Review: Solo


Love is a complex feeling

Love can mean a lot of things to a lot of different people. When searching for advice with our love lives, we often forget to ask the most important person in the equation: ourselves. Solo is a game that explores what love means to you, personally, and doesn’t judge or ridicule you for having different opinions.

You also move blocks and solve some rudimentary puzzles, so it kind of acts like therapy.

Solo game review

Solo (PC)
Developer: Team Gotham
Publisher: Team Gotham
Released: April 26, 2018
MSRP: $14.99

When Solo begins, it tells you to answer each of its questions honestly. While there are technically branching paths, the main idea behind the story for Solo is to get you to better understand what you’re searching for in love. After that short message, the game then allows you to select your gender and age along with which gender you’re attracted to. You aren’t limited to male/female, as you can also select a non-binary answer.

You’re then shown a button map that quickly explains the controls before thrusting you directly into the action. At first glance, I wasn’t sure what I was getting into. The visual design is very reminiscent of The Wind Waker, but this is hardly a Zelda title. If you want to be reductive, you could say that Solo is a walking simulator, but there are light puzzles strewn about that give you some downtime between the various questions the game will present you.

Some of those include, “In which way does love wrap your existence?” and “Is love unlearned, or is it something we culturally inherit?” As I said above, nothing is presented as an incorrect answer, just a means to get you to understand how you view the social construct of love. Some people will believe that love is an intrinsic emotion while others (myself included) believe it is a behavior that is taught by society.

As for how you’ll come upon these questions, Solo takes the form of a fairly basic adventure game. You’ll be moving around blocks and exploring various islands to reach totem poles. These poles will become active once you touch a lighthouse and after answering each question posed by the totem, a new island will appear. You’ll then repeat the process, exploring three archipelagos before reaching the conclusion. Along the way, you’ll also encounter various little animals that want some food and even small, optional puzzles.

These optional little quests involve reuniting two separated animals and carefully positioning blocks to cast a shadow. It could, essentially, be called busywork, but the game gives you this downtime to reflect on the answer you’ve just given. As with any form of therapy, introspection is a vital part of the process for understanding what you want out of life.

You’ll control your character either with a gamepad or via mouse and keyboard. This basically controls like any third-person action game you may have played in the last decade or so, with a button for interacting with the environment and movement mapped to the left joystick. There aren’t any jumping or intense platforming elements; though you do get a paraglider to let you float around for a bit (Breath of the Wild style). There are cute little things like a guitar to play some songs and a camera for taking pictures (and selfies), but those aren’t required for any of the puzzles in the game.

Solo game review

The one unique element that does come up quite a bit is a magic staff. With this, you can select blocks from far off distances and bring them to you. You can also use this staff to position blocks around, stacking them on top of each other and creating bridges or staircases. Some of the blocks even have fans that will gust you up or extension bridges to help you cross gaps.

The environmental puzzles require you to stack these different pieces in a specific order to reach your destinations, which is where any form of challenge comes from. I did get stumped on one puzzle, but Solo isn’t meant to be a game about taxing your reaction speeds or skill. Some islands are also entirely optional, so you don’t even need to give them a second thought if you don’t want to.

When out traversing these different islands, you’ll encounter a ghost-like figure based on the romance option you selected at the start. This person will present counterpoints to the answers you’ve given, pushing you to question your own beliefs on your journey. This does come back around at the end, where you will be tasked with answering what you’ve learned throughout the game. I’m a bit steadfast in my resolve, so I didn’t reverse any of my choices, but those last few questions can definitely be eye-opening for those stuck in some seriously dark times.

Solo game review

I did learn a bit about myself, though. As I’ve known for quite some time now, friendship is always going to trump any potential love interests for me. I’ve also got a strong desire to stick to my hobbies and interests and pursue them to their fullest, regardless of whether I lose a potential lover in the process. That may sound selfish, but I’m honest to myself, my friends, my family and the things I enjoy more than trying to fake emotions for a person. Solo reinforced that for me, which is more than I can say for a lot of other games.

That isn’t to say Solo is perfect, though. Sometimes the controls can be finicky, especially when using the magic wand. Since you can’t simultaneously move a block with your wand and control the camera, some angles won’t allow you to place a block where you want it. You’ll then need to either release the block or hit cancel, both of which require you to stop your careful examination of the game world.

The whole puzzle aspect with blocks can also become a bit tiresome by the end. I never outright disliked any of the puzzles, but Solo isn’t one for gameplay diversity. You’ll encounter some beautiful environments and very relaxing music, but you’re always going to be doing the same thing in between the various questions.

Solo game review

Even with those issues, all of the environmental details put a smile on my face. I just plain loved picking up food and giving it to each animal, watching them smile with glee when I pet them. Staring off into the distance and watching the sea or swinging with my ghost partner, I saw a tranquility about the experience that I haven’t really found in quite some time. Modern games are so bombastic and stuffed to the brim with graphical effects, but Solo is just calm sailing and philosophical ponderings.

Even if games so relaxed aren’t your normal forte, I would recommend checking out Solo. Everyone has rough patches in their lives and it can be cathartic to explore our thoughts in a more interactive manner. Not every aspect of the game is perfect, but that beautifully mirrors how complex love can be.

[This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]

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Solo (Game) reviewed by Peter Glagowski



Impressive effort with a few noticeable problems holding it back. Won't astound everyone, but is worth your time and cash.
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Peter Glagowski
Peter Glagowski   gamer profile

Former Dtoid staff member. more + disclosures



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