There’s something very strange afoot in Titan Chaser. I never quite found out what it was, despite the hints that cropped up everywhere I went. A rusted old ghost ship washed up near the city; deserted derailed trains, lights on, radio burbling away with nobody around to listen; cracked roads constantly blanketed in a thick fig – and none of it explained. It’s one of the many mysteries forming the backdrop to this intriguing, atmospheric little game.
Our guide and avatar is Christine, a young woman from the crowded metropolis of Bright City. She’s taken a new job and moved to a motel in the backwoods, and over the course of four nights we go out in a battered old car to chase titans. Every night a new set of instructions appears, detailing her target and what she needs to do to see it off. But despite the title, there’s no hunting, or fighting, or any actual chasing. The monsters (barely deserving of the name) simply need redirecting back to their homes. Christine has only her car’s spotlight and her wits to do it.
It’s part-driving sim, part-puzzler, and very short. I completed the main story and mopped up most of the bonus achievements in under three hours. To find the titans, you navigate through a bleak landscape on barely maintained roads and dirt tracks. You have a paper map and a good old-fashioned compass but no waymarking. As Christine cheekily reminds us at the start, the compass points north, not at the titans, because ‘this isn’t a video game’. Your written instructions give you clues for where to look but beyond that, guidance is minimal. You’re free to explore for as long as you wish, on foot or by car.
The car controls are simple and fairly intuitive. There’s more button-pressing to get going than I expected. Open the door, get in, close the door, headlights, handbrake, then engine, then off you go. Repeat in reverse when you need to stop. It’s mildly inconvenient at worst and fits the feel of an aged, grumbling old vehicle. Once you’re on the road the driving is slow and steady. There’s not much in the way of top speed, and even if there was I wouldn’t recommend trying to find it. The roads turn sharply and together with the perpetual fog, it’s often difficult to see exactly where you’re going. Again, mildly inconvenient, and very fitting. Luckily there’s nobody else on the road.
There are four titans to find, one mission per night. Each requires a different approach to deal with them – blue light or yellow light, spotlight or wailing siren. Titan Chaser’s puzzles take the form of making the titan move away from its current haunt, and they are not difficult. Any environmental interactions are clearly signposted and, together with the instructions and Christine’s own monologue (a somewhat clunky delivery method, but who doesn’t talk to themselves when driving around alone in the dead of night?), I never had any trouble working out what to do. Oddly, the missions vary considerably in complexity, and their order didn’t reflect it. The first night’s task is the most mechanically complex, followed by two much simpler ones, with an ending that provided visual spectacle but opened more questions than it answered.
There isn’t much in the way of progression, in that sense. The puzzle mechanics aren’t there as a challenge to be mastered. Neither is there a story to unpick. Christine drops clues about the goings-on of the world as she passes various landmarks. The town where her parents live, site of ‘the incident’ when she was a child; the sad fate of her childhood friend, in the woods to the south of the map; the cramped urban hardship of Bright City, with its lockdowns and blackouts and flats the size of bathrooms. But there is never an explanation. Christine sees the weirdness of her hometown in the same way she sees the titans. A metaphorical shrug. That’s just how it is. She seems to feel no need to question why these things are happening, because what good would that do? Best to keep her head down, keep her new job, and keep driving.
That’s not to say it’s a defeating experience. Rather, the dominant feeling is that of loneliness. The roads are empty. The towns are locked down or deserted. Your boss doesn’t speak to you, and there’s nobody else in the motel. On one night, while driving through the desolate northern waste, followed by a vast flying whale who sings in the sky while playing with the beam of the car’s spotlight, I realised that the accompanying note said she was the last of her kind. Given the complete lack of any other life to be found anywhere, this felt fitting.
All Christine has to break the night-time silence is her radio, her own voice, and the titans looming up out of the fog, who are each as alone as she is. Titan Chaser leans into this isolation to create a short and interesting experience that’s worth setting an evening aside to explore.
Push back those titans by visiting the Xbox Store