Last week saw the release of SOLAS 128, a unique and engrossing beat-driven puzzle game from Edinburgh-based developer Amicable Animal AKA Tom Methven. Maybe you’ve already had a chance to check it out for yourself, in which case you don’t need us to tell you how great it is. If not though, perhaps our chat with Methven will convince you.
SOLAS 128’s combination of light bending mechanic with exploration and rhythm-based gamelay is hardly conventional, so we were interested to learn where the concept came from.
“Originally I started making SOLAS because I really enjoyed older Commodore 64 games like Deflektor, and (admittedly obscure) tile-based puzzle games like S.C. OUT,” Methven told us. “These games were all about cause and effect, and about learning how the different systems interacted with each other. That sense of learning through experimentation and observation is something that I really enjoy and wanted to design for other people to have fun with too.”
Wonder and Synesthesia
Sound is also a hugely important feature of SOLAS 128. More than just a cool soundtrack, the throbbing pulse of the game’s electronic beats are intertwined with the gameplay in a way that’s reminiscent of rhythm games or the psychedelic works of Tetsuya Mizuguchi.
“I’ve also been obsessed with Mizuguchi games like Lumines and Tetris Effect for a while too, and so I wanted to evoke some of the wonder and synesthesia from those games, if I could. The two ideas merged together and ended up being the seed of what SOLAS 128 became. So, I hope that players who enjoy experimentation, learning systems, and having satisfying puzzle solving epiphanies will enjoy this!”
(Unfortunately SGN could not confirm whether Amicable Animal has any plans to support Rez’s trance vibrator peripheral at this time)
A team effort
SOLAS 128 is actually the second neon-hued, synth-oriented game Methven has created with composer Jamesy Downie and sound designer Steven McSeveney. “It was great to work with Jamesy and Steven on the music and sound for this game, as it is so important to SOLAS 128,” Methven said, “not just because everything moves to the beat, but because it sets the tone so well.”
The three first met at Global Game Jam 2019, where they worked together on HJEM and went on to become winners of IDGA Scotland Community Choice Award for Edinburgh. (SOLAS has received similar plaudits already by the way, having been nominated for UK Game of the Show at last year’s Gamescom.)
Some words of SOLACE
We know from experience that puzzle game can every bit as headache-inducing as they are mind-expanding, so we asked Methven for some tips for new players.
“I’ve tried hard to make the game welcoming to people who might not have played as many puzzle games. That’s why we have a hint system, and why mechanics are introduced and built upon in the way they are. It definitely has tricky puzzles, of course, but I never want them to feel unfair.”
“I know some people in the beta played it with family too, and often their kids found the solutions to harder puzzles, which was lovely to hear! So, I’d suggest people take their time, look around carefully, experiment with the pieces, and remember what they’ve done before. I hope players develop a little mental toolkit of how the mechanics all link together as they play.”
“Oh, and definitely pay attention to the shape and design of the levels as they subtly hint at things! I’ve been really impressed watching people streaming the Prologue we put out, incidentally, as a few of them had never played puzzle games before, and they seemed to get really into it by the end!”
The wait is over
So, now SOLAS 128 is out in the wild, what is Methven most excited about?
“Honestly? I’m most excited about just seeing more people play the game! I love that moment where people go ‘oh hang on a minute’ and then excitedly move things around and solve a puzzle, as it’s such a feel good moment for the player. I’m curious to see how people react to the feel of the game too, as it’s bright and colourful but there is something very wrong going on under the surface.”
“I’m also interested to see people reaching deeper areas of the game too, as there are some really wild puzzles later on where the game starts spilling across multiple screens and feeling more like little Zelda dungeons that need to be unpicked. I had a lot of fun designing some of those!”
You can have your own beat-matched epiphanies now by downloading SOLAS 128 for PC and Nintendo Switch. Or if you want a taster, consider checking out the free standalone prologue that’s available on Steam.
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