XBOX REVIEW | Lil Guardsman

XBOX REVIEW | Lil Guardsman

Lil Guardsman magically appeared on my radar, akin to a mischievous imp casting a spell, when I stumbled upon some jestful tweets on my timeline with what looked like Papers, Please but inserted with the whimsy of a Terry Pratchett novel and the absurdity of a Monty Python sketch. It’s basically a point & click narrative adventure, but its premise of having a 12-year-old decide who gets allowed past the border into the fictional tech-fantasy setting is hilarious in its execution and feels surprisingly open-ended.

I somehow missed the fact that it also launched on Xbox in January but made good on the promise to myself that I’d be reviewing it when it would come out. Even though I’m about 2 months too late. It’s one of this year’s best indie releases, so don’t miss out!

ℹ️ Reviewed on Xbox Series S | Review code provided by PR/publisher, this review is the personal opinion of the writer. Got unanswered questions about this game? Get in touch on X!

DeveloperHilltop Studios
PublisherVs Evil, tinyBuild

a colorful cast of characters

Things I liked!

  • Great music | I rarely start a non-rhythm game’s review with a mention of the music, but here is something fun to try: read the rest of the review while you have this Lo-fi Radio from Scott Christian (the game’s composer) on in the background. You shan’t regret it! I also thought the title music really slaps! (and even spent some time DMing one of the devs while having it on loop.)
  • Deciding the country’s fate at the border control | Your dad is a guardsman at the gate of the Sprawl, the fictional city where you grew up and because he also likes to give in to his gambling problem, you get to replace him on the job. You play as Lil, his 12-year-old daughter and through your decisions at the gate you can have a big impact on the Sprawl’s politics, food & entertainment situation and even the outcome of an all-out war! It’s a responsibility as weighty as a wizard’s hat on a windy day.
  • It’s genuinely funny | A lot of games try to be funny, but very few succeed. Lil Guardsman is the latter, and even though it may require a very particular type of funny bone, it sure tickled mine. From a murdering arsonist version of Belle that sings about her devious plans in true Disney fashion, to a magician who likes to hide his glasses in his boots or a cyclops who caused food to expire because she insisted on making the trek on high heels, the game delivers laughs like a well-aimed pie to the face.
  • It feels like you’re in control | While the end decision of most encounters ends up in one of three different outcomes: “Allow in”, “Deny access” or “Send to jail”, the method by which you get to that conclusion can differ in so many ways. You can bluff your way into them confessing something, call various helplines to hear about their opinion, use tools like a truth spray, X-ray, decoder ring or even a bullwhip to crack down some painful justice yourself… Early on you’ll be given a time machine too, allowing you to test the wildest strategies and see if they pay off to give you a higher rating.
  • Lots of references | It’s a treat trying to identify all the winks and nudges towards other games, TV shows and movies. It’s surprising how well they work in this setting and internally, I constantly alternated between Captain America’s “I understood that reference” and Leonardo DiCaprio’s pointing at the screen memes.
  • The artwork is fantastic | While the amount of animations is somewhat limited, the hand-drawn art is simply amazing and full of flair. The game looks great and the colorful cast of characters keeps you guessing at all times what wild encounters await around the corner of your guard booth.
  • Fully voice-acted | The entire game is voice-acted, and for once I found myself never skipping any dialogues because the delivery was so well-executed. Lil’s sarcasm is especially endearing as someone with a young daughter who isn’t afraid to roll her eyes at dear old dad.

sir fakesalot

Neither good nor bad

  • Requires multiple playthroughs to 100% | While there are guides out there, and I wouldn’t recommend using them on the first run, it will require a few more playthroughs to have seen everything the game has to offer. Now, I’m sure that’s not really what the devs intended and they’d prefer if friends discussed the different outcomes among themselves, for us completionists looking to get 1000G, it might get a little grindy. Some of the achievements require very specific choices from the start of the game and following a set path until the very end. I estimate that at least 3-4 playthroughs of the 8-hour game will be required. I managed to get 910G after one full playthrough and then carefully replaying some levels but I can see me coming back to the game for the full 1000G eventually. Hasta La Vista, Lil!

Welcome, contestants!

Things I disliked!

  • Swearing | I might be alone on this because there is already plenty of adult humour in the game, but having Lil, a 12-year-old girl, use f*** and other swearwords a little too casually did make me hesitate to play it when my own kids were around. I felt like it wasn’t 100% necessary either and could have been avoided, much like the blend of comedy it seems to draw inspiration from, such as Terry Pratchett’s Discworld novels or Monty Python movies, which are very light on the use of such words and still manage to make an impact.

How long did I play the review before publishing? 11 hours
How long to beat the story? Around 8 hours
How many Achievements did I earn before publishing? 910/1000G
How long to achieve 1000G | Takes about 3-4 playthroughs, so around 24 hours.
You’ll love this game if you like these | Papers Please, Storyteller, Return to Monkey Island

Do you prefer to see some gameplay? We’ve got you covered!


90/100 ⭐ | With its blend of whimsical humor, clever mechanics, and charming artwork, Lil Guardsman earns its place among this year’s finest indiegames, leaving me eagerly anticipating my eventual return on my quest for completion.

If you’re into point & click-style adventures or just enjoy laughing at bizarre situations with even weirder outcomes, then this is a game you shouldn’t miss!