Note: There are probably youngsters reading this review. Britney
Spears listening, 15 sizes too large jeans wearing, hanging out in
the mall because you don't have drivers licenses yet, have no idea
who the Fonz was youngsters. This review is not for you. In truth,
the game Solaris (not the operating system) is probably not for
you. It's a white-knuckled send up to all the side-scrollers that
sucked up our quarters and cramped our fingers in the late 70's
and early 80's. And when the quarters ran out we'd go home and
lie on our beds under our Farrah Faucett posters listening to Pink
Floyd and wondering how to get past the next end-level boss.
Can't relate to it? Of course not! You were only born about two
weeks ago, you damn kids! Now, get off my lawn and go do your
homework - the adults have some talking to do.
Probably everyone left reading this review has had a "The
Game." That "The Game" which took them from
ordinary person playing an occasional video game, to a person
who reads about games and thinks about the games that they are
going to buy, and embarrassingly enough occasionally even
dreams about games. And the amazing thing about this "The
Game" is that it wasn't one of the new deep-plot 1st person
shooters like Deus Ex or one of the massive online games like UO
or even one of the wildly popular RTS games like Starcraft. No, if
you're like me (and who isn't?) that "The Game" happened
years ago before any of the new desktop powerhouses with 40
gajillion polygons per second came along. Maybe it was in a
crowded local arcade - a place that actually smelled of quarters
and cases of carpal tunnel syndrome yet to come. Maybe it was
on some clunky home computer with a whopping 256 colors and
64K of RAM. Bluntly speaking, the graphics sucked, the sounds
were the best a single 2.5" tweeter could muster, and the plotlines
were non-existent. These games were simplicity itself, and in a
sort of zen way, simplicity was all. And they had an addictive
quality that was utterly unbelievable. For me, that game was
Scramble - a side-scroller that I spent so much money on, that had
I invested those quarters in Microsoft, today I could buy Bill Gates
and make him my unusually effeminate houseboy.
As an aside, did you ever wonder if Bill Gates has like some
massive search program combing the internet, and if it finds some
unflattering reference to himself or Microsoft, it takes down my IP
or email address? Then he could start electronic sabotage on my
entire life deleting bank records, credit reports, birth certificates,
etc. But he's probably much too busy for that, right? Right? Did
my Microsoft mouse just stop working?
Anyhoo, where was I? Oh yeah, "The Game." You go out
onto any newsgroup or forum, even alt.sex.beastiality, and
somebody has started a "favorite old game" or "the first game you
remember playing" thread. It's out there, our collective nostalgia
kicking around the "way things used to be." Well, I downloaded
MAME and Scramble (which was like 26k), and I'm here to tell you,
like Eddie Money, you can't go back. Scramble does suck now,
hard. Whew! What the hell was I on back then, and did I inhale?
Who knows? Certainly not my parents. But there are times today
when I don't want to undertake a massive offensive against the
Nod pukes, and I don't want to spend 100 hours building my
Paladin up and taking out Diablo (though admittedly I'm doing
some of that now too). Quick in, quick out. That's the ticket.
Action for action's sake. Keep the thumb down on the fire button
until I push it through the bottom of the joystick. That's Solaris all
over - a blast anything and everything that moves side scroller.
Why am I talking about Solaris? This is a review of Solaris, in
case you forgot during the last page of ruminating.
Graphics in Solaris are over the top. Explosions are colorful, with
pieces of enemies flying everywhere. It can be difficult to find the
next baddie in all the pieces. It supports a slew of odd video
resolutions (some of which are not even supported by my video
card), but the highest seems to be 640x480. Not a problem.
Enemies are incredibly varied and well detailed. Weapons show a
number of effects with bullets, missiles, lasers, shields, and other
stuff I can't even describe. The weapons sound effects can get a
little tiring. They're good, but after 1,000 explosions you've had
enough. I recommend putting Blur "Song 4" in the CD player and
letting that loop while you play - very appropriate.
Power ups are scattered everywhere, and I have yet to figure out
what half of them do. It runs in two difficulty levels, easy and
hard. Even on easy the enemies can get so thick you can hardly
cut a swath through them for you ship to fly through. You get to
choose from three ships - fast, low armor, low guns; medium
speed, medium armor, medium guns; slow, high armor, high guns.
Makes a real difference depending on your flying style - choose
Let me make one thing perfectly clear: This isn't the sort of game
you want to sit down and play in a dedicated fashion. If you play in
a marathon you'll probably be bored in an hour, and disgusted in
two. We're not doing rocket science here. It's a simple game. You
play for five or ten minutes then put it aside (at the end of each
level the game autosaves, and you can restart where you left off
easily). Play it during commercials in the Simpsons. At that rate,
you'll probably never finish it. I have no idea how many levels the
game has. I've been through a dozen or more, and they all look
different and they all look great.
It's Solaris, kids. Go watch Dawson's Creek; grandpa's going to
use the computer for awhile. Deal with it.