In Titan Souls every strike is fatal. At a glance there appear to be no fair fights in these dainty hills and valleys, in the forsaken mountainsides and tombs. Your 15-pixel high warrior (assets: a crimson bow and a single arrow, a deft evasive roll and a purple bow to keep the hair from her eyes) must face off against towering stone giants, pulsating plants with spiked tendrils, mad yeti and monolithic statues with laser beam shooting eyes. And yet, a glancing blow from one of your arrows is just as deadly as anything these ancient monstrosities can level your way. Titan Souls is a series of fair fights then, despite appearances. It's a game of David and Goliath encounters in which fortune favours the slight and quick almost as often as it favours the colossus.
Titan Souls, which began as a game jam prototype from a trio of near-teenage friends, wears its inspirations openly. It's not so much influenced by Shadow of the Colossus, as a 2D cover version of Fumito Ueda's elegiac masterpiece. Both games present lush, unpopulated landscapes. Both games feature a youthful and seemingly underpowered roaming protagonist in search of a purpose. Both games require you to seek out a series of varied and wondrous foes, which are awakened by your presence and which can be fought and felled in any order. Both games eschew contemporary game design fashions (there's no character progression, no bow +1 to be salvaged, no giant-killing spells to be learned). As in Shadow of the Colossus, Titan Souls' rhythm is unusual and beguiling: long, peaceful treks across fields followed by intense and short-lived bursts of conflict, usually followed by feelings of relief and mild sadness.
The reference to Hidetaki Miyazaki's oeuvre, made so clearly in the 'Souls' adjunct, is in the high stakes encounters. Battles are, without exception, about creating a window of opportunity through which to fire an arrow at the foe's weak spot - be it a glowing eye, heart or, in the case of one foe, a pink bottom. Your arrow can wound in both directions: either as it flies from the string or as it's recalled to your side via magic, scraping along the ground as it zips back to its quiver. The boss characters pursue you unrelentingly and you must keep moving to evade their swipes, jabs or up-through-the-ground surges. One hurls rocks at you before diving into a frightfully quick forward roll towards your position. Another boss, a toothsome, anthropomorphic treasure chest, flaps its lid like a jaw, leaping into the air and landing, mouth open onto the ground in an effort to swallow you up (its weak spot is, naturally, accessible only when the lid is filly open).