There are people that would say that you deserve to die if you go on your monster-squashing quest armed with nothing but a single arrow, a pink bow in your hair, and a backpack filled with only the finest Waitrose-branded good intentions. Titan Souls doesn't have a story, but it improves the game tenfold if you view it as a fable dealing with the need to be prepared in all things, otherwise you'll die a lot. A country cousin to the city smart Shadow of the Colossus, Souls goes back to basics to its peril.

Your character finds herself at what appears to be the base of a town, with four doors in front of her. Each door contains a boss battle: get hit and you die; find the monster's weakness and it dies. It's an incredibly simple idea, and one that is used to good effect throughout. The variety that the developer has managed to get out of the "each enemy must have a weak spot that kills them instantly" is a real sight to behold: flower monsters, giant mushrooms that get you high, rolling boulders, and icy brains – there are over twenty bosses to fight, and there's very rarely overlap.

The powers at your disposal are very limited. You can shoot one arrow, and then magically suck it back to your quiver. If that isn't enough, you can also roll and marginally increase your movement speed with a "run". To be fair, it works for the most part, and as ridiculous as it seems on paper, the feeling of overcoming something massively larger than yourself with minimal equipment is the biggest appeal that the game offers.

Unfortunately, it doesn't always work as well as you'd like. There's a ridiculously long cool down between rolls, meaning that you have a few seconds before you're allowed to dodge again, and running doesn't really do much when in a battle. On top of that, you have to manually aim your arrow, and it takes half a second to prepare it in the first place. These are things that you can easily deal with, but it makes it feel like you're playing as somebody not quite right for the task of destroying monsters. It's like relying on Sonic the Hedgehog to grout your tiles.

It would have been nicer had the controls been tighter, but you can't blame the hundreds of deaths that you'll inevitably have to put up with on bad mapping. The fights are actually quite fair, generally easy to work out, and interesting to get through. The issue comes on the odd occasion that you have to do exactly the right thing at exactly the right time, generally during the later battles.

It doesn't help that a poor checkpoint system often means that you have to travel to get to a boss that has killed you. Against the more difficult foes, this can mean a minute's worth of walking through an empty landscape for three seconds worth of fighting.

Empty though it might be, however, the art design throughout the world is very nice. There are secrets to hunt out, but mostly you'll come across the occasional ornament, tree, or drift of snow. The music is fantastic, perfectly setting the tone as you wander. You can beat the enemies in almost any order and can finish the game without destroying them all, and there isn't much in the way of reward for going off the beaten path. The locations only start to become dull when you die a lot – poorly judged in a game that prides itself on its difficulty.

It doesn't help the game any, but it's easy to understand why there aren't hordes of enemies roaming the plains, or things to collect or dig up – these would be distractions from the single-minded nature of your adventure. It's the same reason why there isn't any story. But while a plot isn't exactly needed, more could have been done to hint at the world around you – at why you're there or what it means. Instead, you kill the last monster and the credits begin to play.

Killing bosses unlocks more bosses, and exploring often nets you little more than wasted time. Our first playthrough, although we didn't kill everything, took about three hours, and more than a third of that was facing the final, totally unfair boss. Ingenious design goes out of the window, and you're left hoping that your arrow connects while you dodge attacks. You unlock a few new modes once you're done, but they just make your adventure harder.

And with all that in mind, the high price tag seems excessive; for the sort of person that likes a challenge, you'd be better set with something like Stealth Inc 2: A Clone in the Dark until the asking fee comes down.

Conclusion

Our first hour with Titan Souls was fantastic, but after that the cracks start to show. It's not a bad game, and the atmosphere is excellent, but you'll get to the end knowing that it could have been better. The lack of information about the world makes you feel like you're just roaming a random castle or tower, like those Mega Drive roguelikes where the only goal was to get to the end. The length and price just help to make this excellent idea more unattractive.