Solar Ash Review
After blowing away gamers and critics with 2016’s Hyper Light Drifter, Heart Machine are back with Solar Ash. Stepping away from the 2D pixel art of its predecessor, this ambitious game glides into the third dimension in an unforgettable odyssey through the interstellar.
The universe is on the verge of extinction. Worlds are being devoured by the ravenous Ultravoid and now it’s heading straight for another planet. As Rei, a brave Voidrunner, you must battle through infested lands in order to fend off beings that are intent on infecting and destroying your home. With the planet on the brink of extinction, it’s down to you to be the savior.
Trip The Light Fantastic
Trekking through the mythical world is an absolute joy. The luscious and beautiful vistas create a feeling of tranquility that perfectly accompanies the elegant traversal. Rei skates the plant life and grinds the environment with ease, creating a sumptuous and stress-free experience. With a squeeze of the trigger, you can perform a brief boost that helps maintain momentum. Amplifying the break-neck pace is the grapple hook. Combining these aspects makes for some incredible sequences that encourage speed running through the gorgeous and otherworldly areas.
Each environment has been lovingly crafted to take advantage of Rei’s graceful movement. Rails and rings perfectly align to allow you to effortlessly traverse. Puzzles that lie within require you to explore and perform precarious platforming feats to progress. Areas are expansive, containing a delicious variety of verticality. You can peruse up gravity-defying structures to reach the apex and observe the platforming paradise that lays ahead.
Enemies adorn specific locations, diversifying the gameplay. Varied with their attacks, you will need to avoid strikes and use the Time Slip ability, which is a slowdown, in order to nullify your opponents. The simple yet intuitive combat adds pace and urgency to a game that thrives with its melancholic loneliness.
Within the open world, you will have a number of objectives that lead to areas that house timed challenges. At these locations, you will need to destroy key points in quick succession to eradicate the virus that is slowly taking over your homeland. Whilst these sections offer engaging and challenging platforming segments, the lack of variety in missions is disappointing. Even though the journey to your goal differs greatly, knowing exactly what is required when reaching the summit hampers the enjoyment.
Echoes of the Colossus
Concluding areas are the imposing Remnants. These epic boss battles echo the encounters found in Shadow of the Colossus. As the creatures stalk the region, you must discover a point of entry. Upon doing so, you will scale the beast, racing across its gigantic mass to key sections in a timed fashion in order to damage the monstrosity. There’s an incredible sense of energy in each of the boss battles. Grappling across the moving giants accentuates their enormity. Fights gradually progress with Remnants oozing black gunge that will slow you down if you touch it, therefore requiring you to be more precise with your movement.
The evocative world musters a sense of adventure which permeates throughout. Its hyper-stylized world and bold color palette give the game its own identity. Each of the six areas is distinct, separating itself from the previous environment. The slick screen transitions and Sin City-esque final strikes add to the presentation further establishing itself as a visual masterpiece. Various aspect amalgamates to create a memorable experience that exudes a strange yet complementary array of aesthetics. Grotesque but beautiful, intense yet peaceful, Solar Ash is a superb achievement for the medium.
The cast of characters that lurk within also adds to the oddity of Solar Ash and helps to build personality. Well-acted cutscenes give you further insight into the lore of the world while discovering artifacts and talking to residents that dwell inside, embellish the sub-stories of the game.
The sci-fi-infused score perfectly captures a litany of emotions. Led by Troupe Gammage, an element of uncertainty lingers in the air creating an unsettling yet tranquil atmosphere. The music beautifully builds and bursts into life at precise moments to enhance the gameplay. Satisfying sound effects also amplify the enjoyment of taking down ungodly creatures.
A Race Against Time
With a short run-time, the game can be completed in about 8 hours. There are side missions and costume pieces to collect, but they’re not essential to the core experience. Due to the focus on fast, free-flowing movement, the inclusion of time trials would have been excellent end-game content, an omission which many will be left craving.
Solar Ash is a spectacular achievement and a worthy successor to Heart Machine’s previous release. The fast and fluid movement makes exploration a delightful dance through the absurd. Although the structure is a little repetitive, the moment-to-moment gameplay is thrilling. Large and intense boss battles are the highlight of the game, creating jaw-dropping sequences that will leave you yearning for more.
*** A PlayStation 5 key provided by the publisher ***
- Amazing Boss Battles
- Elegant Traversal
- Beautiful Art Direction
- Quite Short
- No Real End Game Content
- Repetitive Structure