Young Souls, from 1P2P and publisher The Arcade Crew, is one of those titles many gamers initially missed out on because it was only released on Stadia. Now it’s getting a much-deserved wide release, as this blend of traditional Streets of Rage/Double Dragon-style brawling and narrative-driven RPG is a title well worth playing. We played the PlayStation version, but the game is also out on Steam, Xbox and the Switch.
In Young Souls, our protagonists are Jenn and Tristan, teenagers who live with a professor and are considered outcasts. They have some pent up anger, don’t like school and don’t like to take advice – even from the kind professor who’s taken them in. When he goes missing they suddenly realize how dear he is to them though, and this sets off their mission in the game – to go out and save him from a parallel world in which goblins and other fantasy creatures stand in your way.
Once the story segues into gameplay, you quickly realize that brawling is a large part of your quest to see the professor again. Armed with a sword and shield, you start ploughing your way through enemies in what starts out as a fairly standard button masher. You’ll gradually unlock new weapons and abilities though, which you’ll need against some of the stronger adversaries in the game – requiring some serious skill and even battle tactics at times. Combat feels great from the get-go though as the controls are excellent and responsive and your moveset only branches out over time, giving you more to play and battle with as the campaign goes on.
Most of the RPG elements of the game come into play in between the dungeons you battle through, when you return to your town. Here, you can sell the loot you’ve found and upgrade your character’s stats and loadout. The effects of this can be seen in combat, but Young Souls remains a brawler first and foremost.
And while you can control both characters by alternating between them, this is a game that also supports local co-op – which is the best way to play if you have the option. As with the classic arcade brawlers of their time, Young Souls shines when you’re able to help out a buddy who’s in a pinch, and if you’re playing with a younger co-op partner you can dial down the protagonists’ teen personalities a little bit as well.
And speaking of personalities – this is a game that has some great writing to it, which is very rare in the brawler genre. This doesn’t just apply to narration here though – it’s also great fun to see enemies converse with one another, and to see the relationship between the professor and the kids take shape. A ten hour playthrough for a brawler might seem lengthy, but the story makes it a breeze.
What also helps is the colorful presentation and well made animations for all the characters. Young Souls consistently looks very fresh with its use of color, and mixes things up with boss fights and visits to town in between otherwise fairly generic levels. We’re very grateful this one didn’t remain exclusive to Stadia – it’s a blast to play and should reach a wide audience.