I always love seeing what solo developers can do since they always end up making passion projects where their love for the project shines through. Sure, larger teams may be able to produce a more polished experience, but there’s something about games made by one person that makes them feel special.
Restless Soul definitely fits into that category. Coming at the end of a few years hard work from Fuz Games, this game is filled with love – even if it has more than a few rough edges. It is also filled with dad jokes. Lots and lots of dad jokes.
Many thanks to Graffiti Games for the review code.
You’re dead. Nobody knows how it happened, but here you are in the afterlife waiting to speak to the Grim Reaper himself to get the rest of your death sorted out. Unfortunately, you have some unfinished business to attend to, so you’re rather keen on nipping back.
Things aren’t going to be that easy though, as going back to the land of the living is strictly discouraged by the nefarious Dr Krull. Not one to take death lying down, you head off on a quest to find a way back – even if Krull’s evil army stands in your way,
With a helpful(ish) canine companion in the form of Woof, and the aforementioned Grim Reaper hunting you down, your quest will be an eventful one as you chat to friends and foes in an effort to track down the keys needed to open the portal back to the land of the living.
It’s a straightforward enough story with a surprisingly satisfying ending, although the main thing that keeps you invested in it is the vast amount of jokes scattered across the game. Whether it be the narrators comments, NPC conversations, or interactions with inanimate objects, expect wall to wall dad jokes. Most of them are dumb as hell, but they’re glorious nevertheless.
It’s all presented in a rather simple visual style that looks like someone tried to make an RPG in the Pokémon visual style using Game Builder Garage. With its simple flat textures, blocky shapes, and flat 2D sprites, the game seems like it could have started its (after)life out as a GBG creation. That’s not to say it’s not appealing, as the game is presented in a charming way with its uncommon art style, but I can also see it turning people off before they even begin.
So, what exactly is Restless Soul? At it’s heart (do ghosts have hearts?) it’s an adventure game that features some light bullet hell combat and the occasional minigame or puzzle to spice things up. The focus of the game is to collect the eight keys from the towers located in the eight towns. Progression starts off in a linear fashion, but becomes a little bit more open as the game progresses.
The towns themselves are pretty small, with usually little to do there (especially in the early game), but as you progress you’ll find yourself doing little side missions in order to progress the story further. These tasks are never anything complicated, but they do help give you something else to do outside of the main tower. That’s not to say exploring towns is pointless, however, as not only will you miss out on the majority of the game’s jokes, but you’ll also be missing out on a surprisingly tough hunt for the nine collectible letters that are hidden within each town. Collecting all of them will grant you with additional health, so it’s certainly worth making the effort to find them… if you can!
The bulk of the gameplay though lies within the game’s eight towers, and those typically consist of minigames and combat. The minigames start out fairly straightforward with some standard sliding puzzles, but eventually you’ll get more exciting ones like an auto-runner in the style of Bit Trip Runner, and a western shooting gallery.
Most of the time, however, you’ll be fighting enemies in a bullet hell lite fashion. Your right stick will fire your gun, and the Y/ZL button will allow you to dash through the projectiles fired at you. It’s quite satisfying, despite its simplicity, although the pathetically short range of the dash combined with the large projectile hitboxes results in it being pretty unreliable to use. I found that moving between bullets was a far safer option – at least, when that was a possibility. Bosses too can be pretty challenging as they tend to throw in more bullets to avoid whilst in a small arena. They’re the best fights of the game though, with one of the later boss encounters in particular being especially fun.
That’s not to say the game is particularly difficult however, as it has a rather forgiving checkpoint system that not only puts you more or less where you were at when you died but also refills your health too. If that’s not enough, the game even has some accessibility options to help boost your attack power or even make you completely invulnerable. It’s a nice touch to ensure that everyone can make it through, since the story and dialogue are the main focus of the game and it’d be a shame if you got to a point where you couldn’t get any further.
Restless Soul may be a little on the simple side of things, but it’s also strangely compelling. The constant barrage of ‘dad jokes’ certainly helps keep you interested, even during the game’s initial slow start. There’s some solid gameplay mechanics and minigames here, especially towards the end of the game, although there are certainly some elements that could be ironed out for a smoother experience. Overall though, it’s an entertaining passion project that shows great promise for the developer’s future!