Love is an emotion most people will discover in their lives. It can be in many forms, from passion, family, to pets. The game Solo: Islands of the Heart focuses on passion, trying to allow the player to really think about and embrace the emotion in a personalized way. It’s a puzzle platformer that progresses through a series of questions. You pick a gender and what gender you would love. Binary is even an option. As you answer these very personal questions, the dialogue will differ depending on what you chose. If you answer them seriously, you will likely be faced with self-reflection that might make you think a bit about life.
Here’s what I liked:
It’s Personal — There are a lot of questions about your love life. Since everything changes based on what you choose, you get a catered experience. It seems to cover almost all scenarios. Sometimes it’s hard to answer a few of the questions. If you teeter between two, you’ll just have to go with your gut instinct. They are almost surprising. One even asks if you would choose someone you love over your own choice. I was a bit surprised they had you pick what you would want more in life. I suppose some people in extreme cases might be hit with this life choice (like Romeo and Juliet). Long-distance relationships are also covered. It’s pretty neat how they worked out the web of options.
Cute and Casual — The little world you run around in is quite charming. It has zero violence, and there are no enemies whatsoever. It has peaceful music and happiness consumes the world. I’m still not exactly sure what the storyline is. If it’s a dream or maybe you’re closing your eyes and imagining it as you’re talking to a therapist. Either way, it’s something you can throw on and not worry about time. You’ll never have to hit the pause button. The little animals (though not that many different kinds) are cute and you can take selfies with them. If you’re after a casual game, this one might hit the spot for you.
Here’s what I didn’t like:
Controls — Since you can’t jump, you rely on climbing and floating. It’s very hard to judge how high you have to be in order to make it somewhere via the parachute. It’s a bit of trial and error. Getting high enough requires you to move objects around. Because the movements are so awkward and don’t seem to go where you want them, you end up with clumsy attempts while wondering why you’re even trying. It just doesn’t work well. This happens mostly later on past the early portions. There are some mechanics that seem like they should work but don’t. If you rotate a bridge box, for example, you can’t turn it upside down to allow for higher climbing.
Side Quests — Besides progress, you have the option of doing a few other things. I guess I wouldn’t really call them actual quests, but I’m not sure what they fall under. You’ll get achievements for doing them, but it doesn’t seem to serve any other purpose. You can feed and reunite animals, water flowers, take pictures, and play some music. None of these things are very fleshed out. Picture taking is very disappointing, and there are only two quests in which have you do it. Sometimes reuniting the animals can be kind of fun but that’s the only one with any redeeming value.
Short Affair — You won’t spend more than a few hours on the islands. Unless you really get stuck and don’t quit, you should be able to complete it within two. There is absolutely no replayability. You can see what other dialogue happens when you choose options that don’t relate to you, but there isn’t a point to. Once you have finished, you’ll likely never load it up again. I don’t mind short encounters but at this asking price it just doesn’t seem worth investing in.
The subject matter is deep, almost invasive. It might be something that actually helps you consider your own destiny. However, the actual gameplay is bad. There are easy puzzles then there are ones that slow down your progress, making you wonder if it’s worth continuing because the experience hasn’t been that great to begin with. It’s kind of bland and sometimes boring. Some may like the personalized questions that allow them to have a bit of self-discovery but usually games are an escape from reality. Instead, Solo: Islands of the Heart can actually bring back those memories. It really depends on your own life and experiences. If you’re happy and together with someone, the game will feel pretty pointless. If you’ve had your heartbroken or are alone, it may just highlight your failures instead.
Score: Limited Appeal
Solo: Islands of the Heart was published by Merge Games Ltd and developed by Team Gotham on Xbox One. It was released on July 31, 2019, for $19.99. A copy was provided for review purposes.