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Solar Ash Review – Hyper Light Runner

Developer Heart Machine made a name for itself with the release of Hyper Light Drifter, a 2D top-down Action RPG that featured engaging combat and a unique art style featuring pixel art. 5 years later, the studio is back with the release of Solar Ash, a 3D adventure game that’s focused on platforming and fast-paced traversal, with a fresh art style that invites exploration. 

You assume the role of Rei, a Voidrunner whose duty is to protect her planet from imminent threats. Your journey begins at the frontier of Ultravoid, a black hole that is gradually destroying your world. The solution to this calamity lies in the star seed, a gigantic device built by the Voidrunners that’s capable of eradicating the Ultravoid and cleansing the world. The game’s lore can be quite overwhelming due to the excessively thick jargon that’s tossed your way early on, the explanations for which can optionally be sought from your logbook or through dialogue with NPCs.

Rei can move across her surroundings at high speed, with an increasing degree of finesse as she gains momentum. Her double jump comes in handy when trying to get to difficult-to-reach platforms. The gameplay is essentially about developing flow, as you soar and jump your way across platforms to reach your destination. Eventually, a lot of trial-and-error seeps into the experience, as the heights become more dizzying and the platforming more challenging. It’s only after several frustrating attempts that you’ll begin to wrap your head around some of the more difficult sections. Many points of interest are only revealed after careful research or the completion of environmental puzzles.

It’s not all platforming and puzzle-solving, however. The world is packed with hostile beings, though given Rei’s high-speed movement, they’re far less intimidating and ultimately mere obstacles that can be hurled out of your way. The real threat comes in the form of anomalies that are present in each of the six regions. You’ll only be able to restore communication channels with your fellow Voidrunners and restore the star seed once these anomalies have been dealt with. 

The anomalies manifest themselves as black and slimy creatures that can be located by using your radar-like multi-tool. These encounters are the highlight of the experience and serve as an instant reminder of Shadow of the Colossus. While defeating the Colossi involved a gradual and clumsy struggle to reach their weak point, Rei’s agility and mastery of parkour give her battle against the anomalies a distinct flavor. There are multiple weak points located across these boss creatures, and you’re required to tackle them promptly to create an opening and land the killing blow. While not quite as creative as the game it draws inspiration from, the bosses in Solar Ash come with their own traits that make battling them feel unique and satisfying.

Much like the more challenging platforming sections, though, these boss battles can get rather challenging, often demanding you to be in faultless rhythm. One small misstep can lead to yet another attempt, and this trial-and-error cycle can quickly become exhausting. This sort of repetition can present itself even on the game’s lowest difficulty setting.

In terms of side content, should you wish to drift away from the main path and explore, there are caches scattered across each of the six regions waiting to be discovered. They contain audio logs that provide further insight into the lore and the history of the Voidrunners. Similarly, there are also armor pieces to discover in each of these regions. In addition, there are also some side quests to take on in Solar Ash. That said, despite a decent serving of side content, it isn’t a particularly lengthy game, and should take anywhere from 10 to 15 hours to complete.

Solar Ash’s trial-and-error gameplay demands plenty of patience from the player. It’s rewarding when you figure it all out and everything clicks, but the journey to that point can often involve frustration. Thankfully, the vivid vistas and equally captivating soundtrack make the repetition an easier pill to swallow. Although comparisons with Shadow of the Colossus are unavoidable, there’s enough distinct flavor here to make the boss fights stand out as the game’s highlight.

Solar Ash Game Information

  • Price: $39.99
  • Publisher: Annapurna Interactive
  • Developer: Heart Machine
  • Platform: PS5 (Reviewed)
  • Disclaimer: A review code was given by the publisher
Score
7.5

Summary

Boss fights continue to be the highlight of Solar Ash, and while the gaming experience isn't perfect, it's still enjoyable.

Total Rating

7.5