Not every game needs to have a crazy amount of wild action in order to be interesting to play through. As a medium for storytelling and engrossing players in different worlds, video games can cover a wide spectrum of experiences that make them unique, as is the case with SOLE from indie developer Gossamer Games. What you get here is a game that presents you intriguing visuals and underscores them with whimsical and mysterious music, letting you follow a story that may or may not be what it seems. But it’s the subtlety of SOLE’s gameplay that pulls you through its dark world you’re tasked with lighting up, making for an almost meditative experience that is well done.
You don’t do much within SOLE, other than brighten up the landscape you traverse. There’s very little to do on the controller besides use the analogue stick to move a small light you play as through the environment. Everything you come close to begins to become lighter and show its detail, which can eventually lead to showing more of your surroundings that were originally blackened out. It’s simple and straightforward enough for anybody to pick up and play. Because you can’t jump or move around too quickly, getting around can feel a bit constricted, especially in areas where you have to go up steps or hills to reach a new place you haven’t illuminated. Some areas can get a little annoying to traverse because of this, but it never becomes too overbearing to make the game unplayable.
Though a short game, lasting roughly about 2 – 3 hours, doing anything in SOLE can feel like it takes a long time. There’s almost nothing else within the world besides you. Unless you’re totally invested into the tranquil music and surreal visuals, making your way from one place to the other may feel boring.
The soundtrack is very well done with its serene music, and almost seems to be your guide as you search around for points of interest. There are glowing letters that you can find and shadowy figures you might come across that have some significance, but the game’s story is ambiguous and doesn’t offer a clear explanation that you can be distracted by. A lot of it can heavily rely on interpretation, despite what the drawings you find might show.
The only major issue with SOLE that continuously pops up is how the camera can clip through walls and other geometry. Sometimes you’ll be locked into a perspective that has you seeing right through objects towards your ball of light, which looks awkward. Some sections that have you going upward can also be a tedious to move around because of how the camera will shift to a different position and make it a little hard for you to move in one direction without taking a few moments to reorient yourself.
This also becomes an issue when falling down from higher areas, where you’ll have to take a leap of faith to continue forward, which forces the camera to look upward instead of down to the ground. Had there been more freedom of movement with the camera, none of this would be an issue since you can shift your focus around you.
SOLE is a tranquil and surreal game that is great for anyone looking for something with a slower pace. Despite any story within it being unclear and a few issues popping up from time to time, the luminous visuals and hypnotic soundtrack stand out as the better portions of the experience. While it’s very short, SOLE does great in delivering a simple game that may or may not reach deeper into those who take the time to play it.
This review is based on a digital review code of SOLE for the Xbox One, provided by Gossamer Games.