Solo is an introspective puzzler set on a gorgeous and surreal archipelago. Reflect on your loving relationships by exploring contemplative, dream-like islands.
Solo (not related to Star Wars) is 50% psychological journey and 50% box puzzler. If answering questions about your love life truly sounds like a terrible idea, Solo might not be for you, however, there is a competent puzzle game here as well.
Most games I can compare Solo to involve you playing a character with a predetermined story, or with a focus more on the world than who you’re playing as. Solo reminded me quickly of RiME with its very colourful art style and archipelago exploration and then The Witness for its ever-evolving world that grows as you complete puzzles. Neither of those games asks you to play as YOU, however, and Solo is most definitely best played with you in mind as the character. Developer Team Gotham is accommodating with inclusive options of gender or sexual preference too which is great to see. Non-binary being included was fantastic.
You begin your journey outside your house and quickly hop into your boat to begin your journey. Your boat, which has the name of your most-loved one written on the back of it (via the game’s opening questions.) Quickly it is apparent the game is a journey for those currently in love or having had loved someone, rather than anyone searching for someone still. And there can be an argument made that the game doesn’t allow any narrative for love of something more than another human, be that a hobby or your job. Nonetheless, feel free to answer the question “what is the name of your most beloved?’ with my name and float around the seas with ‘Dylan’ plastered on the back of your small craft. But if you do have a loved one, you’ll undoubtedly get more out of this journey inward.
Arriving at the first of three islands you’ll have to answer introspective questions about your love life from totems that you must activate via activating a small lighthouse that is spread out and always behind the solution of a box puzzle. Solo‘s puzzles starts rather simple. Grab a box, move it to a platform you couldn’t climb up. Climb on top of that box and then the platform — puzzle solved! But as the game continues you will get new tools that make the puzzles more complicated and encounter boxes that make the solutions to the puzzles not so straight-forward. You’re always aware of what you need to be doing. You can see the totem and your goal, the problem is always: how can I stack and use these boxes to reach there?
In the opening menu screen Solo encourages you to play with a controller and this I would implore. Playing with a keyboard and mouse in the short time I tried was cumbersome to say the least, especially with some of the later puzzle sections. Even with a controller, the camera can be an absolute pain at times, especially in sections indoors, or cramped corners.
Solo isn’t rushing you through the story and the game invites you to have down time to enjoy the games beautiful world or contemplate the questions you’re being asked. Stop and interact with the cute animals in the world. Pull out your guitar and play some songs, or even play a song to change the game to black and white simply because it better suits your mood. Do as I did and jump on a swing seat overlooking the ocean and rock back and forth. It was an odd and surprising feeling, how long I would spend on the swings; just rocking back and forth, zoning out, enjoying the chilled music and the waves below hitting the cliffside of the island. It was an oddly relaxing experience.
If you want to focus on honing your puzzle solving skills there are extra puzzles spread out that you can simply ignore if you want to focus on the main path, although I wouldn’t recommend it. Side quest stuff like taking pictures of birds, or solving how to get a water supply to water a garden bed properly opens up your options on what you can do. Having the ability to rush through the game (not recommended), work on your puzzle skills in extra challenges, or simply relax allows Solo to run at a fantastic pace.
My F12 button got good use playing through Solo as it is a screenshot sensation. Its beautiful world and colourful characters and landscapes invite constant slow pans and screenshot spamming. I did spend some time trying to work out the perfect angle for a screenshot with my surrounding. In-game you also have a camera and a selfie mode which is rather cute, especially when you can get some animals in the background with you.
Will Solo’s rather metaphorical ending work for everyone? Probably not. But it’s a game that will be sure to hit with an audience, and you get much more out of it the more you’re willing to give to it. As a puzzle game, it’s fine, but it’s much more interesting as a game challenging you to look at yourself and your love life in ways you may not have previously.