When a narrative adventure does things a little differently, my ears and eyes perk up. ‘Solo: Islands of the Heart’ mixes together a block based puzzle platformer with relaxed animal feeding and a buzzfeed style love and relationship quiz. That’s what I call a kitchen sink game!
I mock, but Solo hangs this all together really coherently. You choose your character and then the sex of your (potential) partner and sail off to several islands to be asked questions about how you define love. These questions are provided by sentient lighthouse gods and they are the games main puzzles. You’ll need to traverse to a light source to turn on the lighthouse god and then reach them to be asked the question. This in turn opens up the next part of the island.
The questions start out quite broadly and in an interesting twist your answers seem to determine what type of landscape the newly grown island section becomes. You might be hot headed and grow a desert, or reject love for the icy cold snow. I’m a soppy so and so which meant I have lush forests for a lot of my playthrough. Better still, when I revisited the game and also watched other peoples playthroughs, the questions change depending on previous answers. Solo: Islands of the Heart is detirmined to find a root fear or worry you may have about love and then pin you down on it.
Whilst Buzzfeed the game takes place passively, you’ll be interacting with the lovely low poly environments with block puzzles. Your character can pick up and move blocks to climb up them. Some blocks extend ledges out and others blow wind. You can use those to either send you flying or rotate them for hover blocks. There is no jump in the game but you do have a parachute. A lot of the later game puzzles are building stacks of stairs to climb with limited blocks so you are high enough to glide to the next platform.
Solo: Islands of the Heart relishes in being a slow paced, relaxed puzzler. you are encouraged to mull over your options and there are seats to sit on and relax. That, coupled with the lovely soundtrack and beautiful graphics make Solo an enjoyable experience. It is a shame that the camera and block placement of the puzzles can sometimes go awry though. You have complete free reign to place your blocks anywhere you can see and so sometimes you’ll be fighting the camera. This is so the block will snap to the right location you want it to go – not a cliff ages away in the distance. It’s a small frustration but it was one that cropped up several times in the final island where things are most complicated.
Solo is short too. It took me about three hours to complete and I was going quite slowly. During that time it did keep me very busy though, including cute bridge connection puzzles to reunite stranded animals and some tricky 3D shadow puzzles. Ultimately, my thoughts on Solo rested on how it sparked some thoughts about how my relationship with my partner is going. Whilst Solo asked some interesting questions, I felt it confirmed my love for my partner. Each question had three options and often only one was a balanced approach and the other were two extremes. Maybe I am just too chill!
- Interesting mash up of ideas
- Beautiful relaxed gameplay to take at your own pace
- There are no fail states
- Could be thought provoking for some
- Some camera issues with complex block puzzles
- Some game mechanics are completely underutilised (i.e. the camera phone and guitar!)
Solo: Islands of the Heart is an unusual game that I think older gamers will enjoy more than the younger ones. It carries a lot of wisdom and heart and is very sentimental at times. Whilst the occasional frustration will creep in, its simple design and focused gameplay will see you reach the journeys end and maybe you’ll learn something new about yourself too.
Bought and reviewed on PS4. Also available on PC, Switch.
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