Soul Searching: Going Native (With Dragons on the Side)

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Make mine a double, please…

In the load of stuff I need to get to in this current crazy time, review code for a little game called Soul Searching popped up in the inbox a while back and you can say I’m intrigued by the project enough to move things around and play for a bit. I’ll get to the main story mode later in this post, but let’s talk minigames for a bit. There are seven ‘Short Stories’ as the game calls them, and they can be accessed from the menu and played in any order you like. but the game will run them consecutively if you start from the first one and complete each minigame.

Publisher nakana.io has released a few unique titles so far where its different developers’ personalities are on full display in each work, so there’s a lot going on in each game, from the art styles to the approaches to gameplay. Soul Searching is brim full of weirdness as the simple pixel-heavy art in the main game gives way to some rather intense slices of mind from its developer in minigames that feature assorted visual styles ranging from simple childlike scrawls to vector graphics and crude polygonal characters. In those brief segments, you almost get a sense that indie developer Kayabros (Talha Kaya) is working through some of life’s problems and you’re along for the ride for better or worse.

(Thanks, Nakana Games!)

Those minigames range from a surreal Asteroids take where you get a few minutes to play as things get trippy and there’s a surreal finale (wear a pair of headphones, please). A basketball game that also has vector graphics and gets pretty challenging as you need to sink perfect baskets at one point and it’s harder than it seems, to a bunch of hand-drawn or pixel-heavy minigames that get retro trippy to some extent or toss your brain into the developer’s hands and let you dwell on perhaps his own thoughts on a few subjects for a tiny bit. Not for everyone’s tastes. mind you, but I liked the trip into The developer’s head because it’s personal and here’s a developer that isn’t hiding from the world with a strange game such as this. There’s even a take on the main game that’s much shorter and twists a bunch of stuff up with mixing in a few types of gameplay (puzzle and shooter elements, for example).

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Yes, that’s a dragon. Nope, I won’t tell you what can happen when (if?) you meet it.

The main game is a survival-like experience where you need to island hop and discover what lies on each strange land while battling hunger, thirst and more. You’ll likely expire quickly in a few ways if you don’t eat or drink enough, or expend your energy too much by trying too much exploring before you have enough supplies gathered. Yet the game can be relaxing at times once you realize a few things while navigating your raft around. There’s an up to 4-player multiplay mode set on randomly generated maps, but as I’m stuck indoors here, I haven’t yet played it with others. This mode’s solo play is pretty well done, adding a chunk of endless replay value to the regular game experience, which lasts about two hours or so, give or take.

As with all of nakana’s titles so far, there a donation element that worth checking out, this time you can buy a the game’s beautiful soundtrack for an extra dollar with proceeds going here. So, you get a game that’s visually diverse (and how!) from a creator with intent to make you think for a bit about life and other things, plus some nice and optional DLC for a good charity if you want it. Granted, it’s absolutely not going to be everyone’s cup of tea thanks to the visual diversity and often downbeat tone. But if you like games that are both way outside the box and get your brain going, it’s time to do a bit of Soul Searching on your own.

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The only safe beach these days, most likely…

Score: B (80%)

-GW

-Review code provided by nakana.io

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