I always look for games like Stray Souls, games made by small teams trying to make something special. Jukai Studios takes a lot of inspiration from the rest of the industry. Unfortunately, identity can’t be taken from the rest of the genre.
Stray Souls Review (PS5) – Lots Of Ideas Mixed Together Like Oil And Water
Daniel inherits a rather unkept house from his deceased grandmother. During his first night in the house, he opens up a dating chat with a woman named Martha, who just so happens to be his immediate neighbor.
They start talking about the house, and she tells Daniel about the strange things his grandmother did while living there, the most particular of which being random people coming and going during the night.
Soon after that, the form of an old, warped woman shows herself from time to time, almost messing with Daniel. He ultimately retreats from the house and meets Martha, who takes him on a trip to find answers. On that trip, he learns that Martha expected him to move in there, that she is his sister, and that old woman is their grandmother, organizing a cultist plot.
There’s a lot going on here, and it’s quite likely that you already figured out where this story goes just from that introduction. That’s the inherent problem with Stray Souls: It wants to do so many things but finds no way to blend them together.
You have over-the-shoulder shooting, a barrel roll dodge, a dangerous cult, foggy locales, and environmental puzzles. Essentially, this game takes the greatest hits from Silent Hill and Resident Evil and tries to integrate all of them into one game.
Cut and Paste
In theory, putting these features together could work well in the correct hands. However, Stray Souls uses them much like a ransom note written with letters and words cut out of newspapers. Then, imagine those words being slightly out of order. You understand how it wants to read, but it still reads strangely.
This is what the plot and presentation feels like. For instance, you solve a puzzle in the sheriff’s office, with your sister standing next to you. Immediately after solving it, the scene clips to Martha standing in an interrogation room on the other side of the building.
This is not an anomaly. This happens throughout the entire game. From the outside looking in, this game looks like it was created in chunks by different people and then plugged together at the last minute.
Leaning Into The Jank
Combat is a strange topic of interest. It works for what it wants you to do, but it doesn’t make the job easy for you. Aiming your handgun is slightly oversensitive with no settings to adjust it.
Every little adjustment moves the reticle too much, making you miss. I managed to work around it by moving my character more than the camera for fine tuned aiming. All in all, it works but not well enough to enjoy.
The one saving grace is how generous the barrel roll is. For the entire animation, you are invincible, and you can roll through enemies nine times out of ten. You can also spam the barrel roll. If all else fails, just roll your way to safety.
Enemy AI generally lends itself to you as well. Some enemies rush you, giving you very little time to do anything more than roll. Most of the time, though, they ramble around slowly enough for you to put enough bullets into them.
Plus, the game provides ammunition absolutely everywhere, always keeping you armed. Like the game knows it’s far from perfect and does just enough to make it a doable experience for you.
When Problems Double Down
Many times throughout Stray Souls, your actions prove too much for the game, causing issues. These are basic actions you perform regularly, but they somehow keep follow up prompts to activate properly.
For example, due to getting hit while reloading, I couldn’t aim my gun until I got hit again. When shimmying across a gap, I kept shimmying automatically even after leaving the gap. One boss locks you into an attack animation if you get too close, even if you roll. Some paths don’t open up when they should, and I have to reload my save to properly trigger it.
On top of that, the graphics lack refinement. Characters look decently animated, showing a focus on their production. However, lighting causes a lot of problems. It makes blood look like plastic. It illuminates standing grass but blacks out the actual ground. Then, some wall surfaces register light at all while others don’t.
Led Too Far Astray
All in all, Stray Souls lacks the kind of refinement across the board to make it even worth much conversation. Ideas run amuck, and technical issues show themselves practically everywhere.
The game compensates for some of its issues but not enough to make it anything more than a slideshow of horror ideas in rapid succession.
This is for people who enjoy cheesy and campy horror. Even still, $30 makes this a hard sell even for them.
Stray Souls is now available on PS5 and PS4.
Review code kindly provided by publisher