Estimated reading time: 5 minutes
Steam describes Solo as “an introspective puzzler set on a gorgeous and surreal archipelago”. This game was suggested to me due to it’s visual similarities to Yonder: Cloud Catcher Chronicles. I was eager to play given the unique premise and art style, and I was immediately impressed by the options available for character creation – this is the first game (that I have played) that allows same sex relationships while also allowing you to change gender at any point in the game.
I think “plot” is a strong word. There isn’t really a clear story, because it is closer to a “choose your own” rather than an established narrative. But the game doesn’t really give you anything to work towards, or any semblance of progression – which why after 6 hours of playing, I have idea how close I am to the end. When you get past a puzzle, you get a new question from a totems, then a remark from your ghost partner, and then you move to a new island and solve another puzzle. You eventually hit a lighthouse, and then move on to a new section of islands.
Given that I only played as a female in a same-sex relationship, I can’t speak for other players or plotlines. The questions may or may not differ. The essential premise of the story, I think, is to learn more about how you love, but I was really discouraged by some of the remarks made by my ghost partner. There’s something about a guilt-trip that really takes you out of the game, ya know? They encourage you to be honest in the responses you give, but I wasn’t expecting to be judged for it.
The game is controller supported, but it assumes you are using an XBOX controller, which is standard. I didn’t have one on hand, so I used a PS4 controller. It worked out fine, as long as I was able to remember the corresponding buttons.
As I mentioned, there isn’t a lot of variety in the gameplay. You get to an island, you use a few types of boxes to find a way to reach the totems and then start all over again. You get a camera (mostly to take selfies, which I totally did), you can play the guitar (to change the weather or to remove color, for example), and you can feed the animals if you so desire.
The animals are really cute, so I fed them anytime I came across one. The parachute is handy, but aside from that, the accessories really don’t matter in the grand scheme of things. The guitar is finicky, and you can’t always tell if you have been successful in playing the tune. You aren’t reminded of the note pattern, so it would be worthwhile to write it down. Random NPCs will ask for a favor, and sometimes you need to help animals or plants, but it seemed that I was able to skip these sections without any penalty.
I had a bit of a tough time trying to accurately place the boxes, especially the sticky ones. On numerous occasions it would prevent certain boxes from being placed next to other ones, but after 3 more attempts, it would work. The camera angles aren’t great, so I frequently had to drop boxes and try again to be able to place them at the angle I wanted. You can’t really look “up” in the game, which is quite frustrating.
The game seems to have only an autosave and not a specific save point. Nowhere was it explicitly stated how to save. There was a fountain I could drink out of but I have no clue how or if it affected the game. After playing for an hour or so, I waited for the autosave to run, and then quit the game. When I restarted shortly after, my character was spawned in the middle of the ocean and the screen was entirely blue. The only way I was able to regain control was by pulling out my guitar and it reset the screen enough that I could to swim back to a shore miles from where I had just auto-saved. Luckily, this only happened that once and future restarts were unproblematic.
The game definitely has a some unique qualities, including the premise and the gender considerations. If you enjoy puzzle games and are entertained by repetition in a very pretty setting, then this might be right up your alley. Unfortunately, these few good elements really don’t outweigh or make up for the glitches and lack of compelling story. That being said, I won’t give up completely – I’d like to know how it ends. Hopefully some improvements will be made upon release.