Developer: Hilltop Studios
Platforms: PC (Reviewed), PS4, PS5, Switch, Xbox One, Xbox Series S/X
Publisher: Versus Evil
Lil’ Guardsman is a deduction adventure game. This game was developed by Hilltop Studios and published by Versus Evil. There is one game similar to this, which is called Papers Please, but Lil’ Guardsman has much more interaction involved, making it unique. This review was done for the PC, but the game is also available for Switch, Xbox series and Playstation series.
Lil’ Guardsman is a single-player game where you play as Lil, a 12-year-old girl, who is given the responsibility to stand in for her father’s, Hamish, castle gate guard post. Her father is off making bets on goblin balls at the pub whilst Lil is shown the ropes on how to work in his position. As Lil takes on this task, she grabs the attention of the three royal advisors, who try their best to manipulate her for their own gain. As a result, Lil, an exceptionally wise young adolescent, finds herself entrapped in court politics, diplomatic matters, and secret plots, which are all dependent on the decisions she makes. The future of Sprawl and the entire world is in the hands of Lil, the Guardsman.
The controls for Lil’ Guardsman are fairly simple to get used to. As you start off the game, you are given an in-sequence tutorial that shows the player the different key binds. There is also another sequence you get with Lil’s father, where they allow you to try out the different items in the toolkit to test out the mechanics. Most of the controls are just with the mouse and movement keys, which does not overcomplicate the gameplay. There are no noticeable delays, and everything in the game works very smoothly.
The art style for Lil’ Guardsman has a quirky hand-drawn cartoon style. In some senses, it’s similar to a fairytale flip book, which is beautiful and elegant at most. The game is characterised by an array of colourful and vibrant visuals. The environment is lively, which is shown through the exaggerated expressions and features of each unique character. Each character has its own little depiction that brings the world of Sprawl all together. Character designs range from robust to extremely quirky, with goblins, humans and many more. The art style presents a playful and lighthearted atmosphere with detailed and imaginative character design. The setting for this game is visually appealing, with lots of detail put into the environment. For instance, even Lil’s bedroom has posters of off-brand bands. The art style is fantastic and adventurous, which sets the overall tone for the game. In addition to the art style, the soundtrack, especially voice-over, goes a long way. With the character design, each cast voice-over with dialogue is done so well that brings the characters to life. The voice acting is phenomenal as it allows the player to get completely immersed in the story. Many sound effects are also incorporated into the game, such as the phone ringing, slaps, and background noise of people’s chatter. The soundtrack is also a great selection, and my favourite part is when you’re able to fix the jukebox in the tavern. The jukebox comes with a selection of different tracks that you can indulge yourself in. I also like that the music is very subtle (mixes of lo-fi, electron and a bit of hip-hop), which does not take away from the voiced dialogues of the character.
This game has a lot to offer, especially with its repeatable value. The main aim of the game is to follow instructions given by the daily ‘royal writ’, and using your own deduction skills, with, of course, your range of tools, you must decide to deny, admit or jail potential visitors to the Sprawl. As you encounter these visitors and make your decision, you get a 1 to 4-star rating. The higher the rating you receive, the more pay you get. Later on in the story, Lil comes across a special item that allows her to replay levels. This can help players get higher ratings, and the best part is that each turn is not like the other, as the choices you make will affect the characters you encounter in the future.
I really enjoyed the game for its story, unique characters, and replayable value. The game also offers 12 levels, each with different characters that tell an epic story with great bits of humour. I found just interacting with the characters to be so fun, as they all had weird reasons to try to enter the castle. The deduction is also solely up to you, and I like that the tools do not have unlimited usage to them, which means that you need to be wise with your decisions. At first, it seemed like an easy game to get hold of, but later, you realise that some decisions you made were not the right ones. Having the ability to go back at the moment is something I quite like, which keeps players from having to start a completely new run. My only issue with the replay is that I wish there was an option to skip through the dialogue if repeating certain character segments. The game gives players many different choices; even Lil’s replies are something you can choose from, which adds more character to the game. I like that the game has variety after completing your ‘shift’, which includes cutscenes, being part of a game show and buying/selling items. This type of game is one that you can enjoy while sitting back in your seat and enjoying the story unfold as you come across intriguing interactions. Overall, the game is extremely fun and has a great playtime value as well.
Lil’ Guardsman is a beautifully hand-drawn game that encapsulates gameplay value like no other. Through absurd and humorous storytelling, it allows players to use their deduction skills and an array of tools to either dismiss or allow visitors into the castle of Sprawl! It is a fun adventure that has great charm to it with a good amount of replayable value. Lil’ Guardsman is an appealing and immersive cartoon-story book-like game that tests the choices you will make. I highly recommend checking out Lil Guardsman yourself!
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