Game Review - by James Allen
Not too long ago, I did a preview of Solaris 104, a retro side-scrolling arcade shooter. Now, the time has come to do the review of the game based on the final released code. Solaris 104 brings back the old days, where common shooters weren't first person, weren't strategic, and weren't role-playing. The main emphasis was to blow up crap with a bunch of cool weapons. I remember several of these games from the early 90s (that was ten years ago?!?), and Solaris 104 hopes to bring back that feeling of taking on all odds with your trusty ship equipped to the gills with futuristic weaponry. So, will Solaris 104 bring a tear to your eye and a lump in your throat as you nostalgically remember the good old days of gaming, or just belong in the far, far past?
Solaris 104 features 11 different levels for you to combat against the evil foes of the universe. And that's about it. There is no multiplayer to be found, no "skirmish" modes (although, realistically, how you'd have that is beyond me), and no level editor. However, the system requirements are very low, and should work on any computer that Windows does (which aren't very many). Solaris 104 takes up no hard drive space, which is great for those of us with precious little left: the game runs completely from the CD, like a console. You still can't use a second joystick in the game, which is unfortunate if you (like me) have your gamepad assigned second on the list and you're too lazy to switch them around (I know I am). But, you must respect a game which tries it's hardest to appeal to every computer system out there, and Solaris 104 does do that.
The sound is an average adventure in the realm of shooters, punctuated with explosions, laser blasts, and retro background music. It does seem that this game could have been made about 10 years ago, at least from a sound standpoint. There is no speech during the game, which is kind of weird, especially during the video segments. The sound just serves to forward the gameplay, and that it does.
The gameplay of Solaris 104 follows in the classic tradition of side-scrolling mayhem. The number of different weapons, enemies, and bonuses make for a chaotic gaming experience. Firstly, there are three different ships to choose from, each with their specific strength: fighters have good firepower, scouts have the speed, and bombers are equipped with more armor. There are 5 different weapons to choose from, each with their advantages: 2-way shooters, heat seekers, phasers, bolt guns, and (my favorite) spread. Each of these weapons have a more devastating killing mode once charged up all the way: this is done by not shooting for a short period of time. While you kill enemy forces by the hundreds, several kinds of items will appear, such as powerups, shield boosts, invulnerability, secondary guns, drones, and ghost modes. Each ship is also equipped with a special panic mode, which you have a finite supply of. Basically, a whole bunch of crap comes in and wipes the screen clean of enemy forces. Sometimes it is a lifesaver. Solaris 104 boils down to a shooting fest, and this game should appeal to those people who enjoy holding down the fire button and shelling a bunch of enemy units.
The graphics, although only at a maximum of 640x480, are actually pretty good. All of the ships, enemies, lasers, rocks, and other nonsense are all rendered in crisp detail, which is something that's hard to do at such a low resolution without everything looking blocky and unrefined. There are shadowing details on rotating asteroids, and the explosions, though repeated over and over, are still very well done after the 10,000th time of seeing them on your monitor. The full motion videos are tremendously pleasant, and they look like a lot of effort was put into them: they are easily on par with any other top notch game on the et today. The only problem has to do with perception in the game. It is too difficult to tell which objects are behind your ship and which are in front of it, especially in the heat of battle. Thus, you might run into solid rocks that you thought were in the background, but woefully were not. This is the only problem with the graphics in Solaris 104, which otherwise are very well done.
Solaris 104 is a good side-scrolling shooter in the vein of those found in the early 90s. Featuring a blast fest with great graphics and average sound, Solaris 104 does seem like it could have been released quite a while ago. If you are interested in this kind of classic arcade game, then Solaris 104 should provide enough adrenaline-fueled exhilaration for your gaming dollar.