What’s Your Soul Worth? Find out in Soul Gambler
by Marcus Estrada
It’s always bothered me that plays, novels, and the like are rarely adapted into video games. Soul Gambler is one of these rare instances as its takes inspiration from Goethe’s Faust. The setup is modernized, tweaked, and pretty simple to get a handle on. In Soul Gambler you meet Faust, a man with a job he hates and little else in his life. Things change once he meets an old woman while waiting for a bus. She offers him the ability to have all wishes granted as long as he pays with his soul.
As the player, you get to decide what exactly our buddy Faust spends his soul on. Should he really deplete 10% of himself just to make a bus arrive faster? No, of course not! But what about spending a percentage to discover his soulmate? Some choices definitely feel weightier and worth the temptation. Soul Gambler’s presentation definitely works in favor of emphasizing choice as the story plays out much like a comic book. The visuals and text boxes definitely look the part and you assume no direct control over Faust himself. It’s only his choices via dialogue and soul spending that we can manipulate.
Watching the story unfold and only having partial control over it feels frustrating – but purposefully so. Honestly, the point seems to be that no one should ever hand over their soul so easily to forces they can’t begin to comprehend! In any case, Faust and those around him get caught up in some serious stuff almost immediately. The buildup at times feels a bit too fast. Of course, I read quite quickly which aided me in finishing Soul Gambler within an hour. Having such a short timespan was a detriment for the “weight” of its story, but it was an enjoyable hour all the same.
Since the game offers so many choices you’ll also likely want to replay and make Faust behave completely differently. As you’ll find out, most choices don’t actually change the plot’s trajectory but do lead to different lines. This in itself is fun as my first playthrough was incredibly conservative. The next time around of course I had to try turning Faust into a reckless soul gambling monster. Playing beyond two times isn’t particularly recommended because of the amount of story overlap otherwise.
Although Soul Gambler is somewhat of an adaptation, you don’t need to be familiar with the play Faust to get into it. After all, the concept of selling souls is well embedded in urban legend-type lore. Certainly the comic book vibe also makes it a far more welcoming tale. Those who have never played with Choose Your Own Adventure books and the like might have trouble acclimating to the experience at first. Just as long as you have an open gaming mind a playthrough should turn out fine.
The biggest issue with the PC version is that many people experience problems getting the game to even run. I had no issues whatsoever, but the Steam forums are peppered with such complaints. If this is the case for you, playing Soul Gambler via the official website may work better! If you’re looking for a brief but entertaining piece of interactive fiction then Soul Gambler might be for you.
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[author image=”http://cliqist.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/marcus.jpg” ]Marcus is a fellow with a love for video games, horror, and Japanese food. When he’s not writing about games for a multitude of sites, he’s usually still playing one. One day when he became fed up with the way sites would ignore niche titles he decided to start his own site by the name of Pixel Pacas. Writing about video games is something he hopes to continue doing for many years to come. Some of Marcus’s favorite games include Silent Hill 2, Killer7, and The Sims. [/author]