but the stats can only be increased when you nap, making 40 winks absolutely essential. You can then zap right back to where you left off in the goblin realm, when you’re ready for the next round. When they’re not snoozing, there’s also a whole town for Jenn and Tristan to race around on, by foot or moped, with stores covering all the essential RPG bases: somewhere to exchange your junk for coin, somewhere else to spend that coin on fresh gear (the better your sneakers, the better your sneaking), and a gym to boost your stats further every now and then via some mini-games. There’s also the mayor’s office - he’s in on the whole goblins-beneath-us thing, too - the professor’s drink-hitting assistant to check in with, and a mysterious well with no water but a suspiciously locked door…

Young Souls / Credit: The Arcade Crew
Young Souls / Credit: The Arcade Crew

No spoilers, but very quickly Young Souls reveals itself to be as much an RPG as it is a beat ‘em up - characters can be equipped with all manner of real-world and goblin-made armour and weaponry; loads of NPCs can be conversed with, with branching dialogue options; and there is loot for days. While none of the game is voice-acted, the writing is sharp and witty, albeit with a slant towards profanities which I guess fits with the teenage protagonists’ whole vibe, but less so the art style and moment-to-moment play, which is very all-ages welcome. There’s a swear filter in the settings, though, and Young Souls allows players to alter the damage Jenn and Tristan deal and receive and slide a few other aspects of gameplay up and down, too. It’s not a complete suite of accessibility options, like you’d find in a game like Celeste, but it’s enough to make a difference should anyone be finding combat hard but desperately want to see where the story goes.

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Young Souls / Credit: The Arcade Crew
Young Souls / Credit: The Arcade Crew

Speaking of combat, it’s a case of strong and quick attacks, the use of a ranged weapon, a shield to block and parry (parrying will save you, the deeper you delve underground), and magic-aided moves which can deal high damage but spend mana, which recharges slowly. Swapping character mid-attack leads to some screen-filling carnage, and the game’s array of bosses range from the comical to the terrifying - even though that horror is tempered somewhat by the game’s cutesy aesthetic (that said: TW for Massive Spiders). Whatever the encounter - usually encircled by a screen-locking barrier, River City Girls style, before a giant GO! notice flashes once more, in a nod to classic arcade games of this surface-level ilk - combat is fierce and, most importantly, fun. There’s enough variety within the streamlined movesets to keep things spicy.

I’m still making my way through Young Souls, but I wanted to flag it as being really rather good ahead of finishing the game, for fear it’ll slip through the cracks completely. As a huge fan of modern beat ‘em ups Streets of Rage 4 and River City Girls, and similar titles going back to the likes of Capcom’s ‘90s bangers Cadillacs and Dinosaurs and Alien vs Predator, it hit me with instantaneous appeal. But a few hours in, and its depths have impressed me further: in the way you can set yourself up for a new run against the goblin hordes, and how there’s a proper sense of space and place to the setting, with the twins’ roles in regular society and that of their friends and enemies from down below pushing the story in both relatable and unexpected directions. It’s not all fisticuffs in this one, then - but it sure does leave a forceful and lasting impression, and any Xbox Game Pass subscriber should find the time for a slice of its goblin-busting action.

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Young Souls is available now on Xbox Game Pass for Xbox One (which is how I'm playing it), Series X/S consoles and PC, PlayStation 4 and 5, Nintendo Switch and other PC places like Steam. It was released for Stadia in 2021… but I’m guessing the one person who played it that way that isn’t reading this page right now.

Featured Image Credit: The Arcade Crew, 1P2P

Topics: Xbox Game Pass, Indie Games, Xbox, Opinion

Mike Diver
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