“It’s A Bug’s Life.”
In the wake of this years most challenging games such as Bloodborne, Helldivers, and Hotline Miami 2, indie developer, Acid Nerve, poses quite the convincing argument to crown Titan Souls 2015’s most difficult title. Don’t be mistaken by Titan Souls’ inviting pixel aesthetic, for what resides in its world is quite simply the most challenging and mentally taxing gaming experience to be had this year. Yet, as punishing as it gets, sustaining curiosity kept me coming back again and again, even during its most cruel encounters. Tied altogether by simplistic design, Titan Souls provokes curiosity and embraces bottomless defeat.
For the uninitiated, Titan Souls is a top-down, extraordinarily difficult, 16-bit esque adventure game. It follows a nameless warrior on a journey to bring down boss-like foes known as titans, armed with nothing but a single, unbreakable arrow. The game is strictly driven by boss battles, progressed by a digestible design, all of which draws to a close in just a few hours. Titan Souls is all about presenting challenges that seem insurmountable, to eventually reveal they’re plausibly conquerable. While shock and frustration surely come with the package, devising the correct approach to crack the loop of defeat is greatly satisfying.
What makes Titan Souls so difficult, is the absence of breaks and varied fallback strategies. Just last month, Bloodborne universally beat players to a pulp, yet provided the resources and necessary level design to provide tackling combat in different ways. The limited structure–though certainly passable–in Titan Souls puts greater focus on difficulty, due to having only one way to approach combat. Repetitively launching a single arrow at the game’s colossal foes is highly risky, and more often than not, results in death. Progressing the nameless warrior through an upgrading system isn’t an option, with the only advancement being your own mental metabolism for defeat. No health potions, no armor and no skill upgrading means the character you start the game with, is the one you end it with. Staying weak and vulnerable in the eyes of your enemy remains a common theme and a vital driving force for what makes this game so difficult.
Each boss fight presents a new and drastically different puzzle to solve from the last. Fights range from a matter of seconds, if lucky, to prolonged sessions with one of the monstrosities. Keeping on your toes and taking death lightly is essential if to find enjoyment in Titan Souls. Viewing death as an experiment to find out each of the bosses’ weaknesses is imperative, for aimless shooting will only contribute to the infuriation. With each new attempt comes more understanding and workable strategies, nonetheless bosses will likely kill you the first time you ever see them, and probably the 20th time too.
Titan Souls’ packs an excellent sound design, featuring music with the power to inspire excitement and ease mounting rage, all in one swift motion. It’s the soundtrack and audio design as a whole that deserves the most recognition for making this world an enjoyable visit. Complete absence of environmental exploration and interactivity outside of combat makes Titan Souls a solid game to breeze through, but almost impossible to fully vanish in.
Summary: Though not nearly as rich on all fronts as Bloodborne or Helldivers, Titan Souls imposes a constant feeling of stress and high-stakes that easily stand up against its competition in the difficulty department. Responsive controls and slick, skill-based combat make tackling the game’s creative bosses, doable, even if you feel yourself falling to depths of insanity. Like most difficult games this year, Titan Souls leaves a lasting impression, one I’ll remember for a long time.
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