A timed Stadia exclusive is one of the rarest things in video games. If we’re being honest, most of the exclusives for Google’s experiment in cloud gaming have been fairly easy to wait for. With Young Souls though, Stadia has a game worth peaking admiringly over the fence for. It’s even good enough to be worth signing up for Stadia in order to play it. I know. I’m as shocked as you are.
Yes. Before we begin, I still like Google Stadia, even if it’s an increasingly odd little side project for a company that is doing way better with search engines, Android OS and mobile phones. Still, its cloud gaming technology works way better than you’d expect, and it continues to do so. Young Souls is the first game for a little while that I’ve fired the controller up for, and its download and patch free solution remains as rewarding as ever. The fact that the game on the other end of the cloud server is this good is really the kind of thing Stadia needed two years ago.
Let’s concentrate on Young Souls, though. This side-scrolling hack and slash ‘em up looks brilliant, boasts snappy dialogue, and makes the most of its crunchy and enjoyable combat. It feels like a true modern entry in a genre that can often feel waylaid by the past.
You’re introduced to adopted twins Jenn and Tristan in a perfect spot of scene setting, with their town on fire, and magical weaponry simply appearing in their hands. This is one of those flash-forward moments, so prepare for a glimpse of the game’s end before the beginning. This pair are cool, quippy, and resolutely Gen-Z, and they’re an absolute pleasure to spend time with. Their complicated relationship with their adoptive father The Professor is mixed with care and resignation and it’s nicely played out, so when he disappears it makes perfect sense that they rush off to find him.
The central mystery circles the Professor’s research, and his discovery of the goblin world. There’s a wonderful Saturday morning matinee feel to it that calls to mind movies like The Goonies and Dreamwork’s Trollhunters series. It’s all incredibly authentic, and I couldn’t wait to see where the game was taking me.
While it might be tagged as a brawler-RPG, Young Souls is a dungeon crawler, albeit one that’s dressed up in a form we don’t often see. In the course of your adventure you’re sent off through gates that take you to the goblin world, from where you’re searching for items while bashing some goblin heads in using a variety of intriguing weaponry. Once you’re done with that day’s quest you take a snooze and gain all of the experience you’ve built up, levelling the twins up and enhancing their stats so you can take on bigger and badder enemies.
You can further bulk up your stats by visiting the Happy Fit gym in town, completing workouts to gain strength, stamina or resistance via the medium of button mashing mini-games. It’s a neat touch, albeit one that’s not all that new. As the sum of its parts Young Souls doesn’t boast any one unique element, but it pulls those ideas together in an utterly compelling way.
Young Souls is designed to be played as a two-player co-op experience, but it works nice enough if you’re playing on your own. You’re able to switch between the twins with a tap of the left should button, giving the other sibling a chance to recuperate while the other one dishes out some damage, and you have the chance to revive the other if they fall. It’s a brilliant two-player experience though, and working together to take down Dwarvengobben and his minions remains fun and frantic from start to finish.
While the art style is undeniably gorgeous, the soundtrack to Young Souls is similarly phenomenal. There’s a different motif for every event, whether you’re in the hub of the town centre or delving deep into the caverns below the mansion. It really adds to the game’s atmosphere, drawing you into the world with depth and nuance. It’s populated by beautiful little musical touches that are worth really paying attention to. It’s as far from background noise as it’s possible to be.