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DoctorSpuds Reviews Things - Solaris (Atari/ Douglas Neubauer)


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If you were to ask me what the greatest game on the 2600 is from a graphical, technical, and gameplay standpoint, I would hands down say ‘Solaris’. This game squeezed every drop of potential the 2600 had then added in a splash of its own, and the result is something that one would assume could only be created for a much more powerful system. As you would likely assume, ‘Solaris’ is a Red Box game and as such was released late into the 2600’s lifespan, even though it was 1986 I get the feeling 2600 owners were very happy to see this one coming. It seems that ‘Solaris’ was to be tied in with ‘The Last Starfighter’ but somehow the license was dropped and an original name was given to the game, and somehow the programmer himself (Douglas Neubauer) is/was the owner of the copyright for the game he created. One thing I need to address though is some particularly nasty laziness on Atari’s part; instead of creating an original piece of art for the box they just reused the box art from ‘Star Raiders’, I know the 8-bit version ended up being ‘Star Raiders 2’, but c’mon.

This game comes dangerously close to looking like it could be on the Colecovision, everything is in high resolution, is colorful, and moves smoothly and is flicker free (and only flickers when it’s intentional). This game has three different environments you’ll be flying around in, the planet, in space, and in the corridor. The planet is wonderful to look at, there is a remarkably 3D-like scrolling floor, even if it is segmented into rectangles at least it’s got smoothly scaling craters to add visual flare, there is a mountain range in the background and a large ringed planet in the sky. Space is fairly basic in comparison to the planet, all you have are dozens of giant planets whizzing at you at high speeds, there is some flicker here but it’s only on the planets and they’re here and gone so fast you won’t even notice it. The corridors are much like the planet except the floor no longer has craters on it and has become very thin, limiting your movement, also that giant shield is a wonder to behold. If I were to dive into this game is detail this review would be my longest one yet, so in the interest of efficiency I will not be doing that, so let’s simply move onto the graphics instead.

This game has some of the most wonderful and crunchy sounds I’ve ever had the pleasure of listening to. The sounds of the engine, unlike in other games of this type, is rather quiet and soft sounding, which is nice since the sounds of combat absolutely take center stage. The explosions… oh! They sound so wonderful, even just the sounds of your ship firing are blissfully crunchy and gritty. This simply is one of the most well crafted soundtracks for a game I’ve ever heard; the programmer clearly understood that the sounds are equally as important as the visuals or the gameplay. Speaking of…

The game is fairly simple to grasp, you shoot shit and get shit shot at you. Your overall goal is to find Solaris and wipe every trace of the Zylon (not Cylon) menace from the galaxy; you will likely do neither since this game gets crushingly difficult. The three different sections we discussed in the graphics section also come into play here; on the planet you are restricted to left and right movement only and are allowed greater freedom in controlling your speed, mainly because you need to collect stranded astronauts and refuel your ship in intergalactic garages. The space section is where most of the combat will happen, you are allowed horizontal as well as vertical movement since you will need to dodge around many various enemy combatants many of whom have different offensive styles to learn and memorize. The corridors have the most limited movement since you are sick moving horizontally and are unable to control your speed to any great degree, you will have to either destroy or avoid stationary enemies and collect a key that is resting immediately before an ista-kill shield wall. Again if I were to describe the gameplay in any great detail we’d be here for an hour or more so I’ll leave it at that.

I would recommend that anybody who owns and Atari owns this game, it is, in my opinion of course, the greatest game ever made for the system, and while not my favorite, it comes pretty damn close. Wonderfully enough this is a very common game, if you can’t find it in the wild for some reason then expect to pay around 10-12 dollars for a boxed copy, I won’t say anything about loose carts since everybody should own this game in the box, even if it’s the only boxed game you own. You won’t regret it.

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