Acid Nerve’s Titan Souls follows a boy as he explores a desolate landscape and attempts to defeat the titans that dwell there. As the boy, your only belongings are a bow and a single arrow. Along the way you’ll die, a lot. But with each death you learn something, return to the fight and try to improve on your last attempt. Eventually you’ll triumph and briefly celebrate until you turn the corner and meet the next titan, and your patience will be tested once again.
Titan Souls is a game not about the main character, but about the titans themselves. Each titan is like a puzzle. In order to beat them you have to figure out what makes them vulnerable and how you can capitalize on that weakness. After figuring that out the next step is to execute perfectly. Solving the puzzle to each boss is rewarding in and of itself but beating a titan is met with an enormous sense of relief and accomplishment. While most bosses are interesting and creative a few are just annoying and frustrating. Sometimes you figure out how to beat the boss immediately but have to get extremely lucky or have incredible timing to actually execute. This is one of the few games in recent memory that might actually cause you to break something. This feeling is exacerbated by the fact that with a lot of the fight you’ll find yourself dying almost instantly. Fortunately after the first area, Titan Souls opens nearly the whole world up to the player. That means that if you can’t beat a boss, you can move on to another and come back and try again later. Also, spawn points are incredibly close to boss fights, so you don’t have to fight through waves of enemies to reach the titan again. In fact you won’t have to fight through any enemies to get anywhere. The only enemies in the game are the titans.
Gameplay in Titan Souls is simple. Your character has a bow and one arrow. After firing the arrow you have to go pick it up or, by holding the fire button the arrow will return to the player. Other than that you can sprint and roll. That’s it. There’s no way to upgrade your character. This means that bosses will never get easier in game. The only way to upgrade is to become a better player. It’s a test of problem solving and gameplay skill with no way to cheat the system. In that sense it’s a pure experience. But, on the other end it can make you want to rip your hair out. If you find you simply can’t beat a boss you can’t improve your character and return later. You simply have to keep trying. While it isn’t necessary to beat every boss to beat the game you have to beat most of them. This game is not for those who lack patience or perseverance.
Titan Souls offers very little in the way of story with almost no dialogue or plot whatsoever. This makes the game feel very mysterious. Traversing the abandoned landscape is incredibly eerie. Other than the titans in their designated areas there is no life to speak of. Along with the mystery the world emits a certain sadness. A world that at one time could have been full of life has become lonely. This feeling is only enhanced by the game’s wonderful soundtrack. Each area has different music that fits perfectly. The pixel graphics also give a feeling of nostalgia, which only adds to the subtle sadness of Titan Souls.
While the game has this emotional world it is rather small and has very little exploration. The game basically sends you from one boss to the next with no reprieve. This leaves the player with very little sense of progression. Other than beating the game there is nothing to motivate the player to keep going. In fact it may be more appealing to simply walk away and not have to deal with the frustration over and over again. That’s the main problem with Titan Souls. While its beautiful and put together well it’s also incredibly frustrating while having little payoff. Beating a boss gives you almost nothing, except for the promise of more frustration to come. While there is this sense of self-accomplishment, after a while that wears thin. As opposed to hitting a barrier, overcoming it, and moving along, you feel like you just keep running into a walls over and over again. A lot of the time the game simply isn’t fun.
Overall Titan Souls is a smart, emotional game that does something different, and that’s admirable. It does struggle however to motivate the player. If you’re looking for a challenge this may be the game for you. Just try your best not snap your controller or your Vita in half.