Developer: Team Gotham
Publisher: Team Gotham
Review Context: I am a big fan of puzzle games. I am also drawn to games that have deep themes, like Journey (PS3).
Date of Playthrough: April 24, 2018
PC Specs Game Played on:
OS: Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit
Processor: Intel(R) Core(TM) i3 CPU 540 @ 3.07GHz
RAM: 8 GB
Video Card: GeForce GTX 950 2GB GDDR5 ACX 2.0 SC+
Disclosure: This review was based off of a review copy.
Solo, an introspective puzzler, developed by Team Gotham, is a game that you may not have heard of, but what if I told you this was a game about exploring your personal views and experiences involving love? It sounds incredibly ambitious, but Solo does a lot of interesting things with its gameplay and storytelling that really causes it to stand out as a truly unique experience.
As you start your introspective puzzle journey, you’ll be given several options including choosing your gender among the choices of male, female, and other. You will then set forth on your journey to find out what love means to you by traversing an archipelago of colorful islands. The gameplay revolves around “awakening” sleeping totems, which you do by completing puzzles. After speaking to each totem you will be asked some very personal questions regarding love. For those that may be concerned, there is at least one question about sex asked in a mature way. Each question has approximately three choices, and as you go progress through the game you will notice some references to previous questions and answers.
The gameplay while traversing the islands and solving puzzles is the bread and butter of Solo that allows every player to express love and live life to fullest. Team Gotham succeeds in giving Solo the feeling of a sandbox game where you can do many activities at your leisure. You can take pictures with a camera, and yes, that includes selfies! There is even an option to connect your twitter account to share your moments. Other activities include feeding animals, petting animals, solving puzzles to bring two separated animals back together that love each other, and solving puzzles to bring back a flow of water to various gardens. The activity that is probably the most interesting is playing your guitar, which is powerful enough to manipulate the world around you. Without spoiling the specifics, you do find sheet music along the way that is easy to play, although the font size and symbols on the sheets could be a little larger for better clarity. There is also a human ghost that follows you around to most puzzles that is representative of your love interest. All of these activities are optional, but allow you to express compassion and love to the world in the way you want to, .
Even though I had faith in the theme and storytelling of Solo, I went into it with great skepticism about the puzzle gameplay. To my surprise, the puzzles were well thought out and somewhat challenging, especially near the end. The puzzles are designed around using boxes to reach the next totem, with different types of boxes appearing during your progression through the game. The first box that is introduced into the game is just a regular box, but more interesting boxes appear later on, like a box with a fan inside that can propel you upwards. Each box can also be manipulated to do what the player wants by using a magic wand that is given in the very beginning of the game. The wand can rotate boxes in each direction and also allows boxes to be placed and moved from a long distance. The 3D world of Solo is really apparent while solving puzzles, as you will have to rotate the 3D view to the front of your character to place certain blocks.
In order to experience Solo to the fullest enjoyment, I highly recommend using a controller. I can’t fathom how anyone can play this game without a controller and still enjoy it. The controls within the game are relatively simple, but using the magic wand and playing the guitar requires holding down buttons and using the analog joystick to perform the action. If for example, you fumble the controls and a puzzle box falls into the water and disappears there is a mechanic within the game to resurrect boxes that are needed by sitting on a bench. Although the mass majority of benches are well placed to ease any frustration, there was one puzzle that I felt could have used an additional bench, but other than that, Team Gotham did a great job in managing their puzzles.
A discussion about Solo is incomplete without discussing the beautiful graphics and presentation. The screenshots and video of Solo don’t really do the game justice, as the game looked even better while playing. There were occasions during the playthrough that I did feel compelled to pull out my in-game camera and take a picture, although it was weird that the front camera was always blurry and taking a selfie wasn’t. The lighthouses within the game signify the end of a zone, and they are graphically pleasing. For a game with such nice beautiful 3D graphics, I was a bit dismayed that the text boxes and text fonts from the totems were rather plain, especially when the game’s theme revolves around the questions. Team Gotham, how about a little more flare in that text?! The sounds and soundtrack is another positive, with a beautiful nature ambiance, crisp guitar sounds that make it sound like you’re playing a real guitar, and a soundtrack that evokes emotion. If there is one glaring criticism, it has to be the save system. There is no real notification explained to the player about when the game is saving, so I assumed it saved after every zone or totem. The game can be completed within six hours, and extra time spent solving puzzles or doing optional activities will vary from player to player. It should also be noted that there is no multiplayer.
Solo is the kind of game that may not be for everyone, but anyone who chooses this experience will answer many thought provoking questions about love. Although everyone gets the same ending sequence, every player will have their own unique experiences and thoughts about the journey and questions posed to them. Solo is a game that I recommend playing alone with no distractions for the best fulfilling experience. Don’t overlook this introspective puzzler gem of 2018. What does love mean to you?
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