The first five minutes of play dared me to hate Soul Sacrifice. The opening scene looked like a rejected cinematic from an abandoned Mortal Kombat spin-off concept, and the voice acting was extraordinarily rubbish. The nail was driven deeper into my brain as the protagonist's anguished line about not knowing what to do was repeated at least three times - with and without subtitles - while I muttered "I know what I'd do. I'd switch off the bloody Vita and read a bloody book" through clenched teeth.
As if to dare me further, Soul Sacrifice then handed me a bloody book. Seriously - the cover was made of living flesh, blinking eyes, and a real motor mouth.
Librom is a living, breathing tome that is as ugly as it is witty. Within its pages are the game's plot development, menu and character advancement systems, and the action-RPG co-operative missions that drive this game onwards. The combat is pretty standard stuff, with some hacking, some slashing, and a lot of strategic magic on the table. There is also a stripped-down take on the morality stuff that's in vogue right now. As you defeat enemies, you are given power over their souls.
Saving their souls will have positive effects on your health and recovery, while sacrificing them will boost your powers of offence. Murder, you are told early on, goes hand in hand with sorcery. I suppose in this respect it's a bit like getting to be a Death Eater rather than a Hogwarts goody two-shoes, although you still have an unimaginably evil sorcerer to defeat.
Magusar sustains his immortality by eating souls in a similar fashion to He Who Shall Not Be Named (interesting name suppression laws abound in Harry Potter's universe), who keeps going with regular doses of unicorn blood. Both are utter bastards, both are tragic figures.
Clearly, I have gotten over the scenery and voice acting - not because I'm a forgiving soul but because they get so much better than in those first few phases. Librom is a well-voiced, quick-witted character and a brilliantly presented binding thread to the whole story. The scenery and sounds make great use of the Vita's capabilities, and there aren't too many demands to use the touch screens to justify their existence and encroach upon your good time.
In a roundabout kind of way, this game might be a parent or school teacher's ultimate ally: by studying the book, you learn how to extricate yourself from danger and challenge the world around you. I'm on to you, Soul Sacrifice. You're Homework: The Game and I'd gladly go around with you again for extra credit.
Platform: Playstation Vita