Sometimes a game comes along that just sparks your interest for some reason. Maybe it has an engaging narrative, likeable characters, good gameplay or all of them wrapped up in a nicely presented package. Well, I can tell you that “Solo”, the newest game from indie developer Team Gotham, offers almost nothing of the sort. Now, I’ll be the first person to admit that I’m a bit of a sucker for indie games, so this isn’t coming from someone who absolutely despises these kinds of games. “But what makes this game so bad?”, you may ask. Well, let me explain in a bit more detail.
I’m actually going to start off with the positive aspects, the first of which is the art style. A lot of people might say that this very colourful and in-your-face look has become kind of a cliché of indie games in recent years. While I believe that to be true to a certain extent, I can see why a lot of developers don’t like to deviate from this formula too much since it makes for some very breathtakingly beautiful scenery. However, I already had suspicions that all of this fancy looking stuff could serve to cover up some of the game’s flaws. Oh, how right I was.
Once you start looking past all the flashy visuals, it becomes clear that the game doesn’t really have a leg to stand on in terms of gameplay and story. Before I get started, I am going to give you the most basic summary of this game’s story. You pick your character at the start of the game, and then you proceed to explore a set of islands while these weird looking totems ask you questions about love, which happens to be the central theme of the game. I am now going to tell you why this plot falls flat on its face. The main problem here is that by making you, the player, the main character, it leaves very little room for the game to develop any kind of connection to any of the characters. This kind of approach has been proven to work in games like Undertale where the player’s character just sits there listening to what other characters have to say, but the thing is you need good writing for that, which this game just doesn’t have. It’s your generic cookie-cutter love story about lost love and feelings of loneliness, which will make a lot of people relate to it. But it’s so manipulative in how it goes about doing this that it seems like the writers wanted to create this heart-wrenching story about love but ended up making something that is just an absolute chore to sit through.
Speaking of chores, I think it’s time to talk about the gameplay. The gameplay is your very by-the-book kind of move from A to B, complete a puzzle, and talk to someone formula. It also doesn’t help that some of the puzzles are frustrating to the point of making you want to throw things across the room. Not because it’s hard to figure out what to do, but with the controls being so floaty, it feels like your character’s gone rogue and is purposefully trying to piss you off. Furthermore, the puzzles seem like they’re very dependent on if the physics engine decides to let you just about reach that platform or not, which makes you want to pull your hair out at times. The last puzzle especially had me screaming so loudly that my neighbours could hear me. There are also these little side tasks you can do for some reason where you can help out the inhabitants of Magic World or whatever the game world is called. But again, it’s very repetitive because there are about 3-4 different tasks in total to complete, which means if you want to do all of them, then you’re gonna be stuck doing the same thing at least 5 times during the game.
Another quick thing I want to touch on before ending this review is the length of the game. It’s a very short game, which I was expecting since it is an indie game, but even with me getting hung up on certain puzzles for upwards of 20 minutes, it only clocks in at about 3.5 hours in total, which is quite short, if you ask me.
All in all, I think it really is a shame that I disliked this game as much as I did because I went into it with high hopes and came out severely disappointed. The gameplay is unoriginal, the story is generic and boring and felt at times like it was punishing me on purpose for no reason. I’m glad I finished it and that I don’t have to come back to it.
Developer: Team Gotham
Publisher: Team Gotham
Release Date: 26th April 2018