Monday 20 December 2021

6Souls Review (Steam)


Review by Thomas G.J. Sharpe

 6Souls is one of the many, many, many products offered by publisher Ratalaika. Between their games, ports, emulations, and visual novels listed on their website, there is a baffling array of styles of art, game, story and heritage. 6Souls, developed by BUG Studio in Russia, is sprung from a solid bed of platformers, notably Celeste, and (a personal hidden gem of mine) Quora, yet sadly doesn’t stand as tall.

Jack, and his little mutt Butch, find themselves in a castle with a magical story. And that’s exposition over with. There is an attempt at jovial characterization, and the developer does rightly label it a “jaunt”. And a jaunt it is; light-hearted, a little silly, gentle adventuring. The characters are given non-linguistic voice to give some texture to the interactions, and most of the writing is functionally fun. As they delve deeper into the castle, they are on the search for the titular six souls. I restrain myself from outlining why or how, as it is largely forgettable.

Importantly, the souls you collect provide Jack with dash abilities to navigate the platforming puzzles. This makes the game succeed and fail on it’s scaled puzzle design. From the simplest, pre-dashing, jumping sections, to the multi-dashing elongated puzzles, the levels are solidly and entertainingly designed. There is the ability to switch to Butch to access places Jack cannot reach, but these provide no real imagination or creative puzzle-solving. These are purely one-route, linear puzzles. New items become available and there are collectibles and all that jazz.

None of this is done poorly, but 6Souls never quite draws itself up to a point that I’m thrilled, or amused, or exhilarated. Pathway and Dandara had unique mechanisms to interact with more intriguing worlds. Caveblazers had more thorough combat-platforming. Quora had a delicate, charming, odd story (seriously just get it, its lovely). Aesthetically, Jack and Butch traverse levels that look ok, but the colours don’t seem to pop and where atmosphere is at a minimum. Adversaries are generally ok, with only a couple quite thoughtless amorphic blob style creatures. The characters themselves are great, with good spirit to them.

Where 6Souls excels, however, is precisely where it matters for itself. The controls are solid, responsive, and worked well (even for a platforming dunce like me). Word to the wise, however; play with a controller. The default keyboard controls are simply awful, and despite my resistance to controllers, I did switch over and had a much better time. Despite being very few actions in the game (it’s the opposite of Il Sturmovik 2), they just sit better on a pad. Perhaps there was some ill design choices when even including a block combat action, as it expands your move set in what feels like a pointless direction. I feel they should have stuck to the platforming, rather than trying to blend in a block-attack system. That is a small gripe, and in the round, it is these small gripes that add up to a slight sense of un-remarkability.

If you get kicks from solid platformers, this is a challenging and charming title. There is nothing wrong with it. If you ask for anything to blow your cape off in 6Souls I would manage your expectations at the castle door, but at the price point currently (£4.99 on Steam), it’s not bad.

Overall 7/10

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