Solar Flux Switch Review by SwitchWatch

Developer: Firebrand Games

Publisher: Firebrand Games

Release Date: Out Now

Price as of Article: $9.99 USD, £7.79 GBP

Game code provided by Firebrand Games for review

Introduction
Solar Flux was originally released back in 2013 on PC and mobile devices, though the developers, Firebrand Games are perhaps best known for the various driving games they created for Nintendo DS and Wii. Among these are entries in the well-known Colin McRae, Need for Speed and Hot Wheels series. Has this foray into interstellar vehicle handling been a successful voyage, or do we have a problem, Houston?
Gameplay
Set across 4 galaxies, Solar Flux tasks you with collecting balls of plasma and firing them at stars to either increase or decrease their temperature. In doing so, you’ll save those stars, but the primary challenge is controlling your spaceship. You have limited fuel – which you can expend to propel your craft through the weightless unknown – as well as a shield gauge that will deplete if you spend too long in the direct light of a star. There is more than just the ship at your disposal, however. You can take advantage of the gravity pull of nearby moons and planets, entering their orbit to conserve fuel. You can also take shade behind them to replenish your shield, but I found myself dying on multiple levels before I had a chance to do so. 
 
That’s not to say the gameplay itself is particularly hard; in fact, most levels can be completed quite easily. Despite this, you can obtain 3 stars on every level, and this is often incredibly difficult. Even getting 2 stars on many levels could take you multiple attempts, because of the outlandish requirements for doing so. One level that I eventually three starred felt as if I had to be accurate to the degree and frame perfect with my inputs. As someone that loves puzzle games and is a sucker for retrying levels if I haven’t achieved the maximum rating, this left me exasperated. Put plainly; the 3 star requirements felt unforgivingly precise and difficult, and I think this will deter many casual gamers. 
 

Miscalculations and Missteps 

Solar Flux Review Screenshot 1  

On top of this, the controls pose quite the challenge as well, at least in handheld mode. Despite being able to control your ship with a twin stick controller layout in TV mode, I was only able to play Solar Flux using the touchscreen to navigate my spacecraft in handheld mode. The controls felt much tighter and more responsive in TV mode, so I heavily recommend this as the way to play Solar Flux. Unfortunately, despite mentioning the ability to play in tabletop mode on the Nintendo eShop, the game wouldn’t recognise this as a viable option, and kept me locked to touchscreen controls.
 
Despite boasting 80 levels, Solar Flux also plays its hand too early. Within the first 10 levels, you’ve pretty much seen everything. From here, I started to lose interest as it became clear that the levels were just asking me to repeat the same objectives with slightly different parameters. Some levels challenge you to complete them with as little shield damage as possible, some with conserving fuel, and the remainder ask you to complete the goal as quickly as you can. Though there are interesting changes in the environments and subtle differences between later levels, they all fall into these 3 categories, and I can’t help but feel as though these methods for success should have been paced better by spreading them out.
style="display:block; text-align:center;" data-ad-layout="in-article" data-ad-format="fluid" data-ad-client="ca-pub-5661714653949151" data-ad-slot="5669732186">
Audio

The gentle, soothing background music is nice, and it suites the ambience well, though it comes at a price. The rest of the audio wasn’t very pleasant, at all. Several of the sound effects were too loud, and generally they were over-the-top with trying to be “space-y”. You’ll understand what I mean if you see some gameplay, the launching sound at the start of a level is particularly jarring. Luckily, you can turn down the sound effects and music separately, and I’d recommend playing with just the music on. Like this, the game adopts a relaxing and enjoyable tone, even if you’re tearing your hair out trying to get 3 stars on a level.

Visuals & Performance

Solar Flux Review Screenshot 2

Visually, Solar Flux is gorgeous. It’s fairly simple in it’s space theme, with large empty spaces and only the occasional planet or star drawing your attention, but cast your eyes to the background and you’ll see some impression work. The swirling storms, billowing clouds, fields of asteroids and distant twinkling stars all add to the familiar beauty of space. I quite liked how the suns and plasma changed colour for the different galaxies, adding some important variability to the levels. Later on there will be all manner of astronautical hazards such as comets and black holes, none of which seem out of place and all fit the aesthetic perfectly. For a simple space puzzle on a handheld machine, the visuals of Solar Flux couldn’t get much better.

Value

At £7.79 GBP or $9.99 USD, Solar Flux feels a little overpriced. Though there are 80 levels and the challenge of getting 3 stars on every level to return for, there is little else. There are no global leaderboards, no co-op modes, and no real incentive to try and get 3 stars on a level, other than bragging rights. You don’t need a certain number of stars to unlock progressive levels, you only need to complete the previous set, which leads to an underwhelming experience, in my opinion. It’s certainly not a far cry from what I believe it should be priced at, but I’d recommend waiting for a sale of 20% or more before picking this up. 

Pros

P

Gorgeous graphics

P

80 levels, 4 galaxies to play

P

Tranquil calming music

Cons

P

Outlandish 3 star requirements

P

Imprecise touchscreen controls

P

Sound effects are too much