Titanium Hound Review
There’s something about cyberpunk titles and pixel graphics that really mesh well together, so I was very excited to try out Red Spot Sylphina’s debut title: Titanium Hound. Whilst it certainly looks the part, does the gameplay do enough to keep players engaged throughout this futuristic 2D action-platformer?
In the not too distant future, microbe colonies are used as the primary energy source across all aspects of life. Unsurprisingly, the corporations controlling it have a lot of political powers, leading to global corruption, inequality, and a sharp increase in crime rates. Thus, the police forces of the world created a cutting edge battle suit known as the Titanium Hound.
You play as veteran Titanium Hound pilot Grace, a no-nonsense — and uninteresting — protagonist who serves as little more than a mouthpiece to progress what little story there is. Which is disappointing, because the world Titanium Hound is set in feels like it could offer a much more engaging narrative.
Titanium Hound’s pixel art is gorgeous, reminiscent of the classic 16-bit era of videogames. It’s wide colour palette and small animations — such as airships floating past in the background, or dust forming around your feet after landing a jump — help to make it feel more modern than it would at first glance. It’s unfortunate then that there isn’t more to see, with often repeated enemy designs and environments dampening what is otherwise a great looking title.
The music heard throughout is full of drum heavy techno tracks, and whilst I can’t say it’s a genre I enjoy, it certainly fits with the theme of the game. Likewise, the constant barrage of laser fire, grinding metal, and explosions all fit nicely with the constant on-screen action. The voice acting isn’t quite up to par, with some characters sounding half-asleep, and Grace herself being painfully monotonous, but there isn’t an over-abundance of conversations, thankfully.
Speech, menus, and general text is rife with grammatical errors and missing words, making it easy to misunderstand just what exactly is going on with the plot. But, 2D shoot ‘em up games are rarely reliant on strong storytelling to create a compelling title.
What a shame it is then to admit that the general gameplay of Titanium Hound is just not very good. For starters, the main mechanic of balancing the power of your firearms and energy shield is just tedious at best, and infuriating at worst. Above the health bar on your heads-up display are two meters; one for your ranged weapons and one for your shield. Using one will drain the other, forcing you to stop whichever you were using, usually in the heat of battle.
It sounds like a great concept on paper, but it’s one that doesn’t quite work. You’ve got long and medium ranged attacks which depletes your firearm bar, whilst defending with your shield or using its offensive dash attack, lowers that particular bar. Far too many times I had to stop and use my shield for the sole purpose of recharging my guns, so that I could take out an enemy that was too far for the dash ability to reach.
One particularly egregious early game section sees you having to shoot platforms to line them up correctly whilst on a timer. This became increasingly frustrating as not only did I have to stop and recharge, but the bullets ricochet off the environment, meaning platforms I had placed correctly were triggered again, causing them to reset. Very frustrating indeed!
The opposite can also be true, as it doesn’t take much to kill you in Titanium Hound, so you’ll need that shield charged at all times. But, that comes at the cost of your offensive weapons, and it just becomes a slow burn of using your shield attack to chip away some enemy health, before switching to your ranged weapons to finish them off, whilst a good chunk of your own health bar gets wiped out.
The controls aren’t responsive enough for such a fast-paced run and gun, and there was the rare occasion after using a weapon where I had to let go of the analogue stick, just to push it back in the direction I had just been moving. Precise platforming sections become a slog very quickly thanks to the clunky controls, and the fact you are only able to aim in front of you, or at a 45-degree angle above or below you, means that even the combat doesn’t feel good to engage with.
There is just too much wrong with Titanium Hound for me to be able to recommend it. Lovely pixel art aside, this is unfortunately one that is best left to rust.
Titanium Hound (Reviewed on PlayStation 4)
Minor enjoyable interactions, but on the whole is underwhelming.
A disappointing effort for such a fantastic looking game, Titanium Hound’s fundamental gameplay sounds interesting, but ends up as a frustrating mechanic that spoils what could have been a fun shoot ‘em up.