I’m purchasing an Xbox Live Indie Game every day, seeking out the quality titles that got lost in the shuffle and no longer appear in the top 50 downloads. Today is day #9, and today’s game is “Soul”.

Soul is a visually striking game, with a dark and moody graphical aesthetic. You play as a soul, just escaped from a dying hospital patient’s body. Monsters are everywhere trying to devour you. Your only escape is to carefuly navigate your way to safety, avoiding walls and monsters as you slip around or through air ducts, elevator shafts, enemies, and any other obstacles in your way.

First off, you have to understand that this game is *hard*. It’s not trying to be easy. This game gleefully harkens back to a bygone era when trial-and-error was required to get through games, and it was rare that you would ever “beat” one. Back then, without the aid of online walkthroughs, gamers often weren’t even sure exactly what we were supposed to do in a given level to complete it. Soul feels a lot like that. Make no mistake: if you thought Super Meat Boy was hard, or something you didn’t have the patience for, then this likely isn’t your game either. For the rest of us, though, this game is a triumph that will keep you coming back for more.

This game is a merging of a bunch of genres. At its heart is a maze game, as you try to thread the needle through unforgiving corridors avoiding walls and, well, everything else in your path. Even so much as the slightest touch against anything means instant death, and a return to the beginning of the level. Thankfully, the collision detection is very good, and I never once felt that I had died when I should have been safe. There’s a touch of survival horror here, with monsters suddenly popping up from floors, and other things that were actually able to generate real chills with me. This game has atmosphere to spare, and the spooky sounds of the environments you have to navigate complement the game perfectly. There’s a bit of puzzle solving to the game too, such as in one level where you are in the hospital’s air ducts and have to not only navigate tight spaces while avoiding opponents, but you also have to suss out a path that either successfully avoids, or utilises, the fans blowing air into or out of the ducts. While the levels are very dark, your character does cast some light on objects and walls near it which helps.

My goal with this site is not to beat every game and offer a comprehensive review, but to play far enough into a game that I’m sure it’s one I want to buy. I then play a bit farther until I’m satisfied I have enough information to give people a taste of the game in a review. Given the inexpensive prices of Xbox Live Indie Games, I really only feel that I need to give people enough information so that they can decide whether it’s the kind of game, with the kind of production values, that they would appreciate. That’s good too, because otherwise this would be a game that would wait years for me to “beat” it, if indeed I am ever to do so. I anticipate it’s a game that I’ll play a level or two of every few days, possibly for years to come, sometimes making progress, sometimes not. That level of difficulty, though, will mean that when you do finally beat a level that you’ll experience a level of satisfaction that is often missing from today’s games.

The game costs 80 Microsoft Points and is recommended for people who like maze games, people who like a real challenge, and people who don’t have a history of throwing their controller against the wall in frustration.

Tried this already? Vote below. About to try it? Please come back and vote after downloading it.

  1. I was excited to see today that Soul had re-entered the top-50 downloads on the U.S. Indie Games charts, which is high enough to get it back on the dashboard (I also checked the Canadian and UK charts, but it wasn’t ranking quite that high yet). For a game released 10 months ago, that’s great to see. As of right now, Xbox.com lists the game at 50 exactly so it’s just made the cut. This site has seen a lot of traffic on the Soul review, so I like to think we helped push it over the top.

  2. Kovitlac says:

    Great review! This game is one of a number of demo tries on XBLA, but the only one I have actually bought. In fact, I bought it twice (first time for my system, second time for my dad’s system so I could play it at home one weekend). Fantastic, moody, artsy little game. I definitely recommend it to anyone who is a fan of creepy games. I would not recommend it to anyone with a heart condition.

  3. Revid Cargian says:

    You really should just sit down one day and work your way through it all at once (if you haven’t done so already). This was the very first XBLIG I bought, and while it only lasted about 20 minutes (17, to be exact… it tells you how long you took to finish everything at the very end), I found it just an engaging and atmospheric as you did.

    On a side note, great site you have here. I’ve been looking for a place that reviews nothing but the indie games, and all the other indie game sites have next to nothing for reviews. I look forward to seeing every game that you end up playing. =D

  4. I tried Soul on the strength of this recommendation, and it’s really good. It’s rare for me to buy the full version of a game as soon as the trial expires, but I did in this case.

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