This is what Nintendon’t.
The general school of thought assumes that sidescrolling platformers require physical control to function. More often than not, I tend to agree- which is why SolaRola took me by surprise. I especially don’t expect much from the increasing family of what I call ‘rolling blob platformers,’ yet SolaRola is a game with engaging mechanics layered in gobs of charm.
In my mind, Mario is the golden standard for platformers both 2D and 3D. One missing element from Mario, and most Nintendo platformers in general, is story. Whether it is seen as unimportant or distracting, Nintendo refrains from adding story into its mechanic-intensive sidescrollers. For the most part, story is reserved for cutscenes between levels, and the majority of the industry has followed Nintendo’s lead.
The re-release of Solarola on iOS takes a stab at the typical formula, and injects (mostly) witty dialogue straight into gameplay sequences. While the plot doesn’t add much urgency to the gameplay, the narrative serves as a comical companion to the platforming and ever so slightly tugs the player through levels. Solarola feels like a Saturday morning cartoon, right down to the obvious plot twists and one-liners that I’m fairly sure are innuendos.
Solarola also looks like a Saturday morning cartoon. The color palette adds to the cartoony feel, the player’s blob is well animated, and the levels are gorgeous. The visuals perfectly complement the dialogue, and wouldn’t look out of place in an HD console release.
I haven’t discussed the actual playing of Solarola yet, but that doesn’t mean it is secondary to its presentation. While the basis of most levels is to roll and hop over platforms to reach the ending, Solarola adds new mechanics around each corner. The progression of the game feels natural and isn’t overwhelming, but the sense of variety never fades. The virtual controls also feel tight. Jumping, swinging, and rolling are all responsive and make sense within the context of the game’s physics system.
Solarola isn’t just about platforming, there are also many puzzle oriented stages, or regular stages with puzzles interspersed. These puzzles aren’t just about flipping switches in the environment, they’re also heavily dependent on the game’s physics system. Yet another attribute of Solarola that contributes so well to the game as a whole.
Tragically, the sound design in Solarola is horrendous. I wasn’t expecting to hear what I heard when I first plugged headphones in while playing the game, and what I heard was tinny, high-pitched yelps emanating from the main character every single time I jumped or did anything, really. Do yourself a favor and don’t enable sound while playing Solarola, because it can ruin an otherwise enjoyable game.
Also puzzling were the bugs that were left in the game. I found myself falling to my death through pieces of the level geometry, and there were several instances of my blob becoming stuck on a piece of geometry only to have the physics send me catapulting around the screen in a fashion that was clearly bugged.
The terrible sound and occasional glitch didn’t surpass my enjoyment of Solarola, though. The game held my interest throughout, and I couldn’t help but cheer it along with every new mechanic and story sequence. Go get this game!
SolaRola is available on the App Store for $0.99