Solo: Islands of the Heart (PS4, Switch, Xbox One, PC)

In Solo: Islands of the Heart, you play as a sailor man or woman who sets out to sea to find true love.  Along the way you’ll visit colorful islands, interact with critters, learn about how you view relationships, and mostly solve block manipulating puzzles.  It’s available on all current consoles and PC, but reviewed on PS4 here.

Your sailor person runs around in 3-D space, and you can pick up blocks and rotate them in your hand.  Your main goal is to find a lighthouse on an island, turn it on, which in turn wakes up a nearby sleeping totem.  Talk to the totem and answer a question about how you view relationships and love, and then the totem will open up a new island for you to visit.  Wash, rinse, repeat.

So the trick is figuring out how to reach the lighthouse and then the totem.  To do this, you’ll pick up and move blocks around so you can climb on them like steps or bridges.  There are many types of blocks.  Some even have fans to blow other blocks higher, and some have built in bridges.   It’s up to you to figure out how to place these blocks so you can reach your destinations.  Sometimes they’ll mix things up with shadow casting puzzles and such.

As you play, you’ll pick up items to help you out.  You’ll get a parachute for slowing your descent in the air.  A magic staff will let you pick up far away blocks and place them anywhere you wish without having to hold them.  You can also play a guitar by pulling it out and tilting the R stick.  Eventually you’ll learn songs that some critters may want you to play for them.

Speaking of which, there are a variety of sidequests on these islands, including playing songs.  Other times you may simply need to find food for an animal, or solve an extra block puzzle to water plants to guide to animals to each other.  These are purely optional but they are cute and fun to do.

I loved the colorful graphics and the puzzle solving gameplay, but sometimes goals and objectives were a little unclear.  I even had to watch a video to figure out what you were supposed to do at the beginning of the game.  Certain actions just require a push of a button, while others require you to hold the button down, but the game doesn’t make it clear when to do that.  Plus, no action in the game I found really needed for you to hold down a button.  Just pressing it to do things like turn on the lighthouse would’ve worked just fine.  I appreciate there wasn’t much spoonfeeding in this game, but there is a fine line between that and good instructions, and this game didn’t do that too well sometimes.  Plus, I felt the relationship questions and love themes didn’t really need to be there.  It just made the game sound pretentious and haughty.  I would’ve been OK with them taking that part of the game out entirely.  Maybe they could’ve used the extra text to, I dunno, tell you what you should be doing sometimes, perhaps?

Kid Factor:

Solo: Islands of the Heart is rated T for Teen with an ESRB descriptor of Sexual Themes.  Some of the relationship questions can get pretty heady, but that’s about it.  Nothing violent either.  Reading skill is helpful for the text, and younger gamers may find it too difficult.

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