Solaroids: Prologue Review

Solaroids: Prologue Review

Often times, it is the simplest of ideas that can leave the biggest impact on individuals. This idea is especially true of gamers. Whether it be simple ports to a newer system. Or taking an older concept and repackaging it in a way that plays more to the original concept’s strengths. There has been a trend of classic video game reboots winning over the hearts of gamers. Solaroids: Prologue’s goal was to repackage an age-old game style in a way that makes the original experience even more enjoyable. DynF/X Digital manages to do this while keeping things simple.

Premise

Solaroids: Get cool power ups!
Get cool power ups!

Building on the 1979 Atari game “Asteroids,” Solaroids maintains the same concept and controls of the original. But gives users a newer experience that is worth giving a shot. Self-described as a “better, faster, stronger” version of the original, Solaroids players shouldn’t go into this game expecting an innovative new play style. Rather an enjoyable re-visitation of Asteroids that emphasizes the original game’s strength through simplicity. Propel yourself through an asteroid ridden plane while shooting up enemies, gathering power-ups and repairing your ship along the way. You can even get your friends involved through the up to 4 player local multiplayer. This is perhaps the best augmentation to the original game.

Gameplay

Assuming most of us have played or at least seen the original Asteroids in action, there isn’t too much to say about the gameplay itself. As mentioned, Solaroids aims to bring the original game to modern consoles and PCs. While building on Asteroids major strengths, namely its simplicity. There is more elbow room in this reboot, players will find themselves in a much more expansive world. Asteroids hurtling towards the ship take on, for the most part, the same shape, size, and behavior as those in the original game.

The key changes in the game take the form of improvement in the weapons available to the player. Not only does rapid fire make a return, but atomic weapons, sonic booms, and missiles prove to be great additions to the player’s arsenal. The enemies have also gone through quite a transformation. Attacking more aggressively and coming in a wider variety than the first game. While there are a few subtle and enjoyable changes in the gameplay, the game keeps its focus on the simplicity that the original Asteroids so nearly perfected.

Controls

While Steam users can use their keyboards to control their ship, the game very heavily endorses the use of a Bluetooth controller, and for good reason. While the game was playable with the traditional “WASD” controls, my performance significantly improved after connecting a controller to Steam. The game was released on Xbox before PC and was likely geared more towards a controller centered gameplay experience. Users will find it difficult to get the most enjoyment possible out of this game while only using their keyboards. Not only is it less natural, but it is much more difficult to control your spaceship when pressing keys instead of shifting a joystick.

One other aspect of the game worth mentioning is the artwork. An obvious improvement to the black and white, polygonal artwork of the original. Solaroids’s backgrounds feature beautiful gas clouds, stars, and supernovas which is a major enhancement to the original games “spacey” theme. However, I was not completely won over by the soundtrack to the game. I found it to be repetitive and not terribly creative.

Solaroids: Fight aliens!
Fight aliens!

What I Liked

Much like the original game, Solaroids’s strengths lie in its simplicity. DynF/X could have gone over the top, trying to reinvent the wheel when creating this game. Instead of messing with a good thing, they simply recalibrated the great experience of the original game for a new age audience. The game does a great job of focusing on the subtle improvements. While still maintaining the same objectives and themes of the original game.

Encouraging players to use the controller was a good move as well. The developers clearly understand how much of an improvement the controller makes for the user’s experience. I think that going forward, the developers should focus on improving the few changes they made while keeping the gameplay more or less the same. This would mean including newer weapons and possibly expanding on the ways players defend themselves. But I do not think that the game would benefit from a major overhaul in the way the game itself is played. Like I said, the game’s strengths lie in its simplicity.

What can be improved

It is important to note that Solaroids is still a work in progress. So many of these needed improvements could very well be corrected in later builds. While the game’s simplicity is what makes it so likable, this focus on simplicity should not be an excuse to leave out important parts of the game. I’m talking about game options and a lack thereof. On the homescreen, players are presented with four choices:

  • “Start”
  • “Free Play”
  • “Credits”
  • “Exit”

As there is no option tab accessible by players, the gameplay experience can at first seem fairly rigid and restrictive. While there was initially no apparent way for me to enter in a windowed version of the game, I’ve since found that there are a series of hotkeys which allow players to toggle things like resolution, windowed/non-windowed modes, and volume. Still, there is no option tab in the homescreen, though a functioning option tab is in the works and should be implemented in later versions of the game.

Each player looks to get something different out of the game that they play. Creating a game that is, for the most part, the same for each player is not a good way to keep players excited about the game. While the lack of an options tab wasn’t a terribly huge issue for me, I could see how some players could get frustrated at the fact that only simple adjustments could be made via hotkeys. I’ve seen some Steam reviews mentioning the absence of this tab, but the fact that this issue is already being resolved means that it is more or less a negligible flaw in an otherwise outstanding game.

Solaroids: Blow stuff up!
Blow stuff up!

Final Thoughts

Save the few restrictions to modifying each individual’s gameplay experience, Solaroids does a great job catering to what players should want from an Asteroids reboot. The gameplay itself is so enjoyable that players shouldn’t want to change much anyways. DynF/X’s ability to maintain the nostalgic feel of an Asteroids reboot while making significant improvements both visually and through game features is exciting. Solaroids is a good step back from the oversupply of games attempting to make a statement through excessive experimentation or a cumbersome availability of different game modes. Solaroids’s focus on keeping things simple while making things better is refreshing. I’m excited to see what changes DynF/X bring to the game and what new games the company may grace us with in the coming years.

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2 thoughts on “Solaroids: Prologue Review

  1. Thank you for reviewing my game Solaroids. I really appreciate the feedback and your willingness to review an Early Access game from a solo developer.

    Along with the programming and artwork, I composed the soundtrack and it contains a variety of styles of electronic synth/piano tunes. Many have liked it but we all have different tastes, so I also have support for Steam Music. Once you start playing a track with Steam Music, the in-game music will be paused.

    The current official release has hot-keys to control resolution, windowed and music volume as a stand-in for the planned options system. However, I am also happy to announce that I have been hard at work adding several new features over the last 2 months, one of which is a full options menu that includes the typical video, audio, and controller options. In addition to those, it also includes various options to tweak the gameplay and manage the local high scores. For example, you can now turn on auto-fire which has been a requested feature for keyboard players. You can also turn on/off friendly fire and collisions allowing forced local co-op. These features and more are available on the public-beta branch in Steam and more information is available in the Steam community (http://steamcommunity.com/app/602080/discussions/0/1354868867720601748/). I expect to release these changes soon, as localization of the new features wraps up.

    Once again, thank you for taking it for a spin!

    -Chad

    1. Thanks for taking the time to read through our review Chad! Great work on the game, as I said, I really enjoyed the experience. I was unaware of the hotkeys which enabled these settings, perhaps I should have looked more into it. I can definitely update the review to bring these features to the reader’s attention. Keep up the great work, I look forward to seeing what updates you bring in the coming months!

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