At certain point, I thought I'd never beat Titan Souls. I figured it was just one of those games that I could play and play for review without finishing. It's not normal, but it occasionally happens when the wall the developers have thrown before me becomes too high.
The line between success and failure is very thin in Titan Souls.
The game is an action puzzler with only boss fights. There's no real plot to speak of and very little in the way of exploration. The areas separating each titan are filled with serene ruins, giving you a reprieve in-between your numerous deaths. You will be crushed, burned, stabbed, and electrocuted on your quest to... take these souls? I don't know. The titans themselves didn't seem to be doing much before you ran up and poked them in the eye.
Your lone, tiny character goes up against the eponymous titans with only a bow and a single arrow. You can fire the bow and holding down the firing button sends your arrow farther. You can recall your single arrow. You can run and perform a simple dodge roll. You can't move while charging your shot or recalling it. This is the extent of your interactions with the world. These moves are the boundary box around every encounter in Titan Souls; you'll use these simple tools to beat each titan and in some cases, solve simple puzzles in order to gain access to them.
Titan Souls is challenging, but "challenge" isn't really the right word for it. Much like Shadow of the Colossus, every titan has a weak spot. In many cases, hitting the weak spot is an instant kill, dispatching the titan in a single hit and allowing you to absorb its soul. You also die in a single hit, making death come rather quickly.
There's two tricks to dispatching each titan. One is finding out how to uncover the weak spot or hit it, the other is having the manual dexterity to do so. The instant kill nature of the game means battles tend to go rather quickly. Honestly, it was rare that combat lasted more than five minutes. Either they die, or you do. Where to hit and how to hit are key. In some cases, it's simply a matter of finding the right spot in the room to do the deed. Sometimes, you need to get the angle of your shot just right. Maybe you need split-second timing, dodging or firing at just to the right moment.
The speedy nature of your death means the game's basic loop is rather quick. Find titan, face titan, win or perish. If you die, you revive at the nearest sigil, which has a specific number of titans assigned to it. I admit, I found the short trek back to my current foe after each death a bit annoying - a retry option would've been sublime - but that trek is rather short. You'll throw yourself against the titans again and again until you place your arrow in just the right spot.
There is a tension and frustration in Titan Souls, but it's measured in seconds. There's no tense, lengthy battles where you've spent 10 minutes whittling the boss down, with only a sliver of life left to your name. Your punishment for failure is a blindingly quick death. Many times, Titan Souls feels like trial-and-error. You versus your own personal random number generator. Did you place the shot at the right moment this time? You win. If not, try again. Some bosses lack that feeling that you really overcame them; you just happened to be holding the controller when your arrow found the right spot.
I praise Titan Souls for its sound design though. It has a great, calming soundtrack between encounters and an epic rousing score in each titan battle. There's also the moment after each confirmed kill, where everything gets quiet and dark. As you recall your weapon, with it comes the titan's soul in a rush of light and sound. It's a great moment.
And that's it. There's around 20 titans and your speed in dispatching them will be up to your keen eye, your dexterity, and the random number god you pray to. I expect it'll probably take most enthusiast players 5 - 6 hours to complete. Once you've finished, there's little reason to revisit each boss in the game's regular mode, but the developer has included a hard mode (where you can't run or dodge) and single life mode if you want to step up to that plate. Honestly, that's too rich for my blood, but I'll leave it to those mountain climbers among you.
Once you've beaten the game, there's nothing left except for those who want greater challenges.
The relaxing soundtrack will keep you calm in-between your many deaths.
The pixel art visuals are clean and minimalist. Your character is tiny in order to give each Titan a sense of scale.
Titan Souls is one great idea: all the boss battles with nothing getting in the way. All you have is a bow, an arrow, and your trusty dodge roll. It takes one hit to kill your foes and one hit for them to kill you. Titan Souls is a solid game that doesn't overstay its welcome, even if it feels like your skill might not be involved in every kill.