Solo is a cute little puzzle game which hopes to dive deeper into what you think love really is, but just like some of the puzzles in Solo, love is complicated and can’t just be answered with a selection of pre-defined answers, but we’ll get to that bit in a second.
On its surface, Solo is a fairly simplistic game which has players navigating between islands solving box-based puzzles along the way. Think of it like a third-person Portal, but set on a series of stunning little islands with their very own inhabitants. Beginning the game players are asked to choose if they’re male, female, or non-binary, and the gender they’re attracted to. There are no restrictions on this, which is a nice touch.
From here, players are launched into the stunning world of Solo, but not before being asked a question about love. You see, this is a game which tries to answer the question many people wonder… “What is love?” and does so by asking various questions which the player must answer honestly. Some of these questions are fairly simple, whereas others are far more difficult to answer.
Each of the game’s little islands begin fairly small as players are tasked with figuring out how to activate the various tomes which ask you questions. This involves the manipulation of boxes which helps players’ characters reach the lighthouse in order to restore power. Once restored and the question is answered, another island spawns from out of the see and the cycle repeats.
For the most part, Solo‘s gameplay cycles were interesting enough to keep you wanting to explore the story, plus the various little additions to each island, whether it’s a side-puzzle or an animal to feed and pet, made the game interesting. One scenario had me reuniting two animals who had been separated by a broke bridge. Thanks to my magical staff, I was able to manipulate some blocks to bring the two back together. It was a lovely little moment, and Solo is full of these.
What I wasn’t so keen on however, was the game’s use of your loved one’s spirit to question your answers to the questions asked by the tomes. They felt somewhat judgemental, almost as if I’d done something wrong. It was these little interactions which turned me away from Solo, despite the game itself being fairly enjoyable.
The mechanics in Solo are also pretty interesting. As I mentioned before, the game largely relies on placing boxes to access different areas of the island. As the game progresses more boxes are introduced such as ones with fans which push you in the air, others which spawn bridges, and others which glue themselves to walls. These little challenges added some freshness to the game.
There were also levels where players needed to match shadows, which really had me thinking outside of the box. At first I was truly puzzled, until I realised i could rotate one of the fan boxes to have it float above another below. That’s one thing which makes Solo fairly enjoyable, the satisfaction you get when you finally solve a puzzle. It’s certainly not unique to puzzle games as a whole, but for fans of games similar to this, they’ll definitely enjoy it.
Overall though, I couldn’t escape the feeling of judgement each time I was asked a question about love and relationships. As someone who’s been married for almost a decade I feel I have a strong grasp on what it is to love and be with someone, but not in Solo, apparently.
I feel like Solo could stand on its own two feet without this shoehorned narrative on love, it’s a really interesting game which had me wanting to explore all of the little islands, but the overarching narrative was a little to be desired. I understand that this ghostly representation of the one players have chosen to love is there to question your answers and later on in the game this has some resolve, but the journey to this moment is fairly arduous.
Maybe it’s because I’m not a fan of self reflection, or maybe it’s because I’m a private person, but the narrative in Solo really wasn’t for me. That being said, you’ve got to hand it to the developers to envoke such an emotion in me, and I suppose that’s the entire point of Solo.
That however shouldn’t put you off what else Solo has to offer as the gameplay is pretty great. It’s a cute little action-adventure game with adorable visuals and some tricky puzzles that’ll keep you occupied for a good couple of hours.