By Nathan Grayson on December 23rd, 2013 at 4:00 pm.
Oh my, what an astounding little thing Titan Souls is, especially given that it was developed as part of Ludum Dare 28 in only a couple days. It’s open and sparse, but all the more powerful for it. A lilting piano melody beckons you into a world of giants with each come-hither note, and as A Videogame Character, it’s your job to slay them. The twist? In line with LD28’s theme of “you only get one,” you have just one arrow and one HP with which to bring down four titans. Also, you can dodge roll like a crazy person. I highly recommend it. Titan Souls is not an easy game.
The lush, green overworld is nice to look at, but rune-encrusted temples are where the action happens. Each one contains a different titan, and kicking off a battle is as easy as firing your arrow at their slumbering forms. Now, if you’ve been following along up to this point, you’ve probably noticed a rather pressing logical fallacy: if your one arrow functioned as the starting gun for a titanic tussle, how do you fight after that? Easy. You take it back.
Your arrow never goes away. Instead, it simply pings off titans, walls, and things of the like, at which point you can make a mad dash to retrieve it. Problem is, titans are fairly relentless, so avoiding their lunging advances is priority number one. Fortunately, you also happen to conveniently be some kind of medieval Jedi, which grants you the ability to summon your arrow back by holding down the same button you fired it with.
The flow of combat, then, is equal parts nail-biting and surprisingly tangible. Holding down the key to fire your single arrow results in a camera zoom-in and an audible straining of fibers, and each shot thuds like it matters. Summoning your arrow, meanwhile, also requires a sustained key press, and the screen darkens around you as the arrow slowly, purposefully makes its way back. The effect is this moment of perfect vulnerability. It’s just you and the arrow. And also the hulking brain monster attempting to splatter your significantly smaller cranium mere inches away. Pulllllllll. Come on come on come on aaaaand… caught my arrow! NOW ROLL OUT OF THE WAY OH GOD. Phew. And then rinse, repeat, etc.
Each titan reveals its weakpoint very clearly, but also for incredibly brief windows of time. Ultimately, Titan Souls is a game of precision positioning and timing. Even if you’ve got a titan’s pattern down pat (and honestly, that part’s not very hard), it won’t mean squat if you loose your arrow a half-second too late. That said, I did figure out a loophole. Your arrow, you see, works in both directions. So I managed to fire it behind an enemy, wait until its weak point was unguarded, and then yank it back to me – and right through a titan’s colossal glowing eyeball. I won’t lie: it was a pretty magnificent moment.
Titans Souls does have a couple downsides, though. Its controls are grid-based and thus, in the context of aiming an arrow, off-puttingly rigid. Rolling can be a bit weird sometimes, too. If you die a lot, back-tracking to each temple can also become annoying, especially when you have to slowly meander through a maze. However, the game is really short once you figure out every boss. I beat it in 20 minutes or so. Despite that, it’s a nicely atmospheric ride while it lasts, and the challenge is healthy without being unfair. Check it out here.