Shadow of the Colossus’ concept, Zelda: A Link the Past’s art design and Demon’s Souls’ unforgiving difficulty; if nothing else, Titan Souls certainly borrows from the very best. On paper, Titan Souls is a hardcore gamers’ dream, and on top of this long list of homages, developer, Acid Nerve have added one unique but ultimately ingenious idea that successfully raises Titan Souls above mere deference, subsequently creating an experience that is simultaneously extremely familiar but undeniably new.
Like Shadow of the Colossus, Titan Souls is essentially an extended boss run in which the Zelda-esque 2D world is inhabited exclusively by a collection of titans that need their proverbial clocks cleaned. While Titan Souls doesn’t have any of the emotional impact of Team Ico’s finest, it does have one unique selling point that helps it stand out from the crowd by putting a unique spin on the well-worn boss battle template – not only can each and every boss kill you with just one hit, but perhaps more worryingly is the fact that you only have a single arrow with which to defeat your decidedly titanic enemies. That might sound a little unfair on paper, and arguably it is, but while you only have one arrow at your disposal, you do at least have the ability to pick up the arrow if you miss the target, thus adding an exciting element of risk and reward to each and every shot taken.
Beyond picking up the arrow on foot, you can also magic it back to yourself, but just like charging that all important shot, doing so sees you briefly rooted to the spot, and believe me, standing still mid-battle is rarely a good idea. The mechanics are incredibly basic with little more than a roll and a charged shot used beyond the very basic actions of walking/running, but while the mechanics might be basic, the way that they are implemented are anything but. Each boss battle is built around your limited repertoire of skills with each requiring a careful combination of skill and patience.
Like Demon’s Souls finest battles, Titan Souls has that great sense of gradual progression that sees what apparently appear to be impossible odds slowly whittled down as you learn that little bit more about your adversary after each and every painful death. Like Demon’s Souls, you will die a lot, but like that game, there is enough of a hook to keep you coming back despite the inevitably long list of failed attempts. Sadly, while the sense of progression is a match for Demon’s Souls, the sense of fairness that ultimately made From Software’s brutal brawler the masterpiece that it is, isn’t always apparent here. Far too often, a kill will feel lucky with it occasionally unclear as to why you were successful on the 28th try but not the 18th. Death always feel fair enough, but with success feeling slightly random at times, Titan Souls finds itself lacking in the kind of undisputable, easily understandable and always fare rules that underline the Souls universe. In fairness, most of the time, everything here feels tight and above all else clear, but there is no denying the nagging sense that the mechanics aren’t always as consistent as they need to be.
Still, issues aside, Titan Souls is often a hugely rewarding experience with victory against some of the more challenging titans feeling like a genuine achievement. Yes, the game is only four hours long (longer if you’re not very good at it), but honestly, that feels like more than enough. This game has a great premise, but it’s certainly a simple one, and as fantastic as some of the battles are, anything longer than this, and the game would surely begin to wear out its welcome. While the limited running time didn’t necessarily leave me wanting more, it did leave me feeling more than content with the amount of entertainment the experience had provided.
With a visual design reminiscent of a love child between Fez and Zelda: A Link to the Past, gameplay built upon From Software’s commitment to unforgiving but ultimately rewarding gameplay and a premise taken straight out of Team Ico’s, Shadow of the Colossus, Titan Souls does just enough right to honour its inspirations while providing that one unique hook that does just enough to make it its own thing. It doesn’t come close to matching any of its core muses and there is no doubt that the central mechanic does start to wear a little thin a few hours in, but for as long as it lasts, it’s nothing if not entertaining – horribly frustrating some times, incredibly rewarding at others, Titan Souls is far from being a perfect game, but if nothing else, it’s certainly a memorable one.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Sony Playstation 4 code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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