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Lil’ Guardsman Review


Lil’ Guardsman describes itself as a ‘deduction adventure game’. Adventure we can do, but deduction? Not so sure – we never pick up on the ‘obvious’ clues for a book or movie’s surprise ending and Cluedo isn’t exactly our first choice of board game. However, the promise of an adventure full of colourful animation and plenty of laughs meant we were willing to give Lil’ Guardsman a try – maybe we wouldn’t be so bad at this deduction lark after all?

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How will your shifts in the guard hut go?

We start the game by meeting the titular Lil, a wise cracking 12 year old girl who seems much older than her years. She’s asked by her guardsman Dad to take over one of his shifts while he disappears to feed his goblinball gambling habit. The shift in question sees Lil working the guard hut at the entrance to the Sprawl, a city set in a fictional world that is a mix of mediaeval kingdoms, science fiction technology and fantasy creatures.

Your job is simple – humans and a few non-humans (including goblins, vampires and elves) will rock up to your hut and demand to be let through into the city. You have to decide whether to grant them their request, turn them away or send them to rot in the castle jail. To help you decide you can try good old interrogation, where you can find out more about their reasons for wanting to enter, or phone up one of three royal advisors, who may or may not give you solid advice. You also have a range of tools at your disposal, including a truth spray, metal detector and x-ray machine, to uncover information that may be being kept secret. 

Upon making your decision for each visitor, you are awarded a score of 1 to 4 stars, which are obtained depending on the decision you made and how much you uncovered during your interrogation. The more stars you rack up, the more money you’ll get paid for your shift but a low average will result in you getting fired. There is almost always a ‘correct’ decision that will earn you maximum stars, but this is not necessarily going to be the ‘right’ one. You can follow the rules, set out in a ‘royal writ’ from the advisors at the start of each shift, or bend them a little to get a more interesting result. Reminiscent of games like Death and Taxes, the decisions you make will have consequences, in this case what happens to events in the Sprawl. And some of these decisions will have major consequences in how the narrative of the game develops.

All sounds simple so far – right? Well… the game designers aren’t going to make it that easy. For a start, you are only able to use three different techniques on each visitor and those tools we mentioned? Each use of them will require one magic crystal, which you will have to buy with your hard earned gold coins. If you do decide you’ve made the wrong decision, or just want to see where another line of questioning will take you, you can turn back time. Near the start of the game you are given the Chronometer3000 by a scientist who wants to do some dubious research on this brand new invention using Lil as a human guinea pig. Using this allows you to return to anywhere in the level (and disrupt the fabric of space time resulting in some perilous situations).

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You’ll want to make the most of the Chronometer3000

Of course, you don’t just get to work the one shift, there are several reasons why you need to continue your guarding duties over twelve different levels. Most of these levels will involve some kind of guarding duty – including a couple of higher risk night shifts where you’ll come across monsters, information about which you can find in your handy monster guidebook.

It’s not just about manning the gate though, the game manages to switch things up with sections where you need to explore various other locations in the city and chat to the 100+ characters in the game. You will be able to place an (illegal) bet on a goblinball game, use questioning and deduction to work out who the mole is inside the GLA (Goblin Liberation Army) or take part in a gameshow designed to find a new hero for the kingdom. In these parts the game has a very simple point and click gameplay and it’s very obvious at all times what you will need to do and where to go.

The backbone of Lil’ Guardsman is a cracking narrative with all the drama of a good soap opera – love, betrayal, conflict, murder and secret goblin organisations. The developers inform us that there are up to sixty unique paths to pursue in some turns, which results in  dozens of different story branches. 

The voice acting, delivered by a cast of Toronto-based theatre, TV, and comedy actors is spot on (we’ll forgive the occasional dodgy accent) and the hand-drawn cartoon style animation is simple but effective. The humour in the game was influenced by Monty Python, Matt Groening shows such as The Simpsons and LucasArts’ point-and-click classics like Day of the Tentacle. We can’t say it quite reaches the high bar of these classics but there were a couple of wry smile moments, if not laugh out loud ones. Plus there is a sprinkle of sentiment in the game too, with some touching scenes between Lil and her Dad, Hamish.

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Don’t be afraid to stick em in jail

The game took us ten hours, but we could have spent longer exploring. Replayability is high with the option of replaying levels (or indeed the whole game) in order to see what path the narrative will take if you make alternative decisions, including the possibility of different endings. With over 7500 lines of dialogue in the game, we suspect there was quite a lot we didn’t get to experience first time round.

Lil’ Guardsman surpassed our expectations – it exists in a beautiful and engaging world and is a rare game that manages to be just challenging enough to keep you interested. We’ve even come away with better deduction skills – anyone fancy a game of Cluedo?


  • Mix of game styles keeps thing interesting
  • Tonnes of different narrative pathways
  • Ability to rewind time and try a different approach
  • Challenge set at the right level
  • Not quite as funny as it promises
  • Massive thanks for the free copy of the game, Versus Evil
  • Formats - Xbox Series X|S (review), Xbox One, PS4, PS5, Switch, PC
  • Release date and price - 23 January 2024 | £16.74
Gemma Young
Gemma Younghttp://www.snapshotscience.co.uk
I'm a part-time gamer and a full-time writer of science-y things. On the few odd occasions that I'm able to wrestle the Xbox controller away from the avid gamers in my family, I enjoy spending time playing puzzle and adventure games.
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<b>Pros:</b> <ul> <li>Mix of game styles keeps thing interesting</li> <li>Tonnes of different narrative pathways</li> <li>Ability to rewind time and try a different approach</li> <li>Challenge set at the right level</li> </ul> <b>Cons:</b> <ul> <li>Not quite as funny as it promises</li> </ul> <b>Info:</b> <ul> <li>Massive thanks for the free copy of the game, Versus Evil</li> <li>Formats - Xbox Series X|S (review), Xbox One, PS4, PS5, Switch, PC <li>Release date and price - 23 January 2024 | £16.74</li> </ul>Lil’ Guardsman Review
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