Solo is an adventure puzzle game created by Team Gotham that asks the player to reflect upon their real-life romantic relationships. You play as a sailor who is exploring an archipelago which (for those, like me, who had no idea) is a term used for a small collection of islands that are closely scattered in a chain-like shape. The puzzles are mainly based around moving blocks to build structures that enable you to reach high or far places and complete the level.
What makes Solo interesting is that the game asks the player to answer questions about their experience with love, and this can be in the context of relationships, sexuality, gender or trauma. This might sound a little soppy but in the context of the rest of the game it comes across more reflective than gushy and adds to the game’s introspective and relaxed atmosphere. I like games that ask the player to apply their own personal, non-game related experiences, so I was intrigued to play Solo and find out more.
Solo is available to buy on Steam for $14.99 with hopeful console releases at a later date.
The story of Solo is a little interpretive, you are a sailor who decides to leave their humble island house and starts to journey across the seas. At the beginning of the game, you are asked several questions that create your character, what gender you’d like to be and what gender you’d like to love. On an important side note hats off to Team Gotham for making non-binary an option to answer these questions with. After you have answered these then your avatar is chosen and you begin your adventure.
As you traverse each island, there are several surreal characters that you come into contact with. There are the floating guardians who guide you along your journey through poetic-like dialogue, the totems that ask you the reflective questions and reveal the other islands and then there is the mysterious ghost who keeps appearing on your journey. This ghost matches the answer to the question you chose of what gender you’d like to love and so it’s obvious that this wandering ghost is your past, present or future of partner. You can’t directly interact with them but you can sit with them for a quiet moment and sometimes they will say something to you. Being as they a ghost you can’t reply to the things they say and its these moments are pretty emotional. For example, I was asked if love lasts forever, I answered ‘no’ and then my ghost lover pipes up with ‘you don’t think our love will last?’ and immediate regret strikes me directly in the heart.
Reading into the story of Solo, I think they are going for the idea that this world and these islands are different corners of your head. It’s like you are asking yourself questions about your relationships and the puzzles represent your thought process as you try to process an answer. The answer you give to the relationship questions affects the branching narrative and how the game concludes. I don’t think this relationship question idea will be to everyone’s taste but I played as close to my personal experiences as I could. I think Solo is one of these games where more you place yourself into the game, the more you will get out of it.
The puzzles in Solo are divided into interconnected islands, as you solve one puzzle an island will rise up from the ocean indicating the next puzzle location. To solve a puzzle you must activate a small lighthouse that then awakens a sleeping totem who has the mystical power to emerge the next island. The player must reach the mini-lighthouses by creating bridges and structures from cubes that have different abilities. One cube might open up into a flat form, another pushes the player into the air, they all have abilities that affect the way you can solve each puzzle. I like the simplicity of these puzzles and that they aren’t to obscure, but they never really push the boat out in terms of being clever or imaginative.
Even though the puzzles don’t give the brain an intense workout, I felt like the nature of the puzzles matches the atmosphere of the game. Solo is a very relaxing and contemplative game and so it’s puzzles are meant to be enjoyable opposed to frustrating. There are plenty of other interactions that I enjoyed, the animals are scared of you at first but if you bring them food they start to become more friendly towards you. You have items to use such as a guitar that you can whip out and play a tune on or a polaroid camera that you can take photos and selfies with. These are completely optional but it demonstrates the kind of game that Solo is and the style of gameplay it’s going for.
Graphics and Audio
The visuals of Solo are a sight to behold, it’s a colourful and gorgeous looking game with a cutesy aesthetic. Each island has a specific colour scheme making it easy to navigate, the weird animals are adorable, there are trees and plants everywhere, it’s just a solid looking game. I love the sailor themes with all the lighthouses and sailboats, it makes it all quaint. The audio is a relaxing blend of splashing waves, seagull caws and an acoustic guitar-based soundtrack that just adds to the peaceful ambiance. I think this relaxed atmosphere contributes to the way you solve puzzles, there is no rush to race to the end, it feels like a holiday stroll – but in your head.
Solo is a contemplative and charming puzzle game that uses questions to make the overall experience more personal. It’s playful with its interactive environment and tells a rich tale. I like the use of being a sailor and sailing as a romantic vehicle when discussing relationships and different aspects of love. However, I do wish there was a little more to the puzzles but the story and atmosphere of the game gently swept me away.
|+ Personal branching narrative||– The puzzles are a little simple|
|+ Colourful and cutsey visuals|
|+ Small interaction with the environment|