Titanium Hound – PS4 Review

I do enjoy some side-scrolling platforming and a dystopian future of science gone amok is fantastic trope to mine. Combining the two is Titanium Hound from Red Spot Sylphina. With a visual style very much within the 16-bit era, this indie effort starts to stumble with controls and pacing. There are some good ideas on display but it all seems stifled by some odd choices.

The story begins firmly entrenched in a world of industrial hell. Teleportation has been perfected but it’s courtesy of a bacteria with more nefarious elements. Whilst multiplying this bacteria can turn living beings into energy sources. That doesn’t sound like a fate worth having. The Titanium Hound in question is a suit piloted by ourselves and it packs enough firepower to resolve this conflict. There’s not a lot else to it but it is presented neatly enough. Each level comes with a well spoken briefing as you travel from facility to facility to rid the world of this menacing organism.

Gameplay takes on some running and gunning from a side-on perspective. Shooting presents a stream of projectiles but the meters at the bottom of the screen dictate your ammo and a shield can be used to prevent damage and gives you a melee attack. Titanium Hound‘s main gameplay hook is that these two meters are intrinsically linked. Shooting reduces your shield time, shielding increases your gun’s ammo pool.

It’s an interesting mechanic that does encourage you maintain a balance. Being caught with an empty gun means having to turtle behind a shield whilst your stock refills. On paper, it’s a fantastic idea but I quickly found it more of an obstacle. Whilst enemies don’t take a lot to overcome, the game loves to saturate the levels with them. This does deliver plenty of chances to get your health restored but there are times where I’d rather have the time to breathe.

Aiming isn’t entirely without restrictions. You cannot aim straight up or down, relying on diagonals to hit targets above or below you. Managing meters can make pacing very stop-start. Whilst shielded you can really motor through stages but they are very rarely designed with this in mind. Enemies largely spawn in ahead or behind you and changing direction is simple enough. Flying enemies provide more of a challenge but, much like everything else, don’t take much effort to down.

Finally, there is the ability to craft additional weapons like grenades from resources you pick up. They do provide some additional firepower but I didn’t find them especially useful. Crafting has to be done through a menu before you can deploy your new toys and, even then, you might just gain one of them. I didn’t feel they were worth the investment. What’s more useful is the ability to equip certain buffs before going into battle. You get a few slots to tinker with and this can aid in surviving the game’s hostile environments.

The levels you’re tasked with defeating take on a futuristic, industrial feel. Platforming is used aplenty as you clear rooms and solve some fairly rudimentary switch puzzles. I’ve not found them too complex but Titanium Hound does love to show them off. Some early stages can feature them heavily. Despite them having simple solutions, it does compound the rather stuttering pace and I do find it tricky to maintain any sort of momentum. These stages aren’t especially long and checkpoints are commonly placed. Unfortunately, you can’t pick a stage up where you’ve left off. If you end a session part way through a level, you’ll have to restart it.

Boss design is varied but I did find all of them took a while to bring down. Patterns are fairly simple to figure out and mobs tend to spawn to drop armour. Unfortunately, once the trick is known, I didn’t enjoy the rinse and repeat nature of these fights. I always felt they went on for too many cycles. It compounds the pacing issues for me and I do wish these battles weren’t so stretched out.

Visually, there’s a detailed pixel-art aesthetic that really sells the future dystopia quite well. Everything has this industrial blue and purple palette to it which make the stages look like metal monoliths. Platforms are easy to spot against the backgrounds and whilst enemy variety isn’t high on the agenda, the few they do bring out are distinctive. Explosions pop and the character portraits are well animated. It’s a colourful game, despite the drab setting.

Voice acting is very well done. The lines are delivered with confidence and nobody truly stands out as underperforming. Our cop is assertive and it really helps portray an experienced officer who knows exactly what to do. The soundtrack also remains pretty solid. There’s a heavy emphasis on synths and it really fits with the future corporate aesthetic Red Spot Sylphina are going for.

I’ve struggled to truly get into Titanium Hound. Whilst the shooting can be enjoyable, I’ve felt too hamstrung by having to manage resources in the heat of battle. Controls are serviceable but the restricted aiming adds another wrinkle I can’t iron out. There’s quite a few levels and, whilst they’re not difficult, they can be bogged down by a lack of flow. I do like the emphasis on puzzles but, for a game that does give you speedy movement, you rarely get a chance to floor it.

Titanium Hound
6 Overall
+ Interesting mechanics that involve managing resources.
+ Has a great, detailed look with solid voice acting.
+ The mission structure keeps the levels feeling fresh.
+ Puzzles break the action up nicely.
- Platforming can feel fiddly at times.
- Aiming is restrictive.
- There's a general lack of momentum to gameplay.
- Boss fights can go on for a touch too long.
Titanium Hound has an interesting mechanical twist on a side-scrolling shooter but, in exchange, it loses out on so much momentum. The detailed visuals and excellent voice acting can only go so far as I stumbled towards any fleeting enjoyment. The shooting feels fine but aiming has a restrictive quality and the crafting elements can largely go unnoticed. Ultimately, this just didn't click for me.

About Mike

Mike gets all the racing games because he understands that stuff even though he doesn't drive.

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