Solar 2 is a game where you start off simulating that of a rock in space. Yep. That doesn't sound too appealing or that interesting initially as really, what would the point of simulating a rock be? Why hitting into other rocks in space of course, and thus gaining mass. You do this for some time in Solar 2, until eventually something happens - you evolve and become a planet. Suddenly, other rocks become things that orbit you, and so begins your addictive journey into the unknown with Solar 2.
Developed by one man (and one desire), Solar 2 is a game that almost has no point to it, apart from complete missions in a bizarre but amusing tale and absorb things to become even more prominent in a universe full of moving planets, suns and rocks. It pretty much ditches the whole concept of point A to point B kind of design and story-based gameplay and goes for a free-form, sandbox like approach that allows you to have the freedom to do anything; and it's damn good at doing that admittedly.
As mentioned at the beginning of this review, you start off life as a rock, and your entire point of existence is to smash into other rocks and absorb them, gaining mass in the process. Eventually with enough mass you become a planet, and rocks (okay they're asteroids but rock sounds cooler) begin to orbit you, acting both as a shield and as food for your planet to absorb. Once you've absorbed enough rocks, you become a planet teeming with life, and soon enough you have shields, planetary cannons and spaceships coming out of you. Your primary objective is still to devour more rocks to gain mass, and eventually with enough eating you actually become a small star, and then begins your newfound life as a potential solar system for straying planets.
It's abstract, different, but absolutely awesome to play. Solar 2 constantly rewards you for progression with cooler things and more features, and the game grows increasingly more interesting as you collect and explore. It's consistently entertaining and downright addicting to grow in size, with more and more things being shown to you the further you delve into the lifecycle. It feels a lot like Fl0w in the sense that you become larger and delve deeper, but it's also far more rewarding in that there's simply a lot more to collect and do instead of just eat. Achivements are nicely added in too and add some challenge, with one in particular asking you to create a six-star solar system. It's well designed and minimalist in its approach, focusing almost purely in the gameplay aspect and coming out winning because of it.
You've also got the missions we mentioned earlier, where if you're bored of just screwing around being a planet/star/intergalactic nuisance, you can go ahead and complete tasks for a mysterious being guiding you through your journey. Missions range from fighting other solar systems by knocking planets and rocks into each other, to zipping through the galaxy as fast as you can to reach an area. They're varied, fun and challenging, though admittedly some can be insanely difficult very early on, discouraging the player from continuing until later. It's a little imbalanced in that regard and will most likely drive players to focus on the sandbox and growth aspect, but they're fun nonetheless and are different to the sandbox approach.
On a presentational note, Solar 2 keeps things very simple in the sense that there's no insane technical 'hoo ha' going on when you play. It's a 2D kind of game with simple planetary designs and suns, with some nice glow effects and interesting designs throughout. It's still appealing though, as it's easy on the eyes and pleasantly designed, so it doesn't really need the raw power of a souped-up engine to keep it going.
The same thing goes for the sound element of the game too, with sounds being very soft and ethereal in use and only really coming into play when there's a lot on screen at once. Music is catchy and distinctly sci-fi, which hardly distracts from the game and keeps things flowing with its upbeat tunes.
Solar 2 is the definition of what a game is. While presentation is always a nice thing to have, Solar 2 reduces that to a bare minimum and focuses purely on the game aspect, succeeding on several levels in delivering a fun and addictive experience. It's unfortunately over a little quicker than we wanted so replayability is a bit on the low side, but it's a nice distraction and an interesting title that for the price demands the attention of gamers everywhere. Recommended.