Solar Ash Review: Keeping the Momentum Up Amid Apocalypse


“Swish motion and jaw-dropping fights in opposition to colossal monsters make Photo voltaic Ash a worthy follow-up to Hyper Mild Drifter.”


  • Pleasurable motion
  • Awe-inspiring boss fights
  • Creative world design
  • Implausible rating


  • Some weak story beats
  • Digital camera can half momentum

Photo voltaic Ash is an ideal instance of what makes video video games such a singular creative medium: It takes inspiration and design cues from a number of high-profile classics however remixes them into one thing that’s not like any of them — or any sport I’ve ever performed.

Developed by Coronary heart Machine, the studio behind indie hit Hyper Mild Drifter, a number of parts of Photo voltaic Ash will appear acquainted at first look. Its gargantuan boss fights carry Shadow of the Colossus to thoughts, whereas the reality-bending house exploration calls again to Tremendous Mario Galaxy. Typically, the enjoyable of online game growth comes from the digital alchemy that happens when builders begin to combine beakers. In that regard, Photo voltaic Ash is a profitable experiment that bubbles to life with vibrant colours and unmatched model.

Full of memorable sequences, Photo voltaic Ash is a targeted follow-up to Hyper Mild Drifter that always conjures up moments of awe. The fluid cloud-skating motion is simply plain pleasurable, whereas towering bosses present unforgettable set items that put pace and response time to the take a look at. It’s a momentum-filled indie sport that’s all the time shifting, although it skates previous some finer particulars within the course of.

I’m a Voidrunner, child

Photo voltaic Ash’s world could look brightly coloured, however its story is darkly apocalyptic. A large black gap seems close to a planet and begins step by step ripping it aside. Whereas the world’s authorities proves ineffective in stopping it, a gaggle of individuals referred to as Voidrunners are deployed to activate the Starseed, a tool able to stopping a black gap. The sport follows a runner named Rei as she travels across the decaying planet slaying large monsters, which is able to permit her to make use of the Starseed.

A white figure speaks to Rei in Solar Ash.

It’s a surprisingly wealthy science-fiction story loaded with historical past and world-building. It’s only when it gives commentary on actual points, like our personal politicians’ lack of ability to come back collectively and resolve life-threatening crises in a well timed method. Audio logs describe a well-known dystopia the place the black gap’s emergence one way or the other morphed right into a divisive political difficulty that put authorities response in a stalemate. Its story is rather less efficient when it crosses into a relatively imprecise meditation on people choosing up the items, nevertheless it’s a superb use of sci-fi as a real-world allegory.

As their title implies, Voidrunners can run — or extra precisely, “skate.” The sport is all about exploring the world at a quick tempo with some fluid mobility instruments. Holding down the left set off permits Rei to sprint round any floor like an ice skater or grind on something rail-like, from plant roots to dismantled subway tracks floating within the air. Motion is easy to know however immediately gratifying. Exploration is a fast-paced ballet the place gamers hardly ever ever should cease shifting. Stringing jumps and grinds collectively to finish platforming puzzles looks like executing a swish dance routine.

Rei glides into a room with mushrooms in Solar Ash.

A lot of the sport’s puzzles are timer-based micro-gauntlets, the place Rei must rapidly slash a number of stakes and plant her sword in a large eye earlier than she’s vaporized by the black goo round her. These make nice use of the motion mechanics, giving gamers little challenges in every degree that take a look at their mastery and pace. There are a number of collectibles — together with alternate fits and lore-deepening audio logs — strewn in regards to the world, too, which add some non-obligatory platforming challenges to the combo for gamers who need some rewards for exploring.

Stringing jumps and grinds collectively to finish platforming puzzles looks like executing a swish dance routine.

There aren’t a ton of additional instruments, however that’s as a result of the sport doesn’t want them. A time-slowing maneuver lets Rei sprint into targets from a protracted distance, and there’s a lift to assist pace round sooner. Nothing is unfair; every part helps the motion and helps clean it even additional. Identical to Shadow of the Colossus famously lowered every part that didn’t serve its core gameplay, Coronary heart Machine is cautious to not overcomplicate what already feels good.

Scaling a colossus

There’s fight in Photo voltaic Ash, nevertheless it’s secretly one other mobility instrument. Rei can carry out a primary slash that may take out slimy, black enemies that creep world wide. Attacking is extra about maintaining the momentum up, relatively than slowing right down to filter waves of baddies. That’s particularly obvious when utilizing Rei’s time-slowing means, which lets her propel in the direction of an enemy from distant. The slash has a surprisingly lengthy vary, so Rei can leap into an enemy and slice it up midair with out stopping to combat.

