Did you ever play Papers, Please and think to yourself, ‘This sort of gameplay mechanic would work REALLY well in comedy-fantasy setting’? Me neither, but that’s exactly what you get with Lil’ Guardsman, and you know what? It’s a ton of fun to play.

Check out some screenshots down below:

Lil’ Guardsman puts players in the role of Lil, a twelve-year-old girl who has been tasked by her gambling father to cover his role as guardsman at the castle gates in the land of Sprawl. Her job? To question everyone who’s trying to get in and use a combination of her own intuition and some fancy gadgets to determine who should be granted admission to the city. There’s a lot of responsibility to the role so a child PROBABLY shouldn’t be taking charge, but it makes for an endearing and comical adventure that sees your actions take some interesting (and often destructive) turns.

Naturally, the most enjoyable aspect of the game comes with grilling those who are trying to make their way into the city, with plenty of unusual fantasy characters to meet that each have their own little stories to tell. Vampires, wizards, adventurers, pirates, noblemen, fish, goblins… you’ll encounters all sorts of weird and wacky characters that’ll require some thorough vetting before you decide what to do with them. They’re always a lot of fun to interrogate though, with some excellent voice acting bringing each interaction to life.

When interacting with a character, you’re able to perform three different actions before deciding their fate. Obviously, you’re able to speak directly to them, which can give a bit of a background of their intentions. It’s rare that this is ever enough to find out their EXACT motives though, so you’ll often have to use one of your fancy gadgets to get some answers. This includes a truth spray that’ll force someone to tell you the truth, a metal detector that will ping up any hidden metallic objects, and an x-ray that’ll allow you to scan through luggage to find out what secrets might be hidden within, just to name a few. And if none of those work? You can call on the help of the King’s advisors to get their opinion on the matter, though their advice is never as clearcut as you’d hope it to be…

“Whilst it might be easy enough to determine whether someone is allowed in the city or not, those who take a more methodical approach to find out each and every detail about their visit will be rewarded for their efforts.”

It’s never as simple as just relying on your gadgets though, with each requiring the power of a special crystal to be used. The crystal gets destroyed with each use, and with a limited quantity available, you have to use your gadgets wisely. You’ll also get graded on your performance within the interrogations, with maximum stars awarded if you’re thorough and learn everything. Whilst it might be easy enough to determine whether someone is allowed in the city or not, those who take a more methodical approach to find out each and every detail about their visit will be rewarded for their efforts.

And if things do go wrong? You’re able to rewind time and try again, with Lil’ Guardsman very forgiving with its difficulty. It’s not like it’s a particularly hard game anyway, but with plenty of different approaches to take and a lot of freedom given to the player, you should expect to suffer a few slip-ups along the way. Being able to turn back time alleviates the issue (and will certainly be appreciated by perfectionists).

It all comes together to make for a really rewarding gameplay experience that’s packed to the brim with charm and personality, with Lil’ Guardsman constantly enticing me to keep playing with its addictive ‘one more day’ loop. You’ll also get to leave your guard post to indulge in some side action, with players partaking in a bit of gambling, helping out with a wedding, and even helping a princess find the perfect partner. Admittedly, these tasks are simple in design, but they add that little extra oomph to help flesh out the quirky land of Sprawl and the unusual characters that reside within it. Oh, and you’ll also find out what repercussions your actions throughout the day have on the land, and things don’t always go as you’d expect – they’re always comical though, so you won’t worry too much when they result in chaos.

Check out some screenshots down below:

Add to all of that the wonderful visuals that seemingly blend together a Saturday morning cartoon with an old-school point-and-click adventure, and you’ll quickly find there are a lot of things to love about Lil’ Guardsman. Sure, it can be a little easy in places, and sure, some of the jokes don’t always land, but there’s no doubting that this wacky escapade will keep you smiling as you witness the curious land of Sprawl come to life.

Lil’ Guardsman Review

Lil’ Guardsman adds a fantasy-fuelled, Saturday morning cartoon twist to the Paper’s, Please formula, and believe me, it’s a whole lotta fun. I loved using every trick at my disposal to learn the intentions of the bizarre folk trying to make their way into the city, whilst there was nothing better than getting the perfect score in each interrogation. Add to that the funny little side tasks, the wonderful visuals that make up the charming world, and the excellent voice acting that brings each interrogation to life, and you’ll quickly find that this quirky puzzler definitely deserves your attention.

Developer: Hilltop Studios
Publisher: Versus Evil, tinyBuild
Platform(s): PC (Reviewed), PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch
Website: https://store.steampowered.com/app/1924360/Lil_Guardsman/