Solar Flux is a perplexing puzzler in space where no one can hear you scream — at its difficulty.
Developed by Firebrand Games, Solar Flux is a interstellar journey to restore galactic harmony to our universe. An arcade-styled puzzler, you don a decked out ring-shaped ship and set forth to save dying stars from going supernova by restoring their plasma. Earning a three stars rank on each of the eighty (plus) levels of increasing difficulty will take a lot of patience, however.
You move your spaceship around zero-gravity with the boosters on the back of it, and each thrust uses up some of your limited fuel. Levels take place with at least one star nearby and as you are launched from a space station, you set out to collect the motes of plasma. Each plasma mote that you collect represents a percentage of the plasma needed to bring the star back to full power, and after collecting them, you can shoot them off into the star, which creates solar flares. These flares arc out from the star, which propels you backwards, and can be used to your advantage if you time them right. Many levels are set up to use these solar flares in order to assist you in moving around the level without using up much fuel.
Shield levels are also an important factor to maintain as you zip around space. As you get close to the stars, your shields will deplete and if they completely run down then you will explode in fiery glory. Thankfully, shadows created by planets and other celestial objects can assist you in recharging your shields and get you away from the burning reality of dealing with these stars. As you enter the trajectory of some planets around the playing field, you will fall into their orbits and this may carry you unintentionally into the burning sunlight. It takes a careful balance of boosting and using flares to get yourself to achieve your goals in each level.
Just when you thought it couldn’t get more difficult, Solar Flux throws timed challenges into the mix. Using your limited fuel and dipping and dodging sunlight by weaving yourself into shadows, you will be then tasked to do it as fast as possible. Most timed levels are reasonable, but I find myself often just looking to finish these levels in a reasonable amount of time and then move on to something else. I don’t like being pressured to ‘speedrun’ a level, especially early on in the game, but many players enjoy the challenge, and I respect that.
Each of the eighteen themed sectors have their own distinct design and obstacles. Beyond the simple survival aspect of balancing the control of your ship with the deadliness of the stars, you have other things to worry about as well. Asteroids and meteors pose both stationary and moving challenges (respectively) to completing your goals in later levels, and enemies like mines and obstacles — like force fields and black holes — add additional complexity to moving around each environment. There’s certainly enough variety to keep it interesting, but the gameplay is fairly consistent throughout.
While the graphics aren’t particularly mind-blowing, the sci-fi setting is rendered well, with stars blanketing the background and plenty of particle effects and glow around each of the level’s stars. The music in the game actually reminds me a lot of the subtle synths often associated with games about space travel, and delivers a rich embodiment of ambience that wholly compliments the game overall. Puzzles range in difficulty and while the levels get harder as you progress, the higher challenge feels fair as the game assumes your mastery of the controls and mechanics by this point.
Solar Flux is an easy game to recommend for arcade puzzle fans and even sci-fi fans looking for a new game to check out. Its zero-gravity physics make for some difficult navigation but ultimately makes the game more interesting for it. With a beautifully chilling soundtrack and levels that bring you back to have ‘one more go’, Solar Flux is a great game to add to your collection.