SOLAS 128

PC, Switch

This is something truly very special. A laser-bouncing puzzle game that takes the format not to the next level, but to a whole other cosmic order. A very tired and overdone puzzle concept – bouncing beams of light from mirrors to reach goals – is given such fresh new life that it almost feels like an entirely new conceit altogether. Then made even more splendid by its sprawling meta-puzzle shape, where individual rooms connect together, eventually resulting in interwoven challenges across vast areas.

If that sounds overwhelming, then let me immediately celebrate another of this masterful game’s achievements: new ideas, tricks, elements and so on, are introduced with such a deft hand that it all comes together so naturally. That’s not to say it’s not often enormously hard – it absolutely is, and I admit to using a YouTube guide on at least three occasions – but it always feels manageable, which is demonstrative of some real design smarts.

Things start off simply enough. You beam light from its source to a marked goal, using angled mirrors. Some rotate, others are fixed, some are free to move around the level. And as you go through the square levels, you pass the light onto adjacent squares, and continue puzzling from where it emerges next door. All throughout are glitches, areas of the screen where explosive colours bleed through into the levels, blocking the path of your lights. They’re mostly obstacles, but end up giving the game a sort of narrative progression as you complete areas that remove glitches and thus open up new paths in previous areas. Oh, and rather crucially, all the beams of light move in pulses, in time with the game’s ever-changing music!

The complexity first ramps up as you realise you’re dealing with an RGB colour system here, and white light can be split into yellow, cyan, magenta, and these into red, blue and green – or indeed they can be combined together. A blue and red light pulse meeting together will give you a magenta, but it will also move off in a diagonal, as opposed to the horizontal or vertical lines you’re starting with. This too becomes a crucial puzzling element, as you not only need to work out how to redirect diagonal lines using other intervening beams of light, but also how to force intricate series of perpendicular and diagonal beams to pass light through twisting passages. Again, it sounds overwhelming to read, but the game introduces this so neatly that it feels under control, and is mostly encountered through safe experimentation.

Multiple goals appear on the game’s overall map, meaning you can go off in different puzzling directions at certain points, or swap between them if your brain needs a break from one. They are loosely themed, with say one section featuring puzzles about passing your lights through thicker beam that strip them of associated colours. Another might be much more about colour combinations and redirection. The further you get, the more elaborate and involved the puzzles become. The rhythm of the light pulses becomes absolutely crucial, made easily engaged with by the excellent music. And the whole thing is just utterly marvellous.

I really hope this becomes one of those reviews on Buried Treasure that’s looked back on as redundant, after the rest of the industry notices this and reviews it. I kept hearing the word “masterpiece” go through my brain as I was playing it. Not a word I like to use, but still, it kept whispering itself to me.

The $15 price is perfect – it’s long, elaborate, and stunningly crafted. Sure, if it were $5 you’d have already bought it, but I truly believe this is worth the money. If you’re a lover of puzzle games, this is absolutely essential. Even if you’re not, games this superbly constructed rarely come along.

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3 Comments

  1. Oooh, this sounds lovely. Does it require reflexes, or is it the sort of thing that I can ponderously cogitate over for half an hour?

    1. There are a couple of levels that require moving a mirror from one place to another reasonably quickly, but that’s it. It’s primarily a think-and-ponder game.

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