The retro movement is strong in gaming thanks to the explosion of Indie developers over the past five years who have managed to get gamers excited about pixel art and classic gameplay mechanics in a world full of shiny AAA titles. One upcoming Indie title that will surely keep gamers engaged with its captivating pixelized world is Titan Souls from Acid Nerve, which is a small three man team trying to get the gaming world excited about their new title.
While at PAX Prime I was able to get some hands-on time with Titan Souls, and while it’s extremely punishing, it still exudes a level of charm that will keep you coming back for more pain over and over again. Visually it’s a treat to behold thanks to the kick-ass pixel art by Andrew Gleeson. The presentation is very simple but refined, so fans of retro looking games will surely appreciate Andrew’s level of detail in Titan Souls’ characters and environments.
The core of Titan Souls’ gameplay is very straight forward, you have one health bar and only one arrow to shoot, and you must use it to take down a series of bosses that can be killed with one shot after you discover their weakness. At the start of the game you spawn on an overworld type of map that has a series of dungeons on it that you must enter to conquer the game’s bosses. Mind you, the overworld isn’t an expansive map that takes hours to explore like a Zelda game, so you are not forced to follow any sort of progression when tackling the dungeons, nor do you have to constantly be on the lookout for attackers as you travel from one boss location to the next.
Titan Souls’ gameplay is solely focused on boss battles, so while the one shot/one health bar mechanic may sound devastating, it actually plays perfectly into the game’s design. To challenge a boss you must simply enter one of the available dungeons on the overworld map. Once you enter the arena the boss fight kicks off immediately, so there is no exploration whatsoever. You don’t have to look for a special item to help you beat the dungeon’s boss, and you don’t have to wade through common enemy AI before battling the big baddie. It’s up to your skills with a controller, as well as your ability to deduce the strategy required to beat the boss for any chance of success.
Each boss has a weakness that allows them to be killed in one shot, so while your ammo is limited (the arrow can be retrieved using Force like powers from anywhere on the map) you don’t need to spam them at the bosses to whittle down a health meter. You must rely on your brain and the repetitious behavior of the bosses to figure out how to kill them, but you still need fast twitch skills on the controller to avoid certain death while you try to decipher the bosses weakness. For example, the very first boss is a tumbling cube of death that lumbers around the dungeon map trying to turn you into a pixel pancake, so you’re only option is to dodge its attacks over and over again until the side of the cube with an eye on it is targetable. If you’re lucky and time your arrow shot just right, you can take out the cube’s eye and vanquish the boss with a single shot.
This may sound easy on paper, but the moment you enter the boss fight you must run around like a chicken with your head cutoff for any chance of survival, which doesn’t make deducing the boss’s weakness very easy thanks to the frenetic pace of the fight. After beating the cube of death quite easily and quickly I figured I had Titan Souls figured out, but the moment I entered a new dungeon I was humbled immediately.
No two bosses are the same, so the strategies I used against the cube were useless against this latest flying boss that seemed utterly invincible at first. After ten or more deaths I finally mastered this boss’s pattern and weakness, but even then I had to rely on my skills with a controller to perfectly time my arrow shot for the kill, while also constantly running around the screen to avoid death.
Thanks to the challenges that Titan Souls throws at you, beating its bosses can feel very gratifying. The fast paced encounters keep you on your toes, and your brain guessing how to attack each new boss, so never once will you feel like you’ve got this game figured out. Dying multiple times and finally figuring out how to beat a boss will make you feel like you’ve accomplished something great, even if that feat only consisted of beating computer code.
Titan Souls is most definitely an Indie title to look out for in 2015. Acid Nerve plans on releasing it for PS4, PS Vita, and PC via Devolver Digital. The simple mechanics meshed with the challenging gameplay and awesome visual design provide for a fantastic gameplay experience that hearkens back to the days when beating a video game wasn’t always a guarantee. If you love being challenged both mentally and for a lack of a better word, physically, Titan Souls will surely satiate your gaming needs.
Feel free to check out Titan Souls in action via a gameplay trailer after the break.
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