Overall - 85%
Anyone who likes fast-paced platformers with a gorgeous sense of style will enjoy Solar Ash. Who knows - maybe fans of a certain blue hedgehog can play a good 3D game for once.
After a minor delay, Heart Machine and Annapurna Interactive’s Solar Ash is finally here. Should platforming fans add this to their holiday queue, or is it simply not worth your while?
Solar Ash Review
Solar Ash kicks things off with a bang, with a giant world-eating black hole working its way to the center of the universe. The only way to stop it is with the Starseed, which theoretically possesses the ability to destroy black holes. Players will take control of the Voidrunner Rei, who is currently on the hunt said Starseed. However, something weird happens when you finally discover it; a large upper torso greets you, telling you to leave it alone before pushing you into the Ultravoid. From there, you arrive at your destination and begin your search.
As it turns out, you weren’t the only Voidrunner given this task; you were just the last to arrive. While the Starseed is your main objective, figuring out what happened to your allies is also important. Rei will find the Starseed before too long, but players must then figure out what is needed to get it working. Searching the Ultravoid for power conduits and dealing with hostilities, this adventure will take around eight hours in all.
As movement is one of Solar Ash’s main tenants, let’s start there. You glide around on the ground like you have a pair of rollerblades on, except you don’t have wheels. You are constantly jumping, dashing, and grinding in this game. It is a lot more of a platformer than one would expect. While the controls are simple and easy to get into, the game is a bit floaty. What I mean is that you get time to calibrate which way you jump mid-air. Getting your timing down will be the biggest thing holding you back. Be warned though; some fights will require intense concentration, speed, and precision.
The combat itself is also pretty easy. You’ll constantly get behind enemies and smash them down with your blade. However, I don’t think this is a bad thing; I’m sure you can pull off some fancy maneuvers, but simple is most certainly better in this case. With my primary focus on high-speed movement and dodging, I don’t want to be bombarded with complex combos on top of that. Boss fights, on the other hand, are a completely different story.
After clearing an area and getting all power sources, a boss will typically spawn. Enormous in scale, they can’t be taken out with normal swings. As a result, these make fights more like platformer-puzzle challenges than anything else. You skate up, down, and around the beast as you attack weak points. As you do that, you are working your way up to the heart or head of the creature. You have to hit each weak point as you pass it, or the boss becomes red hot and you have to start over. They make for tense fights that you don’t want to lose.
During your adventure in this lonely world, you will come across red goop that you can pick up. You can think of it like rings or coins in Sonic or Mario. You can use these to increase your shield meter, allowing you to take more hits. You also get some side events from survivors here in the Ultravoid. Combine that with the other Voidrunner logs you find, and you can sort of piece together what happened before you arrived. Since the world looks gorgeous, it helps that you are encouraged to explore more.
While speed and movement are one of Solar Ash’s greatest strengths, they also prove to be some of its biggest weaknesses. Unless you have insane reaction speeds, you are not getting all the platform puzzles done in one go. Each time you fail, you have to reset. That’s fine once or twice, but it quickly adds up. If you get easily frustrated, this isn’t for you.
I didn’t run into any bugs or crashes; a rare event in 2021. I did have a few frame drops here and there, but nothing major.
Anybody who likes fast-paced platformers with a gorgeous sense of style will enjoy Solar Ash. Who knows – maybe fans of a certain blue hedgehog can play a good 3D game for once.
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