Solar Flux is a mobile game through and through… So you’d think putting it on the Switch would be a no-brainer, right?
Right. The Switch is highly portable, it’s kind of the point but it’s not a handheld mobile device. Its tablet form would probably be okay without the JoyCon attached to either side, which you don’t need for Solar Flux anyway. The game entirely uses the touch screen that everyone had totally forgotten the Switch has… but does it utilize it well?
Yes, actually it does. Solar Flux, being a mobile game title (it’s on Steam too but… eh), utilizes the touch screen marvelously, as it was designed to funnily enough. It’s responsive and precise, allowing for fine control within the constraints of the game mechanics and my clumsy fingers would allow.
The premise of the game is you’re some kind of Sun-rejuvenating space craft that gathers plasma then fires it into the nearby suns in order to re-ignite them and keep them burning. If you’ve ever seen Sunshine it’s kinda like that but without Chris Evans or Cillian Murphy…and no soundtrack from John Murphy (I’m guessing no relation?).
You navigate planetary and asteroid orbits in order to collect plasma and then project it into the nearby suns by tapping the touchscreen on the opposite side of the desired direction. It’s actually fairly simple to learn but incredibly tricky to master.
The levels consist of progressively more complicated pathways and orbital interactions necessary to collect and launch the plasma successfully and complete the level. Various different challenges are used to generate your score, but mostly it’s completion time that’s important.
Levels focusing on Fuel and Shield Energy are a challenge to just complete, let alone complete well enough to earn 3 stars. They require some exceptionally tactical thinking to survive, let alone score highly. One level, in particular, requires you to navigate through an asteroid field without shelter from the sun’s heat. You have to move fast to protect your ship long enough to re-ignite the target, but also have to navigate the tricky asteroid corridors. It’s frustrating and a mission to complete, especially so early on, but the satisfaction from doing so is pretty damn fantastic.
The levels are varied enough to keep you on your toes and after a string of challenging ones that leave you on the edge of rage-quitting, there will be a pleasant little mission that’s super easy, as if the game is reminding you it’s not all bad. Of course, the Sun is going out which obviously isn’t great, but you’re getting there!
It’s often the fault of these types of title that the game feels a little unfair and next to impossible, but Solar Flux treads the fine line between frustration and rage-inducing brilliantly. It’s simple mechanics and challenging puzzles are perfect for waking you up on your morning commute.
Visually Solar Flux is nothing special but as it was originally designed for mobile platforms, this isn’t surprising. What it does have are some pretty spacey backdrops and sharp foreground obstacles and models. The lighting effects for the harsh solar light and life-saving shade from celestial bodies is nicely done and lends an extra level of depth to the design.
The audio design for Solar Flux is really quite nice, it’s very atmospheric and calming, great for keeping you focused and level-headed when handling tricky puzzles. Leaving the game on and listening to the soundtrack in the background is actually really quite soothing.
Solar Flux is by no means the worlds best puzzle game, but it’s certainly got its place amongst some of the greats. It requires you to think quickly and carefully, challenges you to get creative and most importantly, it’s exceptionally addictive. Chasing those high scores and 3-star ratings per level is super satisfying, like scratching a difficult to reach itch.