GameOver Game Reviews - Solaris 104 (c) Real Networks, Reviewed by - Rorschach

Game & Publisher Solaris 104 (c) Real Networks
System Requirements Windows 9x, Pentium 200, 32MB Ram, 3D Accelerator
Overall Rating 78%
Date Published , ,

Divider Left By: Rorschach Divider Right

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, 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 carefully.

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.

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