One man, one arrow, and many bosses. Who will win?
Video games often present seemingly impossible odds, but few operate on the premise of Titan Souls. It's just one small protagonist, one feeble weapon, and a series of foreboding bosses that loom over the battlefield. Shadow of the Colossus used a similar formula brilliantly in the 3D space 10 years ago, and Titan Souls attempts to do the same on a much smaller 2D scale. It succeeds in its few short hours and leaves players wanting more, which stands out as both a blessing and a curse.
Titan Souls spends little time on plot and structure. In fact, the only real narrative comes in the true ending, which some players may not experience. The game opens on a small boy/man who appears out of nowhere with a bow and arrow and finds himself in a strange land full of strange creatures. Those first 30 seconds suffice and place the emphasis on the mechanics. The simple and intuitive controls also streamline the process—press square to shoot, hold square to retrieve the arrow, and press X to dodge. It sounds simple, but the boss fights soon reveal the complexities of Titan Souls.
Each of the 19 bosses in Titan Souls (that includes optional ones) present two dilemmas. On the one hand, players must find the enemy's weak spot. Sometimes it's obvious, and sometimes it requires a few steps to uncover it. In this sense, boss fights contain a subtle puzzle element. The rest of the fight depends on reflexes and execution, as many of the bosses are quite agile. It's also important to remember the one-hit kill mechanic of the game—if a boss hits the protagonist, that's it. Players go back to the checkpoint, only to repeat the process again.
The game does a great job of emphasizing variety in its boss fights, as no two encounters feel exactly the same. The originality applies to both the fight itself and the design of each boss. I never thought I'd fight a giant mimic chest that shoots gold as projectiles, but that's exactly what happens in Titan Souls. The only downside is that the challenge from one fight to the next fluctuates, even in the same hub world. The tougher encounters instill a strong sense of triumph, but they're occasionally followed by much easier ones depending on where the player goes next. It lessens the impact of victory in some scenarios, but Titan Souls has other ways of grabbing the player's attention.
Exploring the environments in Titan Souls is an absolute joy due to the game's singular art style and standout soundtrack. The two elements coalesce and elevate the overall experience. There aren't many secrets to uncover in the world of Titan Souls, but I had a fine time just walking around and taking in the sights. Each of the hub worlds tackle different artistic motifs, whether it's a maze-like forest or lava-infested cave. The musical score compliments each of these areas beautifully and captures the sense of mystery that defines the entire game. It also knows when to include a kickass guitar riff, which is always a good thing.
I wanted to continue fighting bosses and exploring the world of Titan Souls, but the game ends right when it gets its hooks in the player. It took me a little over three hours to finish the game and defeat all the optional bosses. The game includes hard and iron man modes for those who finish the game, but I already died hundred of times in a normal playthrough. I'm not the kind of guy who worries about the dollars-to-hours ratio; instead, I concern myself with the experience and whether it feels complete. Titan Souls falls a bit short and feels slight. What's there is great; there's just not a lot of it.
Nevertheless, Titan Souls provides plenty of entertainment in those few hours. I still love the idea of a game with only bosses and a single weapon, and the contrast between the small protagonist and the towering bosses emphasizes the thrill of victory. It's a shame the game ends when it does, because there's potential here for an even greater product. But even with its short length, Titan Souls is a fresh and inventive indie release.