Martin Foster, Andrew Gleeson, and David Fenn were thinking... you know all those incredibly difficult, anxiety-inducing boss battles in games? You know what would make them better? If you had only one hitpoint, and one single arrow you had to call back to you each time you shot it to take them down. And then, presumably, having conceived this fiendish concept for Ludum Dare 28 (theme of "You Only Get One"), they all sat back and cackled maniacally, twirling their handlebar mustaches and stroking their white supervillain-issue cats while being backlit by lightning flashes. At least, that's how it happened in my fantasy. Titan Souls (also playable here), created in just 72 hours, is the result of that devious flight of fancy, as you control a young lad armed only with a bow and single arrow trying to take down four enormous beasts who each only have one weak spot.
The gameplay itself is fairly straightforward. You move with the [arrow] keys, execute a very Link-like roll with [Z], and press and release [X] to fire your arrow in the direction you're facing, while holding [X] will call it back to you after, or you can simply run over it to pick it up. Each of the monsters you'll be facing has its own style of attack and its own weak point, often only vulnerable for a split second, so you'll not only need to be dodging and darting around since a single hit will knock you back to the altar clearing where you began, but also be ready to fire at a moment's notice. All it takes is one true shot... but it's far from easy.
If you're getting some Shadows of the Colossus-y vibes from the game's concept, you're not the only one. Considering its tiny development window, Titan Souls is a beautiful, beautiful game with its slowly building soundtrack and stark mysterious landscape. Apart from the temples themselves, however, the surrounding area is, well, pretty boring largely because it lacks any visual interest to make up for the tedious plod back to a temple from the starting area to try again. The beasts themselves make for a nice variety, and though I almost felt like the gameplay was something that could have been suited for a joystick and an arcade cabinet, the controls are responsive enough to make navigating the battlefield challenging without being obnoxious. In a way, the setting and concept feels more compelling than the actual gameplay, if only because the lack of storytelling and strange atmosphere keeps driving you forward to see what happens. Titan Souls feels like a part of something bigger, but what exists is still a well executed piece of artistic action that uses its theme in clever and challenging ways.