Games can be bad for many reasons: lack of resources, inexperience in certain aspects of game development or just simply misunderstanding what actually makes a game fun. Given my over 10 years of reviewing games I’ve become pretty good at picking up on those things and so I’m quite often able to dodge bad titles before I’ve sunk a decent amount of time into them. However every so often one slips through the cracks and it slowly dawns on me that I’ve made a serious error in judgement when adding it to my review queue. Such is the story behind why I wasted some 90 minutes of my life on Paws & Soul, a game that should ostensibly be right up my alley. What became clear as I was playing it though was this was both a nascent developer and one who had had their game localised from a game other than english. The combination of both made what should’ve been a run of the mill walking simulator experience a tragedy in both gameplay and story.
You’re a wolf and you get to explore the memories of 2 strangers. Why or how this has come to be isn’t revealed to you, no instead you’re just plonked into the world, left to explore and then memories start playing at you. Now this isn’t exactly a new trope, many have trodden this path before, but Paws & Soul doesn’t really do anything to set it up. In fact the jury is out ast to whether or not this was a rush copy job of a very similar game released earlier this year that I also reviewed: LOST EMBER. That one at least had the decency to setup the world and story a bit more before unveiling the whole memory retracing thing.
Visually the game is ok although I feel like it’s likely using a metric crapton of pre-baked assets from the store as I struggle to believe that the developers hired artists to build out these levels whilst everything about the game is absolute trash. Worse still is that all the game environments are way bigger than they need to be which means that it becomes quickly apparent just how simplistic both the level design and the assets used are. There are different biomes that you’ll explore over the course of the game but I honestly couldn’t tell you just how different they are apart from some of them ostensibly being in different seasons. Not many games can pull off being interesting just on graphics alone and Paws & Soul definitely isn’t one of them.
Paws & Soul aspires to be more than a mere walking simulator as there’s a bunch of half-baked mechanics thrown in that hint at a more fully fledged vision that was never realised before release. Most of them are different kinds of puzzle or platform mechanics, something which would’ve been great if this had any semblance of complexity when it came to exploration or puzzle mechanics. No for the most part the game stays true to the walking simulator genre, putting out breadcumbs of some kind of in-game currency that you’ll have to spend to unlock another story which, I assume, at some point links up to the main one. Problem is that both stories are completely uninteresting, badly written and, worst of all, extremely poorly voice acted.
When I first started playing I figured it was just one or two bad voice actors and a semi-shit script but it quickly became clear that all of the voice actors were likely not paid, the script was translated from another language (it was Russian when I looked into it) and the writers simply had no idea how to actually tell a damn story. I mean just look at the dialogue below, all of the game is like that and it doesn’t get better. It also doesn’t help that there was no mixing or mastering done on the audio either so you have mixed audio levels, differing sound quality and of course different experience in, you know, actually acting. It’s also clear there were no dictatorial notes given either so every line from every character is delivered completely flat. For a game that has really nothing else to stand on the story was its only place to save face and it didn’t, it ate the concrete with it.
This is not to mention the raft of issues that plague the actual game itself. Like you can see in the screenshot above dialogue can play over the top of each other, something that will happen often if you do what anyone would do in this game: head straight from point to point as the game seems to want you to do. The level design is also trash, with invisible walls in some but not all places meaning it’s not particularly hard to get out of bounds which really sends the game spare when you finally make your way back onto the beaten path. Worse still there doesn’t seem to be a trigger floor anywhere on the maps so if you, like me, decide to try and end it all but jumping off a ledge into the abyss you’ll just keep falling forever. Thankfully the game has enough sense not to save when you’re doing that or my save file would’ve been completely useless. Not that I’d really care honestly because I was already ready to give up on the game at that point.
Had I known then what I knew now I wouldn’t have even given Paws & Soul a go. The mixed review status initially intrigued me as there’s always a bit of fun in controversy. Unfortunately that mixed review status is hiding the real truth here: Paws & Soul is just straight up bad. I can’t really point to any redeeming features that’d make it worth your time, it’s just that bad. Are these issues fixable? Some, although I doubt they’re going to do much about it as the effort required to actually make this game good is comparable to simply making a better game from scratch. Honestly looking at the developer’s previous titles it looks like this is kind of their jam and we probably shouldn’t be expecting any miracles from their future titles. So, in closing, the game is bad and you will feel bad playing it. Avoid.
Paws and Soul is available on PC right now for $16.95. Total play time was 92 minutes with 35% of the achievements unlocked.