One of the best marriage of fight and motion comes from the sport’s boss fights. In every degree, Rei comes face-to-face with a gargantuan black monster coated in bone plates referred to as Remnants. They’re among the largest online game bosses I’ve ever seen, even towering over a few of Shadow of the Colossus’ largest beasts. A snake-like whale, for instance, floats within the air, circling decrepit residence buildings. It’s a mesmerizing sight, and one which solely turns into extra spectacular as you notice you’re about to skate your entire size of its bony again.

It’s a spectacle that by no means wears skinny, solely changing into extra mesmerizing because the monsters get greater.

In boss fights, Rei has to discover a method to grapple onto a beast after which full a model of the sport’s stake-slashing time trials laid out throughout its physique. In a single combat, I pull my means onto an enormous airborne creature. I zip up its wings, slashing stakes earlier than I attain the tip. It flips round, sending me skating down its underside in a perception-bending prompt. It’s a spectacle that by no means wears skinny, solely changing into extra mesmerizing because the monsters get greater.

Rei climbs up a giant monster in Solar Ash.

Typically the sport can’t sustain with its ambitions. The digital camera can get a bit unwieldy as beasts writhe round, resetting Rei’s place. There have been a number of fights that I needed to retry just because I had misplaced all sense of orientation in a nauseating digital camera transition. Redoing fights is usually a ache too, as Rei might want to skate again over to a monster, re-grapple it, and repeat the very same fight sequence till she nails it. I additionally had a number of situations the place I’d get caught within the atmosphere, forcing me to reset.

The minor technical gripes don’t detract from the sheer spectacle. Photo voltaic Ash’s bosses gave me the identical “wow” moments that I felt the primary time I performed Shadow of the Colossus. It feels unimaginable that I can seamlessly transition from skating round a swamp to gliding up a 1,000-foot-tall large’s bone sword en path to the gentle spot on its head. It’s nonetheless a jaw-dropping magic trick, even 16 years after a PS2 sport first pulled it off.

Neon dystopia

Colourful artwork route makes Photo voltaic Ash immediately stand out in an indie sport lineup. Whereas the visuals themselves are simplistic with restricted textures and element, vivid colours give the sci-fi world a real feeling of other-worldliness. The planet is bathed in vivid pinks, whereas Rei dances throughout seas of sunshine blue clouds. It’s a surrealist temper piece — an alien world encased in a neon signal.

Whereas its influences are clear, it appears and sounds nothing just like the video games it’s referencing.

It’s much less the colourful visuals and extra the precise world design that make Photo voltaic Ash pop, although. It takes cues from Tremendous Mario Galaxy to create seemingly unimaginable areas for gamers to twist round. In a later biome, I skated up and round a twisting pillar of clouds, taking me to an space a whole lot of miles above what I believed was the bottom. Elsewhere, deconstructed railroad tracks litter a metropolis sky, permitting me to cleverly platform to the highest of skyscrapers. The sport will get probably the most out of its black gap premise, utilizing the sci-fi menace to actually tear the atmosphere aside and reassemble it right into a platforming paradise.

Rei jumps near a building in Solar Ash.

The sound is simply as spectacular. Photo voltaic Ash contains a implausible rating by Disasterpeace that provides to the eerie sci-fi environment. It’s an unsettling assortment of music that underscores the celestial catastrophe tearing the world aside. Sturdy voice performing provides the world’s inhabitants life, heightening the apocalyptic stakes even additional. Rei is especially sturdy, as her collected angle begins to tear itself aside as panic about her world-ending actuality units in.

It’s these aesthetic touches that give Photo voltaic Ash its personal id. Whereas its influences are clear, it appears and sounds nothing just like the video games it’s referencing. Coronary heart Machine’s signature model is totally intact right here, even after ditching the 2D pixel artwork that Hyper Mild Drifter followers are used to. The studio has crafted an intricate alien world that’s so vivid and alluring, I can’t assist however be indignant on the powers that be on this universe that failed to guard it.

Our take

Photo voltaic Ash is a classy sci-fi platformer that expertly weaves influences collectively to create one thing contemporary. The emphasis on quick, fluid motion turns exploration right into a dance-like act of delight. Shadow of the Colossus-inspired boss fights make good use of these mechanics, too, creating tense motion set items with a jaw-dropping sense of scale. Technical points can maintain again the momentum, nevertheless it’s by no means sufficient to totally distract from an inviting sci-fi playground that begs to be saved.

Is there a greater different?

For those who’re searching for different movement-based indie video games, Celeste and Ori and the Will of the Wisps are each nice choices. For those who simply need the enormous bosses, the PS4 remake of Shadow of the Colossus is a must-play.

How lengthy will it final?

It’s a decent 5 to 6 hours in whole, with a number of collectibles alongside the best way so as to add some further playtime.

Must you purchase it?

Sure. Photo voltaic Ash is a quick and enjoyable platformer with a meaty sci-fi story and a handful of unforgettable boss fights.