Knock off-ature Science
Let’s be honest with ourselves that nothing will ever really do Portal like portal did. Things get close, but the polish that Valve can put in makes the mark a little too far for other companies. People get close, and I’m reminded of Magnetic: Cage Closed for a solid replication of the formula but nobody really can compete against what essentially set and perfected the style in one swoop.
SolarGun is another attempt at that formula. An OK attempt at the formula which focuses less on building a big story around you and focuses more on puzzles. This does leave you with good gameplay, if a little flawed. However you are therefore also left with no real story to work with, and the attempts to split itself out from the competition does not really go to plan.
The story, if you can call SolarGun’s description a story, is that you are attempting to escape a factory safely. For this you have what I presume is the titular Solar Gun: A glove which allow you to store and fire up to 5 balls of energy to power gadgets around you. You do at points weave your way through factory sections and science labs though the story does not develop in these sections, or if it does I did not find a way to give myself more details.
The puzzles themselves are not entirely technical, and generally can be solved quite easily. This might be because the game does tout a speedrun mode, so too much complexity may put off runners aiming for that 25 minute completion achievement. Mechanics are nicely reused and don’t ever reach a point of feeling stale.
But starting off the big issue hits the forefront instantly. You are essentially thrown into the game blind. You get no guide on controls at all which means that you can get caught quite early by feelings of directionless. This became obvious quite early when you reach pools of liquid, where I was confused what to do for several minutes until I figured out that you could use the charges on liquid to create platforms. But everything in the game is very much left to you to find out which could be great or put you completely off.
Now by odds, this will probably put you off because nothing else with this game really draws you in. This is not to say that anything in this game is bad. But nothing in this game is substantial. Graphically the game hits all the right marks; the style is simplistic but detailed enough to distinguish everything apart. The music seems to be quite the Portal homage, using the same brittle synth sounds to give a sense of this mechanised facility around you. But this is not a graphical powerhouse or detail-rich, and so if you hit a wall in the game there is very little to stop you from giving up. I nearly did after hitting a bug where my character became stuck in a pool of liquid despite being on a platform.
Out of the many Portal clones I have played over the years SolarGun sticks up above a lot of the rest. The game is definitely not terrible like many others, however, the lack of compelling story to drive players forward and general directionless feeling over the whole game is probably going to limit down the audience. This is worth a try, just don’t let it try your patience.
Solargun is developed and published by Mechanical Boss