If you really want to make it as an adventurer then you need to have a few things: bravery and curiosity come top of the list, then a sharp wit, and then ideally a snappy catchphrase and a signature look. That said, if you want to hit the absolute top-tier of adventurer herodom then you need to have a dog. Indie developers BUG-Studio know the score and bring their own human/canine duo to PC and console for a tiny adventure you won’t forget!
At A Glance
|Positives||+ Charming and expressive pixel art animation|
+ Entertaining boss battles
+ Accessible difficulty level
|Negatives||– Some early mechanics underutilised|
– Soul Boosts eliminate the adventure feel
– Classic Mode doesn’t offer too much challenge
|Price (When Reviewed)||£7.99|
|Our Playtime||5 hours 30 mins|
|Available On||PS5, Xbox Series X|S, Nintendo Switch, PC, Xbox One, PS4|
6Souls is a platform-adventure game where you control the brave Jack and his trusty, but rather scared, pooch companion, Butch. Jack has stumbled upon a map to an old abandoned castle that stands out in the woods, and with the temptation of lost treasures to be found, takes his four-legged best friend along with him to investigate. It doesn’t take long for things to unravel and Jack and Butch are roped into helping free the original owners of the castle, the Clifford family, from a rather nasty fate.
Each of the 10 chapters sees our heroes traverse through a different part of the ancient castle – from the dungeons below, all the way up to the tower at the top – with each area offering a different aesthetic and set of pitfalls. The majority of the game sees you control the human Jack, who can climb up walls and fight off enemies with a sword and shield, but there are specific sections allocated to Butch, who must use his double-jump ability to avoid any baddies, as the little pug is unable to defend himself. There are a couple of upgrades and some rather simple optional collectables to get along the way, but it’s mostly a smooth journey from A to B, without too much alteration to the formula as things go on.
From the second I switched the game on, 6Souls caught my attention. The title music is a fantastic synth affair that’s dripping with nostalgia and the pixel art graphics are wonderfully drawn too – it gives off a great first impression. Things open with a rather glacial tutorial level that teaches you the basics about jumping, climbing and pulling objects, and while it’s a bit of a slow start, it does impress upon you just how tight and responsive the controls are. There’s nothing groundbreaking about the mechanics that are introduced but I was pleasantly surprised with how weighty and satisfying the combat felt. Considering it’s two miniscule pixel people thrashing it out with tiny swords, each hit has a really hefty feel, and there’s a nice blocking mechanic that allows Jack to absorb up to three hits in quick succession before getting stunned when his guard is broken too. Whilst simple in its implementation, the combat works really well and would hold up in a game that requires considerably more fighting than 6Souls.
After just a few minutes of gameplay I noticed just how expressive the characters and their animations were, even with sprites measuring only a few pixels across. Whether it’s Jack holding open his tiny backpack for Butch to jump inside for safety, or pulling a sword from the hand of a miniature skeleton, you’re treated to each and every detail and it’s credit to the artist, Vladislav Borovikhin, for just how much motion he’s packed into those tiny sprites. And not to be outdone with the delicacy of the animation, Stanislav Bulaev does an equally great job with the sound to accompany the action too, with some subtle effects that adds a real sense of completion to what you’re seeing on screen. From the get-go, it’s clear that 6Souls has been crafted with care and attention to detail at the forefront of its design.
Early on in the game Jack gains the ability to perform a ‘Soul Boost’ which allows him to dash in midair to reach platforms that would otherwise be out of reach. Once it’s expended you have to touch the ground to recharge it again, meaning you have to time things right to avoid plummeting to your death. This gives the platforming and level design in 6Souls a real Celeste feel, without anywhere near the level of difficulty. There were probably only a handful of genuinely tricky platforming moments scattered throughout the game but I actually quite enjoyed the sedate pace. Instead of pulling my hair out from killing myself 20 times on the same awkward obstacle, I was able to navigate my way through most of the levels quite simply, with only the odd section taxing me to the point of satisfaction, rather than frustration. The level design doesn’t especially vary much until later in the game, though there’s a chapter later on that really bucks the trend, and it was a breath of fresh air to see things entirely shaken up at just the moment when things were starting to get a little bit stale. There will be some players who find things a little too easy on the platforming front but I think Bug-Studio have found a nice balance here, making 6Souls an accessible title that doesn’t expect lightning fast reactions or absolute mastery of the controller.
As the story plays out Jack becomes able to perform more and more Soul Boosts in a row without touching the ground, and it made me raise an eyebrow at how this might affect the gameplay going forwards. I had expected the levels to become devilishly difficult, with endless precise jumps and boosts required in a row in order to progress, but actually, 6Souls takes it in the other direction. Repeated Soul Boosts gives you a little too much leeway in your platforming and it becomes rather easy to correct a missed jump by just hammering the boost button again until you land on the desired platform. It’s a crutch that I don’t think the player needs when you consider the level design.
Having multiple Soul Boosts also removes some of the adventure feel that 6Souls builds early in the game, with the methodical climbing and wall-jumping mechanics entirely giving way to rapid dashes all around the castle. The climbing is such a nicely balanced feature that it’s a shame it was done away with so readily. In fact, this discarding of earlier components happens a few times throughout the game, with several simple but effective platforming elements disappearing entirely once you get a few Soul Boosts under your belt, and 6Souls shifts from an adventure-platformer to an all-out platformer quickly after the first couple of chapters.
The script put together by Ivan Matskevich and Borovikhin is pretty enjoyable and each character is consistently delivered alongside some humorous gibberish voice-effects. The story is fun and plays out in post-boss cutscenes as Jack meets each of the Clifford family and discovers their fate – it’s not a plot that’s going to blow anyone away but it’s enjoyable and has a well structured beginning, middle and end, and things feel nicely finished off come the crescendo.
Speaking of the boss fights, it takes BUG-Studio a couple to find their feet, but they’re great once they do and the bosses were some of the most enjoyable parts of 6Souls. There’s a few little wrinkles added to each one that make them more difficult than the run-of-the-mill goblins without making them too detailed or different from the rest of the game. There’s a myriad of weird and wonderful nasties trying to thwart Jack in his search for treasure, and a really good run in the middle of the game, but the battle with the Ghost Knight was probably my favourite of them all. The bosses require a lot more precision to complete in Adventure (Hard) Mode, when Jack can only take a single hit instead of three, and this significantly increases the challenge. To illustrate just how much difference this makes, I died more times between Chapters 1-4 on Adventure Mode as I did for all 11 Chapters of Classic Mode, with most of these occurring in the boss battles.
I managed to complete all of Classic Mode and half of Adventure Mode in about six hours and I enjoyed almost every minute. 6Souls isn’t the most original of titles but there’s enough fun platforming, tricky bosses, and well considered animation and sound to keep you happy for the whole of its duration. Had the level design been a little more varied, with some of the older mechanics brought back a little later in the game, and there been less reliance on the Soul Boost, it would have gone to another level still.
In the interest of full disclosure, the publisher provided VGamingNews with a copy of the game in order to conduct this review.