Solo: Islands of the Heart Review – Nintendo Switch

Developed By: Team Gotham

Published By: Merge Games

Reviewed By: Tyler Higgs

Thank you so much to Merge Games for providing a review code

Love is complicated. Well, I’m glad we got that out of the way, but in all honesty, love is something that’s not meant to be easily understood. To love someone can mean so many things and can be felt in so many ways. We can love someone and still feel resentment towards them sometimes. Love is essentially all about being an imperfect human being. Solo: Islands of the Heart attempts to take players on a journey about the important topic of loving a significant other. Now it’s time to take a look at Solo and see if the game’s succeeds or fails on its execution.

Story

Solo’s story sees you playing as an unnamed character. You choose your gender and the name and the gender of your significant other and then your emotional journey begins.

I don’t know if, I can say that Solo has a definite story. Your adventure sees you interacting with totem poles placed throughout the game’s archipelago’s. These totem poles ask you questions about love and how you feel towards your significant other. Then when you respond with one of the three choices the game makes you contemplate your decision.

How does Solo make you contemplate your decision, you may ask? Well, it does it by showing how your significant other feels about your decision. For every decision you make, you’ll see the negative feelings your loved one has about it. Some may see this as the game attacking you but, I don’t believe that’s the game’s true intentions.

Solo doesn’t want you to feel bad about your decision, but it does want you to think about it. It makes you think about what decision you chose and what effects it could have. Many decisions we will have to make in life don’t have that perfect answer. Sometimes we will still end up making a decision that doesn’t completely make someone or ourselves happy.

At the end of the day the decisions you make really have more of an effect on you then the game. Maybe, this does come across as a little cheesy, but Solo does do a pretty good job at being a thought provoking adventure. It’s unfortunate that it’s really only the game’s narrative elements that end up being satisfying.

Gameplay

Solo: Islands of The Heart is a 3D puzzle adventure. Your adventure takes place over the course of various archipelago’s. Each one has a group of small islands that are all interconnected. All of the islands that make each of the archipelagos won’t be available as soon as you get to it. Every small island has a totem as previously mentioned, but they also have a lighthouse. You must activate the lighthouse on every island before you can interact with the island’s totem. Once you’ve interacted with the totem and answered its question a new island will appear.

The lighthouses and totems aren’t always easily accessible. Most of the time you’ll have to solve one or two small puzzles to access them. These puzzles all involve boxes.

Early on in the game you’ll receive a magic wand that lets you magically move and place boxes. There are 4 types of boxes that are introduced to you over the course of the game

Regular Box: This is a regular box used to stand on to reach higher places

Fan Box: This box blows you into the air and allows you to reach high places or float over to distant places.

Bridge Box: This box extends into a bridge that you can use to reach distant locations.

Suction Box: This box can be placed anywhere as it suction cups to anything. You can also attach other boxes to each side of the suction box.

Shoot Box: This box lets you change the direction of a liquid and redirect it in another direction.

Every island will have its own boxes that are used to solve a puzzle. By rotating and placing boxes in the correct position using your wand you can reach the lighthouses and totems. That’s how every puzzle works, using your boxes to reach the previously inaccessible areas.

Sometimes you’ll have to get crafty with how you put together the boxes, but the puzzles are never too difficult. The problem is that the puzzles come off as monotonous and lack any sort of ability to engage the player. I never felt satisfied after completing one of Solo’s puzzles. They lacked creativity, and unfortunately they controlled poorly. Placing boxes was difficult to control, because sometimes they simply didn’t go where I wanted them to go. Overall the main puzzle solving mechanic was mediocre, which really didn’t do the game any favors.

So, what can you do in Solo besides solving these box puzzles. Well, really there’s not much else. You can interact with all of the little animals in the world. Sometimes you can even solve puzzles to reunite an animal with their loved one. It’s all very cute, but there’s not really a reason to do it. You can skip these and at the end it doesn’t make a whole lot of difference.

You can also find notes that were scattered around from your loved one. These notes are used to give more character and emotion to your significant other. There’s also a camera that you can use to take pictures of all of the different islands beautiful scenery.

Finally, should you have the need you can play the guitar. Your character is given a guitar and can find songs hidden around the island. Once you learn the button inputs you can play them. Some even have cool effects.

Presentation

Solo has a beautifully designed world with tons of vibrant colors. Everything is made to be peaceful and soothing without ever feeling boring. The environments were nice to look and each differently designed character was crafted with care. It’s a shame, however, that the game loses some of its visual prowess in handheld mode. The sound design doesn’t have a ton of variety and wasn’t very memorable.

Technical Issues

Unfortunately, Solo does suffer from some technical issues. Frame rate issues happened quite frequently, especially in handheld mode. Now they were small drops in frame rate so the game never became unplayable. Although they happened frequent enough to be a frustration.

The other technical issue I had with Solo was with its camera. Camera issues happened quite frequently and were especially tough when I was interacting with the puzzles. Sometimes if I got close to a wall or platform the camera would zoom in really close. It would stay like this until I was able to move and cause the camera to reset its view. It certainly was an annoyance and I hope to see this issue addressed in a future patch.

Summary

Solo: Islands of the Heart sets out to be a provocative journey about love. While it does do a fairly good job at making players really think and boast a beautiful visual design, the gameplay is executed in a mediocre fashion. The puzzles lack creativity, the side activities feel pointless, and this whole adventure will most likely only run you 2-3 hours. If you’re willing to go through the game’s tedious puzzles to experience the narrative you will probably find some enjoyment in Solo. However, its narrative may not be enough to entice all players to come on this journey.

5/10

Pros

  • Story Can be Very Thought Provoking
  • Beautiful & Colorful Visuals & Environments
  • Peaceful & Soothing Atmosphere

Cons

  • Mundane Puzzle Design
  • Frame Rate Issues
  • Camera Issues
  • Side Activities Lack Meaning
  • Short For The Price Point

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