With it being the month of love and all things fluffy and heartwarming, I had the wonderful luck of getting to play Solo: Islands of the Heart. This adorable puzzle-platformer tasks the player with some meaningful introspection on their views of love and romantic relationships.
The timing for Solo: Islands of the Heart was almost a bit too coincidental – a conversation with some colleagues left me needing to finish this game. For some context, the conversation went a little like this:
Colleague #1: So what do you guys want for Valentine’s day next week?
Colleague #2: I don’t know hey. Chocolates are always great, but some flowers wouldn’t kill right?
ME: *silently minding my own business*
Colleague #2: And you, Bonnie? What do you want?
Colleague #1: Wait, you think she has a boyfriend?! *laughs out loud* You should ask what she’s going to get for herself for Valentines Day instead!
Me…*painfully nods at this harsh but very real truth*
Me: *thinks to myself, “I need to finish Solo: Islands of the Heart.” *
Thankfully I didn’t feel as attacked with Solo: Islands of the Heart as my colleagues had made me feel.
Divided into 3 archipelagos, you play your way through a series of islands while solving some puzzles to activate the next. The good news is that there are multiple possible solutions to the puzzles, so you’ll rarely feel frustrated. In order to get to the next island, you need to activate a Totem pole that poses a love-related question that you (hopefully) answer honestly. I’ll get to those questions and themes a little later on. You will see that there are some rather cute little animals in Solo: Islands of the Heart. These can be interacted with, with a little pet; feeding them their desired fruits or even a little song from the strumming of your guitar. In some instances, the creatures require a little more than these things which then becomes a sort of mini-side-mission in gameplay. You can earn trophies for these little missions if you want to. Should you decide to focus on simply completing the main plot, gameplay is short at around 2 hours (4 hours with the trophy chasing).
I had some issues with the controls and glitching. Some moments required me to self-sabotage to bring an end to the glitching – be it struggling to move the boxes in the way you need it to, or even getting back to the ladder that lets you climb back onto the island. The camera was also rather finicky to manoeuvre at times. But understandably, no game is perfect.
Throughout the islands of Solo, there are letters and songs you can collect. These are meant to serve as little traces of your lover and tie in together with the questions of the related totem. I would have loved for the songs to have had an even greater effect in the game, because it was definitely soothing.
The guys over at Team Gotham and Merge Games definitely delivered an introspective and reflective game with Solo: Islands of the Heart. I was impressed at the bigger picture for this game: how do we really feel about love and romantic relationships? Right off the bat, you begin the game by choosing your current relationship status (you already know what my answer was), and the questions are then asked relevant to your response. Personally, I found that the questions were great, however, I do feel that Solo: Islands of the Heart could have delved deeper into those themes. By that I mean, there could’ve been more “consequence” to explore your answers. For example, one of the questions were along the lines of “Do you love yourself?” If my response was “No,” I would have pictured some sort of scene to play out what NOT loving yourself looks like or even perhaps further questions to unearth some truths that the player may not have thought about. An element like that would have definitely elevated Solo: Islands of the Heart to where it should be. Although the overall concept is powerful and beautiful, it became a bit of a paradox – leaving more questions than answers and a feeling of an incomplete game in the end.
The aesthetics of Solo: Islands of the Heart is absolutely beautiful. The vivid colours and gentle winds blowing over the pretty rose-daisy hybrids was lovely. It was perfectly thought out environment to suit the peacefulness of the game.
Overall, I enjoyed Solo: Islands of the Heart. It was short enough to not get bored, but ironically wished some of the love explorations were longer. If you are willing to be honest, this title will leave a good impression in the end. Take it from me, by the time I finished Solo: Islands of the Heart, I managed to have some much needed self-introspection and in the spirit of Valentine’s Day, I’m going to love love (I think…).
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Microsoft Xbox One code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Solo: Islands of the Heart Review
Gameplay - 7/10
Graphics - 8/10
Sound - 6/10
Replay Value - 6/10
I enjoyed Solo: Islands of the Heart. It was short enough to not get bored, but ironically wished some of the love explorations were longer.
- Cute & short game.
- Beautiful visuals.
- Great concept.
- Good questions for introspection.
- Multiple possible solutions to puzzles.
- Glitchy controls and camera.
- Not enough exploration of love.
- Some activities felt a bit meaningless.