I’m not the best gamer in the world. Usually this isn’t an issue, because games typically have difficulty settings and often a generous health allowance to allow you to complete the task at hand. Titan Souls, however, doesn’t. This caused me quite a problem because as a result I died… a lot. And to enjoy Titan Souls it’s something you’ll have to get used to, because thankfully for me it’s not just limited to my gaming ability; everyone I have spoken to about the game also died many times over.
The reason for this is that if your hero receives a blow of any kind will instantly kill you, but thankfully this mechanic is also applied to the bosses that you will face in the game. Their version of the mechanic comes with a cunning twist however; you will have to determine their weakness first. It’s not as straightforward as you might think, and compounded further by the fact you only have one weapon – a solitary arrow – and you are going to have to play very tactically to overcome the odds.
Titan Souls doesn’t present you with an awful lot of information. You are thrown straight into a pixilated top-down world – very reminiscent of the original Zelda games on the NES – and left to work it out yourself. The world is barren and devoid of any of the filler material or enemies that games in a similar vein contain; it’s just you, your arrow, and your senses as you traverse the empty, ruinous landscape in search of the titans.
This is where the main strength of the game comes into play. If you have ever wanted to play a game where you faced off against an increasing assortment of challenging boss fights, then this is certainly for you as walking into a new area usually means a titan encounter. The game doesn’t aid you in any way – you’ll get some ancient text scroll into view as the boss instantly sets about removing your threat, you simultaneously trying to determine what you need to know and do at the same time. You’ll need to carefully assess your situation, but standing still isn’t going to do you any favours either as it will ultimately result in your death (and a bit of a trek back to do it all again).
Many of the fiends have glaringly obvious weaknesses, and as mentioned already a successful blow will result in their instant demise – but this is where it gets tricky. Sometimes you have a minuscule window of opportunity to get the shot off before you are hampered by the hazards in play such as bubbles, fists, or even an electrical current in a pool of water. One early boss will use his icy breath to push you away and into danger, so needless to say patience for the right moment to attack is crucial. It is incredibly satisfying when you do succeed however, with the game awash of light and explosions as the enemy falls at your feet… an empty carcass belying the trouble you probably had to go through to get to that point.
The game has a very simple control scheme with only two buttons used, one for rolling – or running if held – and one to launch your arrow. The same button is also used to recall you arrow should you need, however caution must be applied as you will be unable to move and extremely vulnerable at this time. You can just collect it by walking over it, so this may be of more use to you at times, but when summoned back the arrow can be just as lethal as it was when you launched it so that’s something to think about as well.
Developed by AcidNerve, this three man team from Manchester have created a game which carries off the ancient and abandoned look quite well. Your character is tiny and the game adopts a very withdrawn view of your surroundings, but once you start facing off against some of the more monstrous behemoths you soon see why. Some of these enemies have had a great deal of thought put into their look and design and Acid Nerve have to be applauded for that. The lack of any real interaction outside of the encounters does add to the empty nature of the world, but that is kind of the point. If you are not a fan of the pixel-art look or retro inspired graphics, then this isn’t going to be the game to win you over – however I will say that the graphics are very artfully and pleasantly done for their style. The audio in the game is fabulous as well, the eerie tunes and effects all cheep in very effectively to add to the atmosphere. Make no mistake, despite the minimalistic approach, the game is very polished.
It’s also very challenging. Well I say challenging, but that word could just as easily be substituted with frustrating. Your skill level and reactions will be tested, and as already mentioned with regards the number of deaths you will accumulate it will predominantly be your patience that is pushed to the limit – meaning only you can say how much fun this will ultimately make the experience. This leads me to the biggest drawback (or possibility for one) of the game; you may find yourself stuck on a particular fight for many deaths before finally succeeding, and the manner of victory in the end might actually have been down to a lucky shot.
Successfully besting the twenty-odd titans will reward you with a new game + mode and allow new mechanics to come into play – such as no rolling, or iron mode. The game also comes with cross-buy, cross-save, and a platinum trophy along with a pretty inventive and challenging trophy set – so aside from the difficulty, the game will last you quite a long time that’s for sure. The problem is that much of that will be down to repeated encounters with the same boss, and only you can say how long you can put up with that. For myself, it wasn’t very long before it beat me – but that’s just me.