Developer Pulsetense Games set out with the goal of creating a high quality game with a low budget. The result of this is Solarix, an old school sci-fi horror game with a push towards stealth based gameplay. The game has you wandering through a maze-like colony filled with a trigger happy military force and the remnants of former crew members. While they have successfully managed to create a visually fantastic game that’ll leave you questioning if this is really an indie game, below the surface is a mess of bugs that breaks your immersion and make it nearly impossible to finish.
Solarix dumps us right in the middle of a futuristic colony after the outbreak of some kind of viral infection. We take control of an engineer named Walter who, with the aid of the facilities A.I program (A.M.I) must now navigate our way through this maze like compound avoiding armed soldiers and the reanimated corpses of the colonists that once lived here. The game is very slow to reveal its plot and must be deciphered through the number of audio logs left dotted around the landscapes and by messages directed at you by the games key player’s. These characters are slowly revealed the further you progress through your internal communications link, including a mysterious entity known as E.Y.E and a psychopathic chick called Betty.
The game’s main focus is on stealth based strategies, in the early stages you are told to avoid conflict where possible and to stick to the shadows. Of course you can tip odds of survival in your favour by taking out nearby lights and utilising the number of objects strewn thought the environments to distract while you crouch your way through the darkness. To help give you some indication of how stealthy your being is an indicator on the lower left of the screen, white means you’re standing out like a saw thumb and black shows that you’re well hidden. The fact that you have quite a lot of freedom to navigate around areas is actually one of this game’s main downfalls. You can easily become stuck within the geometry of the world which can be very irritating particularly when it messes up some strategy you’ve been planning for a while or just locks you into a position where you have to force a reload.
To ensure you stick to stealth you are provided with very little ammunition, while most enemies only take 24 shots to kill there are just too many of them to use brute force as a viable tactic. Then again your trusty pistol isn’t the only way to deal with these guys. Early into the second chapter you are also provided with a funky eltro-shock device which you can use to take enemies out, but the catch to this is that you have to be right behind enemies to use it and only a direct hit on the back of their dome will work. However herein lies another major issue with the game as you are not the only one who can be caught out by bugs. Enemies can also be caught within geometry or just stuck walking in place going nowhere in particular which really isn’t good to look at and can really mess up any strategies to work your way around them unnoticed.
It’s very easy to get lost in this game, there are number of multiple routes and it’s not always clear what you’re heading towards. While there is a map there is no indicator to display you current position, which is both good and bad as it helps give a retro feel to exploration, but the map is small and makes it hard to distinguish key landmarks. That said taking these routes to nowhere can occasionally reward you with health items, audio logs and the most precious of all ammo.
For this game you have the option of using either a mouse and keyboard setup or a gamepad. Unfortunately if you choose the latter there are a lot of issues, for starters you can’t use the controller to navigate through menus and some controls can’t be reassigned. As for the keyboard, the default setup seems a little unusual, like using the spacebar to interact with objects. I personally found myself constantly entering the controls menu to remind myself of what key does what. No matter which setup you opt to use there are a couple of niggles that could have done with a bit more polish. Examples of this include having to be very precise with object interaction or that going from a walk to a crouch will result in you being rooted to the spot until you release the movement keys.
Visually Solarix does very well at creating tense atmospheres straight from the get go, from the tight confining corridors of the first level to the open outdoor environments. The tone of the game really draws you straight in to the world and you do get a feeling of being alone and isolated as you navigate your way around. Voice acting here is very well done and has a professional quality to it whether that’s coming from the audio logs or from the key players. The sound in general really is really well-paced helping set the tone of the game and put the player on edge.
Solarix is definitely successful in creating a dark and tense atmosphere that’ll have you constantly peeking around corners and checking over your shoulder at every turn. Combined with an enjoyable narrative, and great voice acting and you get an interesting horror experience. Unfortunately the sheer amount of collision bugs, control niggles and sometimes buggy A.I pathing keeps pulling you out of the game and starts to deteriorate your immersion of this dark creepy world.
This review is based off a review code of Solarix provided by Pulsetense games.
This review was originally published on the site GamersFTW which unfortunately has now been taken down. It’s been published on my personal blog, DanielVaughanReviews, out of respect for the developers/publishers that were kind enough to give me review copy of their game.