Developer/Publisher: Team Gotham || Overall: 7.8/10
One part 3D puzzle game and the other part online personality test, Solo asks a lot from you. It asks you to bear your soul about Love. It also asks you to arrange a lot of boxes so you can solve puzzles, which I suppose is another metaphor for love, especially after you move in together. There’s a lot of boxes. There’s also a lot of strange alien-like fauna, like elephants that eat cheese, cat-things that eat bananas, and some other cute creatures that you can pet. You can also play guitar.
The most obvious thing you’ll notice about Solo is its elaborate art style. While it has that disgusting Unity “marshmallow” look, it makes it its own by creating a unique atmosphere. Each puzzle takes place on a little island in a greater archipelago; solve the puzzle on the island and a new one will pop up from under the water. Interacting with the myriad of inanimate objects, cutesy creatures, and ghostly characters adds to the experience. The fauna and the general aesthetic of the world feels very “not Earth-like” which leads to the feeling you are either in some sort of dream or on an alien planet of some kind. You’re referred to as a “sailor” but there is very little actual sailing going on other than moving from one archipelago to the next. Additionally, the name you put in as “your love” ends up being the name of the ship… QUITE EMBARRASSING!
As far as the puzzle aspects go, it uses a system in which you re-use a set of blocks in continually different configurations, rather than using said blocks one time and leaving them there. You’ll have to design your solution to a puzzle, of which there are multiple solutions (depending on your ingenuity), and then you get to answer an overly personal question about your love life. Rinse and repeat, and you’ve essentially got the whole experience. The types of boxes you’ll encounter are normal boxes, boxes with fans in them (that allow you to glide in your parachute), boxes that stick to walls, and boxes that extend a platform from them. Using the boxes to create platforms is your primary pursuit; you can use these boxes in different configurations as you can rotate them and whatever works, works. You also use terrain (no jumping), your guitar (occasionally), and other elements in the immediate area to solve puzzles. They also let you take pictures with a camera, but considering your character looks like a horrendous sack of potatoes, no thanks. And there doesn’t seem to be a functional reason to making animals happy other than to get them to shut up.
The theme of Love is pretty heavy-handed. The first thing you do in the game is choose your gender, including giving you a non-binary option. They also ask what gender you are romantically attracted to, which non-binary is also an option. At this point they give you a choice of avatar to represent yourself in-game, which is only three white characters. It’s odd that the game seems to strive for some sort of inclusivity, but only so far as it matters directly to “love.” I suppose race wouldn’t fall into that category per se, but it seems out of place that these options are presented and then you can only choose white characters.
The writing itself is pretty good and gives a feeling that there was a lot of care for what is being said so that it doesn’t sound too sappy or too ridiculous. In theory, there seems to be different writing depending on your choices regarding your relationship status and the like. Interestingly, despite the game looking like it is “for kids,” the subject matter of love, relationships, and even sex, is definitely not for kids. This is just my paranoid side speaking, but you have to wonder if there is some sort of collection of data with the answers to these love questions — it seems generally out of place in the manner they present it since they make it about “you,” the player, rather than an in-game character. They say to get the most out of it, you should answer truthfully as much as possible. It also wouldn’t surprise me if this was all a disguised recruitment tool for some box-fetish cult. “Only the ones who can solve these box puzzles need apply. 10 Inch dicks or DD+ boobies only.”
So, while the game is generally a positive experience, it’s really not that engaging. The puzzles can be fun to figure out, but they can also be fairly frustrating considering the controls. You’re also constantly fighting against the camera which doesn’t seem to allow you to zoom out at all. Placing the boxes in a 3D space depends on the angle of your camera, and even though there is an “aim assist” for placing the blocks, sometimes the cursor will disappear and is fifty miles away. Holding the left trigger and clicking it over and over can also be a bit taxing on your finger and it feels like there should have been an easier way to do all of the stuff you’re doing without having to constantly hold it or trigger it. Otherwise, the performance of the game had no issues outside of random frame drops, and the sound/music is quite good.
Giving a score to this game was hard to do. It’s definitely an enjoyable game, and I’d recommend it if you are into 3D puzzle games, or at least interested in having your privacy violated by unknown data gatherers. If it weren’t for the controls and camera frustration, I’d probably score it in the higher 8 range, but when a game makes my fingers hurt for no good reason, it’s getting docked. It is perhaps a bit pretentious as well, given the subject matter being matched with it’s cutesy art style, so it makes me question possible ulterior motives of Solo.