You have to hand it to indie developers who think outside the box. 3Souls is a thought-provoking episodic tale that'll have you and a friend working together to progress in its peculiar journey so let's power up our GamePads to see if it's any good.
This first episode of the 3Souls trilogy revolves around an entity known as Nelesa. You control her as you would in most 2D platformers by moving left and right and jumping. Where it gets interesting is in its puzzles. You use the GamePad to interact with certain features that allow Nelesa to progress. For example, brushing away dust from a mural can reveal a map of the area that displays hidden platforms and blowing into the microphone can power fans that allow Nelesa to jump over large gaps. As you move on, the puzzles get quite tricky yet none of them are so obtuse that they're difficult to figure out. This creates a satisfying level of challenge that gives your brain a workout without making you lose your mind in the process. The rewarding puzzles combine with the fantastically well implemented GamePad mechanics to create one enjoyable journey.
3Souls' visuals aren't that impressive but there's a certain style to it that I find appealing. Watching the 8-bit hero glide along the ground throughout many hand-drawn environments is quite special. When you hear the ambient music from the television combine with Nelesa's voice from the GamePad, it all comes together to craft a compelling and mysterious world.
3Souls can either be played solo or with a friend. I played the entire game with my wife and found it to be much more enjoyable taking turns with one of us solving puzzles and the other doing the platforming. There isn't much content besides the couple hour long story but keep in mind, episodes 2 and 3 are still on their way so I have no complaints when it comes to length. A nifty extra comes in the form of "8 Seconds of Nindies" which is a just-for-fun bonus mini-game where you listen to audio clips from other indie Nintendo games and try to guess which game it's from. You'll hear melodies from titles such as Trine Enchanted Edition, Affordable Space Adventures, and Human Resource Machine which is pretty cool for all the eShop fans out there.
Playing with Nelesa is fun but there are a few problems. Although the puzzles aren't that difficult to figure out, executing their solutions is a whole other story. Accomplishing feats such as having to memorize where hidden platforms are and inputting lock combinations in time before a flower swoops in and ends your life can be quite challenging. Nothing is insurmountable but many parts of the quest will require multiple attempts. Considering you only have three lives, get ready to play through the same portions over and over again. One particular mechanic that I had a great deal of difficulty with is the fan. Whenever the other player blows into the mic, it's hard to time when to start moving. If you move too early, your jump will fall short while too late means that you'll run into the pit. Finally, there's a lack of polish that makes 3Souls seem shabby at times. For example, the control explanation screen looks like it was drawn by a kid and the game never seems to remember the Co-op Mode toggle. Every time we started playing, we had to always switch it to "On" before starting.
Episode 1 of 3Souls is a promising start for the trilogy. I hope that a lot of its problems are ironed out in the next couple of episodes but as it stands; this is one nifty cooperative puzzle-filled adventure.
- + Innovative puzzles that are tricky enough to be satisfying yet not too obtuse
- + Fantastic GamePad implementation
- + Mysterious ambience is well handled
- - Executing some puzzle solutions can be needlessly frustrating
- - Fan mechanic is frequently troublesome
- - General lack of polish