Can you actually get lost when the journey is the destination?
This is one of many thought-provoking considerations that Soul Searching, the latest release by the Kayabros development studio, asks you to make. So many of us spend time searching for the meaning of life and attempting to understand the purpose of it all, and it is all too easy for this to weigh heavy on a person’s mind.
When a game named after such life-affirming actions comes to pass, it is hard not to be expectant that it will offer a meaningful and thought-provoking experience. Unfortunately, Soul Searching will only ever be as successful as the player’s approach to the game. Taken on face value, this fantasy, survival-adventure game will fail in its efforts to facilitate reflection and contemplation.
The opening moments do little to encourage the player to do anything but, as a brief introduction to proceedings offers little in the way of direction. This is just one of many instances where you soon come to realise that this is the whole point. You are free to explore the open sea aboard your boat as a ‘Soul Searcher’, using the cumbersome but functional oars to set your direction and a map to plot your route. Along the way you will encounter some islands inhabited by islanders, others by wildlife, and each location has a story to tell and something to offer your journey of enlightenment.
Delve a little beneath the surface of Soul Searching and almost every moment, no matter how significant or insignificant it may seem, can have a profound impact on your outlook both in-game and out of it. This is helped, in part, by a truly outstanding soundtrack which seems to capture the very essence of each event with a timely introduction in and a smooth transition out again. The aesthetic also works wonders, with its pixellated art style proving that there is an understated beauty in the simplicity of it all.
Completion of the main ‘story’ can be achieved in little under two hours – which is rather short but perfectly paced, and for fear of influencing or spoiling the plotlines, the story won’t be discussed here. What must be said, however, is that there are dark and foreboding elements within it that make reference to adult themes throughout. There is a lot to decipher, and it is likely that few viewpoints on the game will be the same. There will, however, most certainly be something that everyone can relate to in some capacity.
Alongside the story mode, the game includes a cooperative mode whereby four players are dropped on a randomly generated map and need to survive the elements to complete the game. Cooperating with each other means that resources are much scarcer, and strategy becomes all the more important. There is also another gameplay mode entitled ‘Short Stories’ which is a rather unusual take on storytelling with some experimental and funky creations. Again, something to divide opinion, but a welcome inclusion, nonetheless.
Soul Searching is a title that players will either connect with wholeheartedly or one that will leave them feeling disconnected from it altogether. Its subject matter can be difficult to digest and it can occasionally feel as though it was just done for effect, but personally, I found the game to be a thought-provoking journey that I would happily embark upon again. It isn’t without fault, but it is greater than the sum of its parts.
Soul Searching £8.99
Soul Searching is short, sharp and symbolic. It amalgamates excellent audio with engaging scenery to provide the perfect backdrop for an exploratory, non-combative adventure, leaving some reflecting on life long after the credits roll, and others failing to see what it was all for.