Solo: Islands of the Heart is a puzzling game about relationships. And puzzles. About relationships.
Games these days, now more than ever, are inclusive. Everyone wants to feel represented and catered for, and games are generally getting better at achieving this. Solo: Islands of the Heart is a game about love, and how this can be different depending on who you are; the game encourages you from the start to think about your own relationships and base your in-game choices on this.
The game begins as a lot often do and asks you your gender. Unlike most other games, Solo offers three choices: female, male and non-binary. This kind of inclusion is representative of the current world, and it is good to see games developing along with it. Once you start the game proper, you are met with a bright and colourful world that changes around you and the choices you make.
Your tasks are simple enough; lighting lighthouses, building bridges, and other simple puzzles. The game encourages you to explore while doing these puzzles, and doesn’t push you to rush through the game. It is very slow-paced, and this definitely won’t be for everyone as there is no drive to finish. Certain puzzles can be skipped or missed if you don’t want to do them or aren’t sure how to complete them, and there is little to no consequence for this. Completing them is often worth it for the satisfaction of seeing a creature reach its other half or a garden flourish, but the game doesn’t penalise you directly for taking shortcuts.
As you progress through the game, you unlock more of the world to discover. Surrounded by blue seas and skies, you can wander about and take pictures, or play the guitar, should either of those activities take your fancy. Solo encourages you to enjoy the world you are exploring and help to influence it. For example, you can change the colours of the world or the weather with specific songs (think The Legend of Zelda: The Ocarina of Time). The world is also accompanied by a settling soothing soundtrack, which makes the game a pleasure to simply sit and watch.
Unfortunately, with little else to do in the game besides these minimal puzzles, you might be inclined to put the game down and sit and watch something else.
The game insists you draw on your own relationship experience, and encourages you by asking deep, thoughtful questions throughout. Do you get jealous of other relationships? Can you be in love with more than one person? These and similar questions will be posed to you at intervals through Solo. The game expects everyone’s answers to be different, and there is no right or wrong answer; just one that influences the colours of the world you are in. Similarly, you will see visions of a person, supposed to be your lover, who will question your answer.
Solo: Islands of the Heart undoubtedly makes you think about relationships, but sadly, won’t tug at your heartstrings, or challenge you in other ways.
Solo: Islands of the Heart
Platform: Nintendo Switch (reviewed), PS4, Xbox One
Developer: Team Gotham
Publisher: Merge Games
Release Date: August 01, 2019
Solo: Islands of the Heart is a game that feels representative of the changing world, and it is nice to see this. It’s a shame that the game has little else about it, as it could have been seen as a kind of stepping stone and paved the way for future games of the like. Sadly, with minimal puzzling in a world that looks pretty but offers too little else, Solo misses the mark.