Space balls for renewable energy!
Games have a certain potential for social and political commentary, just like any other form of media. In spite of the potentially long development time, a great many releases attempt to highlight current issues around the world. Solbot: Energy Rush attempts to do just this in regards to renewable energy sources through a simple mobile game.
Upon starting the game, our character, Solbot, receives a text message from a Commander. Solbot is told that he has been hired to collect energy orbs to give renewable energy to everyone. That’s it for exposition — the next thing you know, you’re in the main menu ready to begin the first level.
After a quick tutorial, you are sent on your way to collect coloured energy orbs. Solbot needs to collect gold-rimmed orbs that are the same colour as him. Attempting to collect any other type of orb will cause him to explode and end the game. Once he’s collected a certain number of orbs, the stage ends and Solbot changes colour. Some levels add a little extra challenge, such as avoiding lasers, whilst others provide power-ups to make things easier. Controls are tap-based, with a tap left or right moving Solbot in that direction based on five lanes.
Should you die in the level, you can either restart from the beginning or use a key to continue from where you left off. I assumed there would be keys available for real money, but it was nice to see that the only way to gain additional keys is by watching an advert. In fact, there’s no monetisation in this game beyond adverts. There is a store, but it simply links to a merchandise shop. It’s nice to see developers attempting to monetise their games in a way that isn’t microtransactions.
Solbot: Energy Rush is made up of fifty levels, most of which play out in the same sort of way. Whilst later ones do become more difficult due to a greater volume of orbs and faster movement, there isn’t a huge difference in how it plays. Each stage only takes about a minute to play through, so this is a great choice for a quick game when you have a spare minute or two, but don’t expect any actual depth.
The visuals are simplistic, but Solbot himself is quite nicely animated when he collects an orb. Everything is clear and easy to identify but looks very basic. I liked the music, which was energetic and catchy, whilst the rest of the sound effects were serviceable and loud enough to make what was going on clear.
So about that message about renewable energy… In the game itself, there’s very little reference to it beyond the occasional communication between the Commander and Solbot. These communications are limited to pointing out that renewable energy is important, but there’s very little to link this and the activities in the game itself. What is nice is that there’s a ‘Facts’ section in the menu that details how much energy is used by different appliances and how you can help reduce the amount of power you use. This is a good addition, but it’s a shame that it isn’t referenced in the game itself.
Whilst Solbot: Energy Rush is a simple game that doesn’t highlight its message as well as it could, it can be fun in short bursts thanks to the short levels and basic controls. Considering this is a free game with absolutely no microtransactions, it’s certainly something worth having a look at. I hope the developers continue to promote their message regarding renewable energy in future games.