Just short of two years after launching on PlayStation and PC, Solar Ash is heading to Xbox, Switch, and most importantly Game Pass. You are Rei, a Voidrunner travelling into a black hole to try and stop it from destroying your world. Over the course of 4 or so hours you’ll skate, jump, and slice your way through a beautifully realized surreal world. Even with that short runtime you might find yourself tired of the game’s style of puzzles and level setups. Still, there’s a lot of good to be found here.
The story in Solar Ash deals with loss, and how to accept it. You are following your team into the unknown in a desperate bid to stop the total annihilation of your planet. It’s short, impactful, and utterly gorgeous the entire time. Heart Machine made one of my favorite games of all time, Hyper Light Drifter. Solar Ash is a massive departure from that title in gameplay and camera perspective, but it keeps that game’s heart and sense of style. Moving from a 2D pixel style in Hyper Light, Solar Ash is a gorgeous, color-soaked 3d platformer. It ran great for me on Series X, with little to no slowdown while it aimed for sixty fps.
Each section of Solar Ash finds you skating your way around a landscape full of verticality. Hills, destroyed buildings, and more are connected by rails which you can grind at a high speed. There are shortcuts to unlock in case you fall down, and the movement feels great. You have a double jump, grappling hook, and boost at your disposal to traverse the landscape (and enormous bosses) at lightning fast speeds. X is an attack that feels quick and snappy, and B can be used to slow down time and allow for longer grappling hook usage.
Controls-wise it’s great, where it falls short for me are the puzzle and boss mechanics. Every area has various anomalies you must destroy. To do this you’ll generally hit a pylon and have to quickly traverse to and hit a few more pylons before grapple-hooking to a creepy eye inside all the black goo you’re skating around. Rinse and repeat this 3 times and the boss for that area emerges. Bosses work similar to their smaller anomalies, where you’ll need to traverse their long bodies and hit pylons or use your grappling hook to beat up eyeballs. It never really changes, and after a few hours I was feeling over it. The story, graphics, exploration, and music though kept me going.
Every area of the game has a number of logs from your Voidrunner crew that you can find, as you do you’ll earn pieces of new suits for Rei to wear. These backstories ended up becoming one of my favorite parts of the game, as the tales told within added to the emotional sucker punch of an ending. Grief and loss can be nearly impossible to bare. The writing and voice acting here worked brilliantly to make me feel for the characters and what they had gone through.
The music is excellent as well, matching the action on screen well thematically at all times. This isn’t a long game, and I think it’s worth going into as blind as possible story wise. Solar Ash is not a difficult game, as I never died on normal. You have a energy cell system that you’ll build up in each area before losing a pip of health before moving on to the next one. To do so you’ll constantly collect plasma as you skate around, break boxes, and smash crystals. It works well, though losing hard-earned upgrades can always be a bit annoying.
Solar Ash is short, sweet, and a little too repetitive. The gameplay is a ton of fun the first hour or two. By the end things were carried by the gorgeous visuals, excellent music, and heartbreaking story. This one should be a no brainer to at least check out through Game Pass
Xbox Series X
- Early Gameplay
- Too Easy