Titan Souls has been called an indie Shadow of the Colossus. And there's certainly some truth to that.
These are both quiet and evocative games about exploring peaceful landscapes, and getting into tussles with giant sleeping beasts. Neither have standard enemies as they both focus exclusively on boss fights.
But those battles are completely different. Shadow's boss fights are long, elaborate affairs, whereas Titan's scraps feel like the bit in Raiders of the Lost Ark where Indiana Jones just shoots the Arab swordsman, ending the fight in seconds.
Nine times out of ten you're the Arab. If you're lucky, you might get to be Indy. Either way, they're a little anticlimactic.Like a boss
That's because both you and the boss can be killed in one hit. So the battles are about avoiding attacks, looking for weak spots, and loosing an arrow at just the right time to kill the foe.
Like classic video games, every boss in the game conforms to some logic. It might telegraph its attacks with a subtle tell or an audio cue, and it probably has a predictable pattern of attacks.
You'll just have to die many, many times to learn them. And then wait for the checkpoint to load. And then walk back to the boss chamber and start again.
Some of the battles feel hard fought. Most end with a yelp of joy for finally finishing off that jerk who has been troubling you for the last half hour. But many will come down to a lucky arrow and few will feel as epic and memorable as the boss fights in Shadow of the Colossus.Like a boss
Clambering on top of a titanic monster, hanging on for dear life, and finally plunging a sword in his fleshy head after a harrowing ten minute climb is a bit more exciting than instantly rolling the way out of a yeti and shooting him once in his pink arse with an arrow.
After a few boss fights - all inventive and beautifully pixelated - you start to wonder if the stress is worth it. If the constant restarts, the inch-by-inch progress, and the potential destruction of your Vita as you threaten to lob it at a wall will amount to anything.
But, alas, no. The game's world (a barren land of snowy mountains and dense forests that lets you tackle the bosses in almost any order you like) seems steeped in atmosphere, but never offers an indication that there's something to uncover.
There's no story to speak of. No lore being teased in the architecture. No hints as to why you're doing what you're doing.Like a boss
It's a shame because Titan Souls has a vision and an identity all to its own. It shrugs off typical game detritus like skill trees and power-ups and even health bars in favour of something more elegant and noble.
And the controls are impressively taut. The game only uses two buttons, but you get a lot out of them. One is a run and roll hybrid. Another lets you loose your lone arrow, but also call it back to your quiver like a penny to a magnet.
There's depth and strategy to the control scheme. You're left stationary and vulnerable when you aim. You can control the power of your shot by holding down the button. Your arrow's just as deadly when it's zipping back to your quiver.
I just wish they were used in a game where the fights were more memorable, and your actions more meaningful.