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Solo: Islands of the Heart (Switch) Review

by Neal Ronaghan - July 31, 2019, 7:09 am PDT
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It's hard to emotionally invest yourself with puzzles plagued by clumsy camera controls.

Solo: Islands of the Heart is a game that at least has its heart in the right place. It seeks to tell a memorable, introspective story through puzzle gameplay and a mood-setting presentation. The focus is on love, and mildly prying questions at the beginning and along the way try force you to contemplate monogamy, true love, and the challenges of relationships. A path forward exists for that lofty intention to be made into a compelling game, but Solo is not that game.

For starters, if you don’t believe in love and relationships, this might not be the game for you. At the outset, you’ll be asked questions regarding your gender and sexual preference, a prelude to the wealth of questions about what you want out of a relationship. All of those questions are multiple choice, which can be limiting. Furthermore, you’re accompanied by a ghostly companion for the story that actively questions every choice you make. The resolution attempts to pay off on this bizarre stream of constant doubt, but it doesn’t add up in any rewarding manner. Solo steps up to the plate and takes a few emotional swings for the fences and strikes out.

The complementing puzzle gameplay doesn’t fare much better. You journey from one bite-sized singular puzzle island to the next with your goal being to reach a lighthouse that activates a totem, who in turn will ask you a question about your love life. To reach those goals, everything funnels out of moving boxes around in an isometric 3D space. Early on, it’s cute but limited and simple. After a few puzzles, you gain access to a magic staff that then lets you pick up the boxes from far away. First off, that basically negates the necessity to have an avatar on-screen for these puzzles. Second, the camera makes wielding the magic staff an exercise in frustration. More complexities are added throughout the adventure, but nothing can paper over the irritating staff.

The sole thing that makes Solo moderately enjoyable is the peaceful tone and setting. The world is made of simple 3D graphics, but an array of animals to interact with and pet as well as off-beat and borderline perfunctory items like a camera and a guitar give the archipelago theme personality. Unfortunately on Switch, this wasn’t a smooth experience. The graphics don’t feel as crisp as they should and consistent graphical hitches between islands sullied the good vibes.

I admire Solo: Islands of the Heart for its ambition, but virtually every aspect of the game falls short of the noble goals of making an introspective puzzle game centered on love and relationships. The narrative is limited and mildly antagonistic, the block puzzle gameplay transforms into a disaster once the magic staff is introduced, and the serenity of the islands and graphics are dragged down by a middling port to Switch. If you really want someone to question your decisions on love, go see a therapist. This isn’t the game for that.

Summary

Pros
  • Serene tone and vibe
  • You can pet the animals
Cons
  • Disappointing relationship-centric narrative
  • Hitching, muddy graphics
  • Mediocre block puzzles
  • Terrible camera

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Game Profile

Genre RPG
Developer
Players1

Worldwide Releases

na: Solo: Islands of the Heart
Release Aug 01, 2019
PublisherMerge Games
RatingTeen
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