What is Love? Solo, don’t hurt me…
Solo is a self-described introspective puzzle game developed by Team Gotham. You will sail from archipelago to archipelago, taking selfies, petting animals, and solving puzzles as you simultaneously discover a bit about yourself along the way.
In Solo, you are a sailor on a journey to realise your innermost feelings on love and relationships. In the beginning, you may choose between a male, female, or non-binary character. Your love interest can similarly be male, female, non-binary, or any, which is a great inclusive, open-minded approach right from the beginning. You also choose between 3 characters, two of which are somewhat androgynous male and female body-types, and one male with a long white beard (who looks like a sailor).
The whole purpose of the game is to leisurely interact with NPCs throughout the “levels” and answer questions once you solve each puzzle. These questions are presented to you by “totems”. There are several totems sleeping in each level. You must find the lighthouse that corresponds to each totem and activate it. This will awaken the totem and prompt him to ask you a question about love and relationships. The game also prompts you from the beginning to be as honest as you can to get the most realistic experience from the game.
Based on your answers to the totems, your ghostly boyfriend/girlfriend, who tags along with you on your journey, will react accordingly. If you stated that you don’t believe true love can exist, your ghost lover will gently berate you. If you say that you believe love can last forever, they will be reticent to agree with you, claiming that “nothing lasts forever”. No matter what you say, it’s likely that your other half will make your choices difficult for you. Not that these decisions have any impact on the game so far, as far as I’m aware. I assume that the main goal of the game is to create a lover to suit your desires and needs, but also to show you that relationships are not always sunshine and rainbows.
As stated, the main point of the game is to solve puzzles on the various islands which rise from the ocean after you awaken each totem. These puzzles typically involve moving blocks around to allow you to interact with a lighthouse and then interact with the corresponding totem. The lighthouse and totem could be somewhere up high, or across a gap, so you will have to manipulate the blocks to help you reach your targets. You are given a parachute very early on in the game which helps you to traverse some of the bigger gaps. The intensity of the puzzle solving does ramp up pretty quickly, but there were almost none that posed any huge problem to solve.
Once you’ve awakened the totems for one level, a big lighthouse will rise from the ocean. You must make your way there to unlock the next archipelago. However, the levels do not just consist of block-moving and truth-telling. A large part of the gaming experience comes from your interaction with the various creatures and NPCs residing on these islands. There are adorable animals playing around in the grass, most of which you can pet once you feed them. A bubble will appear above their head showing you what food they’d like to eat. Until you bring them that food, some animals won’t let you near them and will in fact actively run from you. But in a super adorable way.
Another way to pass the time is by pulling out your guitar and playing some tunes. Animals will flock to you no matter what you start playing, but there are certain songs that change your environment. Some songs will change the colour of the world from normal to sepia-toned. Some songs change the weather, or simply put other characters in a good mood. The guitar playing is very much akin to some of the Zelda games, so just think of it as whipping out your ocarina and blasting out Saria’s Song.
You can also take pictures (and selfies) of characters and creatures on the islands. Some NPCs will request that you take pictures of certain things, like a fish, or a bird. There are also gardens and flowers to water if you’re up for more diversion. These “mini-games” are easy to spot since any NPC that needs something will have their need in a bubble over their head (a picture of a shower for a flower that needs water, for example), similar to how the animals broadcast which food they’d like to eat.
Right when you download the game, Solo heavily recommends that you use a controller to play. I used a mouse and keyboard in the beginning but quickly switched over to a controller once I started playing. PC veterans may prefer a mouse, but that’s really just up to your own preference. The gameplay was frustrating at times, especially when it came to placing blocks (which is a huge part of the game) because the blocks did not always go in the intended places. Also, occasionally my game would glitch so that my main character would whip around wildly in every direction for a few seconds when I used my magic wand to place a block (magic wand is used to access any blocks that are out of reach). Usually, I could just wait this out, but there were a few times that this resulted in the game crashing for me.
Solo is a cute, relaxing game with little to no purpose besides solving a few puzzles. Sure, there are questions about love weaved into the mix, but they didn’t seem to impact the game much as far as I could tell. For what it’s worth, I think the game might be a bit too expensive compared to the actual amount of gameplay that you’ll get out of it, but if you’re looking for a fun little puzzler with no threats and adorable animals, then I would recommend playing Solo.