Solas 128 is a puzzle game that is about placing pieces on a grid to guide a pulsating light to each screen’s goal. On paper, it sounds like a Pipe Dream clone, and it pretty much is, but winds up being something more. The beat-heavy techno soundtrack set to the pumping laser lights is pretty cool too.
Although each screen is its own puzzle, the guidable light can extend directly into the next screen and beyond, creating a linkable trail over a massive interconnected map. Adding another layer of thoughtful complexity is the coloring system. Sometimes mixing two lights to create a new color is required, then bends at a 45 degree angle instead of a 90 degree angle, to unlock that next section. In a way, this might be as close as you can get to a puzzler Metroidvania, only swap gaining new abilities by gaining access to new areas in one cohesive map by mixing and bending light in new ways. Players will even need to backtrack to bend the light in new ways to advance. With over 150 screens, this is a surprising large, thoughtful game.
The early screens are simple enough but the complexity will increase over time. This means getting stuck is inevitable. Thankfully, the hint system is designed in a way to guide the player as opposed to plainly providing an answer. Hitting the X button will highlight a square on a grid, indicating that one of that screen’s moveable pieces needs to be placed there. However, the game will not tell the player which piece and which direction. This hint button also cannot be spammed as it is on a timer. Once you hit that button, the player will need to wait a couple minutes before another hint can be given. This encourages the player to try each hint, as if it is saying “here’s a little help but I know you can do this.” When the player eventually figures it out, the sense of accomplishment is that much greater. The idea behind this hint system is so well done other games should take note. My only complaint is that it can sometimes be difficult to distinguish which pieces are interactive in any given screen since the Tron-like visuals can start to merge together visually over time. In the later complex stages, it would have also been helpful if there was an instant restart button as sometimes it is better to start over from scratch than moving pieces individually to see the board.
The neon visuals melt directly into the futuristic soundtrack and gameplay; the presentation is well done. The soundtrack is made with quality but it can become a bit much when playing for more than 15 consecutive minutes so players beware. It is also strange that the visual composition is in widescreen but the actually game board is a box that only takes up about half the screen. The initial loading screen is also annoying long.
Solas 128 does something so few puzzles games do – it tells a story. No, there are no characters or dialog here but instead connects one screen to the next in a way that creates one large narrative. Tetris, in comparison, has pieces falling in a well and eventually the player will hit the top and get a game over. But what if that Tetris well directly connected to another well, and another well, and that one piece you placed in a very specific spot opened a door three screens away, which linked to more wells on a Zelda-like map. You can see how this can quickly grow to become something much bigger than you ever anticipated. It might not be best puzzle game ever made, but the refreshing approach and implementation from other genres makes this Switch digital download something unique.
Also available on PC.