Solar Ash test: imagine the meeting between Jet Set Radio and Shadow of the Colossus

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The test

After releasing the very good Hyper Light Drifter in 2016, the Heart Machine studio got to work on Solar Ash, presented then as a mix between Super Mario Galaxy, Shadow of the Colossus and Jet Set Radio. After completing the adventure, we can confirm that this description holds up rather well, and even add some ingredients to the recipe since the artistic part of the game reminded us in small touches of Furi, Gray, Sand or even The Legend of Zelda Breath of The Wild. Suffice to say that we really enjoyed ourselves!

Solar AshUltravide is a black hole devouring planets, into which the heroine of the game does not hesitate to dive from the first seconds of the adventure. As “Void Runner”, Rei seeks to save his home world by activating a device capable of destroying the terrible dark star from within. This context gives us the opportunity to travel through a strange universe, made up of the remains of the various planets previously swallowed by the UltraVacuum. The most surprising element is certainly the ground, similar to a milky cloud that Rei barely sinks into and on which she can surf. This turquoise-colored substance also allows it to fall from a great height without ever hurting itself, which is good because the level design plays a lot on verticality. Gravity changes are also on the menu, as the levels are more or less spherical. It is therefore possible to follow the curve of the ground-cloud to end up upside down from the starting point, without even realizing it. This justifies the reference to Super Mario Galaxy, even if the environments rarely take the form of simple asteroids.

Solar Ash

The sets are often broken up into different sections, which can sometimes be reached by sliding on rails. The fluidity of movement is a constant in the game, which also places a lot of emphasis on exploration. Walking, fast skating, jumping, double-jumping, boosting and grappling answer the call, while scalable dark matter is present in some places. The “zap-time” power allows it to slow down the action in order to target the attachment points more easily. Some levels also offer very nice gameplay variations, like plants that generate rails or colorful mushrooms whose spores open certain doors. An attack hit is also available, but most creatures one encounters die within three or four hits. Perfectly voluntary, this simplicity in terms of pure action is there to never break the fluidity of the exploration. The challenge is therefore not to be sought from the base monsters, but rather from the gigantic bosses called Vestiges.

Solar Ash


Solar AshThe game offers us to face a total of seven colossi, each of them to be defeated three times in a row. The first is a snake, the second looks like a shark, the third can be compared to a sprawling stingray, the fourth is both giant eye and insect, the fifth is a kind of knight and the sixth can more or less be called a dragon. As for the last one, we prefer to leave you the surprise. In all cases, the principle of “combat” is identical. First, you have to find an attachment point allowing you to climb on the creature’s back, then hit the nerve endings which appear one after the other on the screen, represented by kinds of luminous pins. Some are accessible by skating, others by jumping, still others with the grapple or even rails, and it is advisable to use the boost as soon as possible, because you only have a few seconds to reach and hit. every hotspot. This is where all the challenge of the game lies, as long as we abandon the easy mode of course. This principle of exploration / combat in limited time is also used to clean certain precise areas of the environment, these actions having the effect of waking up each boss a little more.

Solar Ash

The intentional emphasis on exploration and movement rather than on the actual hits befits the general atmosphere, particularly dreamlike. The biggest highlight of the game is undoubtedly its artistic direction, which mixes improbable architectures, gigantic creatures, and bright but always elegant colors. Everything is carried by a deliciously soaring soundtrack, although a little too discreet, and well-written and well-dubbed VOST dialogues. Very exciting, however, the game is not free from objective flaws. Sometimes the camera has a tendency to spin a little too much, while it happens that Rei does not grip the first time on certain rails, or it is difficult to judge the distance at which the grapple will work (this distance seems to change depending on whether the attachment point is on a boss or simply placed in the scenery). Fortunately, these small problems remain occasional and very rare. Finally, our biggest regret concerns the lifespan. Indeed, it only takes seven to eight hours to complete the adventure, while we would have liked to be able to stay much longer in this fantastic world.


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