Light redirection puzzles are a pretty common theme in puzzle games, but I don't think I've ever played one where it was literally the entire game. Honestly, going into Solas 128, I was expecting to get bored of it pretty quickly. There are only so many ways to reframe "bounce the light around" in an interesting way. Color me surprised that the entire game managed to keep throwing enough new ideas at the concept that it never got dull. It did, however, get ball-breakingly hard.
Solas 128 is a light-redirecting puzzle game from Amicable Animal, a single-person indie developer based out of Scotland. You redirect light to wake up some sort of machine throughout the game, moving room-to-room to direct light throughout the inner workings and get it running again. While you play your way through the game's 150+ puzzles, you're accompanied by some rhythmic synthwave tunes that match the beat of the pulsing lasers, eventually unlocking a huge map opens up, showing the machine as a whole.
When Solas 128 starts, you'll mostly be bouncing beams of light at 90-degree angles, which is about as standard as it gets for light-redirection puzzles. It doesn't take long for the puzzles to start throwing curveballs at you. The first one is that you can mix colored lights and bounce them off each other at 45-degree angles. It might not sound like much, but trying to figure out how to bounce 4 different beams of light into each other so that the right colors mix at the right angle when every single beam seems to want to go in the wrong direction is one hell of a head-scratcher.
It doesn't end there either. You eventually have to deal with reflectors that change direction each pulse, 'null' light that cancels any beams it interacts with, and special gates that remove certain colors from mixed beams. Most of these additions come at about the right time. Just when you think that you're comfortable with how things work, the game will throw a new set of mechanics at you to work out.
I'd say that Solas 128 is pretty challenging as puzzle games go. I found myself stuck and agonizing over what I was supposed to do for hours at various puzzles. There's a hint function you can use, but it's sort of limited. When you click hint, it'll show you one square that you need to use to solve the puzzle. It doesn't show you what you need to do with the square, and each room gives you just enough hints that it doesn't actually solve the puzzle with you. Once you've used up your hints, if you're still stuck, you're completely on your own.
It seems pretty clear that Solas 128 goes for a minimalistic style of game design. By that, I mean that it basically doesn't really tell you anything at all. There's not even any text in the game beyond the title. When a new mechanic is introduced, you just have to interact with it and see how it works. I spent ages wondering what I was supposed to do when the big beams of light were introduced because I thought they were doors that would unlock after I completed other puzzles. It was only when someone else played the game that I figured out I could interact with them at all.
On the one hand, this minimalism is very hands-off. You're given the tools you need to interact with the machine and just have to work it out on your own. On the other hand, if you like your games to be a little more direct, you're probably going to have a bad time. No amount of cool synth tunes can stop you from being frustrated with a puzzle you've been stuck on for 4 hours. On the other, other hand, if you're into tough puzzles and don't want anyone to hold your hand, then you'll not find an experience comparable to this one.
Even if Solas 128 is hard as nails, it does have a lot to recommend it. The visuals are minimalistic (again), but it works. There's a black background, white geometry, and then nothing but pulses of colored light with some symbols thrown in. The background that swims into your vision is also very trippy, and since the pulses and music sync up, the entire game feels like a well-oiled machine, probably intentionally. You certainly won't find a cooler looking puzzle game on the market.
In the end, is Solas 128's crushing difficulty worth the pain? Personally, I'd say yes, but your mileage may vary depending on how much you enjoy taxing your logic circuits. Then again, maybe I'm just thick, and you'll have no trouble with any of these puzzles at all. Regardless of how hard you find it, you'll should at least find a very stylish experience with great visuals and music and very little to get in the way of the pure gameplay experience. Having said all that, if I see another laser puzzle, I might have a breakdown.
TechRaptor reviewed Solas 128 on Nintendo Switch using a copy provided by the developer. The game is also available on PC.
- Very Stylish Visuals and Sound
- Loads Of Puzzles
- Gameplay Stays Fresh The Whole Time
- Incredibly Difficult Puzzles
- Doesn't Tell You About Any Mechanics At All