Review: Restless Soul

Posted 4 weeks ago by Zoey Handley
Restless Soul Header

Are you living or just surviving?

Mortality is the common experience. We all face the possibility of death at any moment. We know our lives are finite, possibly meaningless. Whether you’re rich, poor, classy, slovenly, hard-working, lazy, smart, daft, sexy, smelly, a game developer, a game critic, or worse, we all get there in the end. We all have different ways of coping with it. Humor is one such method and the one I prefer to lean on, even though I’m about as funny as a clown giving a eulogy. Humor is how I bury all my emotions. It’s how I hide my relentless misery and the sheer struggle it is to keep putting one foot in front of the other. Like I said: clown at a funeral.

Restless Soul is another clown at a funeral, by which I mean it’s not that funny. Continuing with that already tortured analogy, I don’t feel any scorn for its failures. Instead, my heart breaks for it. It’s trying to do something admirable and failing outright. And I don’t want to tell it that, but I’m committed to reviewing it, so I have to try and be gentle about it during this sensitive time. And already, I’ve failed at that, so this is really one huge awkward scene.

Restless Soul World Exploration

Restless Soul (PC [Reviewed], Nintendo Switch)
Developer: Fuz Games
Publisher: Grafitti Games
Released: September 1, 2022
MSRP: $14.99

Restless Soul is about someone who recently died and wants to return to life. Apparently, they have unfinished business in life, but, guy, just consider that maybe the afterlife is better. Very few of us get the luxury of going, “Well, that’s my life in order. Guess I can die now.”

What follows is a deluge of attempted jokes. I think the aim was to make every bit of dialogue either a set-up or delivery for a joke, and it’s like a webcomic from the ‘00s. It’s tiresome. I think even if all the jokes were comedic gold, the fact that you’re tripping over them every few steps would turn them brown. Some of them might even be gems, but the tone is set after a few fail to land. This is why a lot of talk show hosts have people to warm the crowds — it’s easier to make someone laugh if they’re already laughing. Likewise, it’s hard to make someone laugh when they’re already rolling their eyes.

There is a game behind all these jokes, and it involves collecting eight keys to open a portal back to life. Standing in your way is Dr. Krull, who is an antagonist. His motivation through the game was rather unclear to me. I made note of it after it was reintroduced in his final monologue, and as it turns out, Dr. Krull is an antagonist trying to be evil.

Ba-dum tish

There’s a myriad of issues with Restless Soul’s plot, but the biggest is simply that it’s more interested in stringing together jokes than presenting a thoughtful narrative. I figure that, given its themes, it would be a bit more poignant, but if there’s an attempt at that, it’s a direct miss. The reason why the protagonist wants to escape the afterlife isn’t really explored and is only revealed after the credits. I won’t spoil it, but the revelation is not worth the wait.

It’s a mindset that has the characters exist simply to deliver jokes. The principal cast never makes any connections, and none of them really learn anything. The lack of any sort of growth robs the narrative of any taste. It’s barren. And it’s a large part of why the jokes are more miss than hit. The better the sandcastle, the more fun it is to kick over, but Restless Soul seems content with just sand.

Restless Soul Good Jokes

The small moments

It’s the sort of thing that would be more forgivable in a game more focused on the actual gameplay. There have been plenty of games whose plots begin and end with “go save the president” with no character development needed. Restless Soul isn’t one of those games. Dialogue and environmental interaction are the core, and the gameplay is there to convince you it couldn’t just be an email. That is to say, it’s rather shallow and inconsequential.

Combat consists of twin-stick shooting, which is a mighty fine control method, but presented here, it’s not all that exciting. You only find yourself fighting a small handful of enemies at any one time, and they either go down rather quickly, or they’re bosses with health bars that exceed how long they’re interesting. It’s uninventive, is the issue.

There are some light puzzles to get through, and gameplay is often changed up a bit from area to area. They’re often short-lived, and some of them are more of a chore than a challenge. However, given the short runtime of Restless Soul, they are enough to carry it. The issue isn’t that the actual mechanics of Restless Soul are janky or poorly designed. It’s simply that they’re shallow and don’t make up for the deficiencies in the plot.

AboveTale which would have been funnier as "Overtale," but here we are.

Abovetale

The inspiration Undertale had on Restless Soul is obvious, especially when it comes to aesthetics. The music isn’t bad, though it is rather sparsely composed. The problem isn’t really that so much was drawn from Undertale, but rather it so eagerly invites comparisons it can’t live up to.

Restless Soul is the work of a solo developer, which is always admirable. However, when I’m drawn to such an artist’s work, I usually expect to see a part of them expressed. What I got here was their sense of humor and their influences, and not a lot more. It’s a tough beat that takes hard work, and I sympathize with that. I just hope next time, they can find a way to reach deeper inside themselves and expose something more meaningful.

This leaves Restless Soul as a pretty difficult game to recommend. Even though it’s not a painful experience, it comes up short on almost every facet by which I would rate a game’s success. Its gameplay is shallow, the narrative is simple to a fault, and the aesthetics don’t nearly impress. I’d suggest maybe giving the afterlife a pass, because Restless Soul is a mere ghost of a game.

[This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]

3

Poor

Went wrong somewhere along the line. The original idea might have promise, but in practice it has failed. Threatens to be interesting sometimes, but rarely.

Zoey Handley
Zoey is a gadabout gaming hobbyist. She's been playing video games all her life and is a lover of both new and retro games. She enjoys digging in the dirt and picking out the games that are perfectly fine if you clean them up a bit.