Sometimes, when you’re trying to describe a game, you don’t want to sound reductive or sell a game short. Stringing together a cascade of adjectives and witty metaphors to convey your points. Sometimes, the elevator pitch for the game does it the most justice.
Solar Ash Review | Enter The Void
Reviewed on PC via Epic Games Store
Solar Ash, the latest game from developer Heart Machine, is Shadow of the Colossus, but fast. Instead of worrying about grip meters and being methodical, you are put on a timer and forced to perfect your platforming and high-speed skating across the bodies of these large beasts, also known as Anomalies.
Rei, the main character is a race known as the Voidrunners; when her planet is hurling into the Ultravoid, it’s up to her to activate a device known as the Starseed and protect her race and planet from destruction.
Rei’s entire traversal toolkit is given to you at the beginning of the game. It isn’t about unlocking upgrades, skill trees, or powering up. You’re tasked with exploring the Ultravoid and taking out the giant Anomalies scattered across the color and broken landscape in front of you.
Movement in Solar Ash is everything. Every puzzle is designed around combining your movement abilities and options. Boost off a ledge and then double jump to get some distance for hard-to-reach ledges, or maybe use your Timeslip ability to help extend the reach of your grapple.
As you explore each environment in Solar Ash, you’ll have to remove a set number of eyeballs from the area to awaken the Anomaly to defeat. These eyeballs are found all of the areas, often requiring precise platform and puzzle-solving to reach.
Once you’ve found them, it will require completing a time trial that ultimately ends in your stabbing the eye with your needle and removing the corruption from an area.
This time trails aren’t just a race against the clock. Frequently, it will require you to think about the way to level is laid out and what tools you have at your disposal for mobility. On more than one occasion, it took me multiple tries to understand that I couldn’t just brute force my way through a section but had to learn how to move around the environment with precision.
When you’re gliding across broken landmasses and the ocean of connective tissue between spots, it feels fantastic. Seriously, Solar Ash just feels incredible to play when you nail the movement.
This is coupled with the Anomaly fights themselves. Each one is more bombastic than the last, I couldn’t keep my eyes off the beauty and sheer terror each one presents. The Anomalies have a heavy presence when awakened, roaming around the area just waiting for you to grapple on and begin the fight for dominance.
Much like Shadow of The Colossus, you’re tasked with making it to the weak point and stabbing it multiple times to defeat it, but the real thrill is in the hunt.
Learning the quirks and tricks of each Anomaly is half the battle. The other half is perfecting your platforming at high speeds across the backs of these creatures. Every fight is a race against the clock presented as needles across the Anomalies back. Smash each one on your way across to be able to deliver a decisive blow to the Anomaly.
My only gripe with some of the fights is that a few of them felt more cinematic and less like I was the one doing the work. Grappling is a big mechanic in Solar Ash and can only be done in particular spots.
During Anomaly fights a lot of the points I needed to hit were grapple spots, and that just consists of spamming the right bumper, ultimately taking away any real sense of challenge in place of a visual feast.
The same goes for combat in Solar Ash, which is a bit of a letdown. It’s not that the game even needs combat, but what’s there is very basic and never reaches anything more enjoyable than simply hitting the melee button over and over.
I almost wish this game removed combat and its smaller enemies altogether. The movement is so tight and responsive that it makes the stale combat stand out like a sore thumb.
Outside of those two negatives, Solar Ash is one of my favorite games I’ve played this year. Its soundtrack and art style alone was enough to put it up there, but tie it in with fun environments to explore, a stellar double jump, and being able to grind on sick rails, it leaves very little to be desired.
If you’re looking for an exciting platformer with a stellar style and fast-paced action, Solar Ash will scratch that itch and more. Its puzzle-solving and exploration are hefty enough without overstaying its welcome.
It’s not without flaws, but despite all of them, the mobility in Solar Ash is unrivaled, making it one of my favorite platformers in recent memory.
Solar Ash is available December 2, 2021, on PC and PlayStation 4 & 5.
- Movement is tight and responsive
- Art style and Direction
- Exploration and puzzles
- Combat is stale
- Some Anomaly fights feel a little too scripted