When the team told me, I was to review a game about love I was a little curious. But more, it bought me out in cold sweats. I have enough trouble in real life let alone in a digital one. However, this is not one of those Japanese hentai type games about weird shit. Solo: Islands of the Heart is actually about your own personal love story.
If you see the screenshots scattered about this review you’re probably thinking, what the hell? Cutesy visuals, platforming and puzzles. It’s got Nintendo written all over it. But the main crux of the game is actually much deeper and more meaningful as long as you’re honest when you play it.
So, the game starts off allowing you to choose who you want to play. This means you can pick your gender (male, female, non-binary), then the gender you’re attracted to and then you get to choose your avatar from a small limited selection.
Once you’re all set it’s time to begin the game. You start on a small island with not much to do other than get on your boat which instantly reminded me of Wind Waker, once you reach the first main island you can begin to explore a little. Each island is pretty scarce at the beginning all you have to do essentially is reach a totem, activate it and answer the questions it asks from the selection provided. Now this is where the game goes deep. You can, if you choose to answer these questions based on your real-life experiences and I highly suggest you do to get the most out of the game.
As you progress, the islands get a bit larger and come with some small side quests like bring two lost animals together or make some plants grow via a simple puzzle. But these offer nothing other than trophies. Sometimes you can sit on a bench and talk to the ‘ghost; of your loved one, it’s at times like these that answering the questions from the real-life experience really resonates with you and gives you the feels. Although whoever they are, always seem quite angry or sad about your choices, no matter which you choose.
Side quests aside, the main purpose is to reach the totem so you can unlock the next island and continue your journey of discovery. As mentioned, the beginning islands are pretty simple affairs with little more than steps to hop up and gaps to float across. Later on, however the puzzling gets far more complex.
During the game you are pretty swiftly awarded some special items like a parachute and a magic staff to move and rotate blocks. This is the key to most of the puzzles on the islands. When you start an island, blocks fall from the sky and it’s up you to figure out how to use them to get to the totem. This can be done by rotating, moving, and placing different types of blocks combining blocks and so on. It sounds rudimentary but can get real taxing on the brain moving forward.
So, what you have here is a puzzle platformer about love which is an interesting idea on paper. At the start you feel like this could be quite the epic adventure, whose outcome is dictated to by you, the gamer. Unfortunately however not all the elements gel together too well. They rarely interact with each other so leaves some portions of the game pointless.
The journey you take about love is a fascinating one having still suffering the scars of a bad break up, it’s a portion of the game the really makes you think and for me is the strongest aspect of Solo. The puzzling and platforming just seemed to get in the way a no matter what you answer at the totem, the game doesn’t change.
I would have preferred the game to be something more like Everyone’s Gone to the Rapture. Something that actually seems to make sense to the love journey you’re taking. Answering these deep personal questions and then having to move some block just jarred me as the player.
Speaking of moving blocks. The ideas and puzzles are pretty good, and at times does leave you scratching your head. But a dodgy floaty camera undoes all the hard work. Couple in a few glitches and the platforming sections, which have the foundations of being something good turn out to be quite weak and frustrating.
Solo is an enigma of a game. I like how the developers are trying to take you on personal journey of discovery, but for all the personal questions I’m answering I would like those answers to manifest themselves in the game. Not have to jump around a cartoon island waving wand about to move blocks.
Solo should have been two separate games really, one a standard cutesy platformer that you can throw on PSN and let people who enjoy puzzle platformers if that’s their bag and the other should have been a more meaningful journey where you do find out stuff about your past or present love or even if you’re suffering heartbreak.
Being asked a question about sex and having such a personal question add nothing to the game is a bit of a bitter pill to swallow.
Solo: Islands of the Heart is available now on Nintendo Switch, PS4 (reviewed on PS4 Pro), Xbox One and PC
Developer: Team Gotham
Publisher: Merge Games
Disclaimer: In order to complete this review, we were provided with a promotional code from the publisher. For our full review policy, please go here.
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