Extensive trudging coupled with repetitive and easy puzzles may grow tiresome for the experienced adventurer. However, Solas and the White Winter may be just right for those new to the genre.
Savepoint Studios was formed last year by three guys who connected while studying video game design in college. Stephen Farnan leads programming, Colm McNamara leads design, and Nathan O’Brien is the primary artist. Working out of Dublin, Ireland, Solas and the White Winter is their first commercial title. According to Savepoint, the game “explores the personal battles of solitude and longing to be reunited with family.” It has decidedly Celtic themes which are reinforced by an original soundtrack by Paul Zimmerman.
Solas is a young girl who finds herself alone in an eternal winter. The backstory is portrayed through still pictures that appear at several intervals during the game. There is no on-screen text or verbal narrative, so this is an adventure that is easily played without regard to one’s native language.
Solas traverses a wintery land to find and open ancient temples. Within each temple there are puzzles that include matching patterns, sliding cubes into position, routing wind through pipes, and rotating structures. There are four subsidiary temple missions that must be completed in order to gain access to the primary temple.
Armed with only a torch, you must light fires along the way to avoid freezing to death. Your health is indicated by the strength of your torch. This became evident to me only when my torch sputtered and I was surprised to fall down, dead, after wandering about. There are other hazards to avoid such as bear traps, ice, and mini-avalanches. The game autosaves along the way and if you die, you respawn at the last fire you lit.
Although there is color in the temples, the winter is all whites and grays and, at times, you have very limited visibility. There is a lot of trudging up and down long paths to reach the temples. Once you find a path, there are visual clues to keep you heading in the right direction. For example, on one path, following the bear traps assists you in reaching your destination. Other paths have other indicators.
I found the puzzles to be incredibly easy. Each temple has a theme and required objects to be interacted with in a specific order or aligned in a certain manner. It took me about 3 hours to complete Solas and the White Winter and the hardest part was finding the my way in the winter whiteness.
While I appreciate the effort that Savepoint Studios put into Solas and the White Winter, I would only recommend this game with the following caveats. The story is minimal and is not told in enough detail to be compelling. The landscape is repetitive (trudge through snow and then trudge through more snow) and the puzzles present little or no challenge for an experienced adventurer. What does shine is the music, which is classically Celtic and absolutely lovely.
+ Simple game mechanics eliminate any learning curve
+ Original soundtrack in a classic Celtic style
+ A worthy entry point for those new to the adventure genre
– Extensive trudging through a redundant landscape becomes tiresome
–Puzzles are repetitive and very easy
–Story is minimal, as told through still scenes