The first game I played to kick off 2022 was Annapurna Interactive's sci-fi adventure platformer, Solar Ash. A game where you traverse striking neon-coloured lands within a black hole all in the hope of rescuing protagonist Rei's planet, a Voidrunner trapped within. While not as mindbending as Arkane's Deathloop, or as whimsical as Astro's Playroom, it's arguably the most fun I've had on my PS5 console yet.
It only took a couple of sittings to roll credits over the holiday period, yet the nine or so hour experience has really stuck with me. With so many top-tier blockbusters making the majority of gaming headlines, it's easy to overlook the truly inventive work going on in the indie scene – and Annapurna is at the forefront. You might recognise the studio's name for helping to bring about the likes of Sayonara Wild Hearts, Donut County, The Artful Escape, Outer Wilds, Journey, Kentucky Route Zero and many more inventive, original experiences.
Solar Ash is just that, and maybe my favourite release from the publisher. Developed by Heart Machine, makers of Hyper Light Drifter, traversing across the cloud-filled environments was a blast. It reminded me of a little of The Pathless (also published by Annapurna) but more fluid. You are essentially rollerskating and grinding from world to world before chaining together attacks to take down enemies. In that respect, its movement could be closer compared to Jet Set Radio.
An enchanting score sweeps the solar system, gorgeous vistas (opens in new tab) paint the skies for as far as the eye can see, and a seemingly outmatched Rei is paired up against skyscraper-sized bosses that take true precision to overcome. There's an atmosphere offered here hard to achieve with puzzles interweaving remarkably well with the main gameplay.
The frantic nature of these giant boss battles stands out as while these beasts try to do everything in their power to throw Rei from taking them out, it all comes down to the player's movement and rhythm to truly succeed. Shadow of the Colossus is another title that springs to mind for comparison, if not more rapid.
There's a similar sadness to its story too. Solar Ash's lore can be taken or leaven, as the world itself does a much better job of explaining the direness of Rei's situation. A picture paints a thousand words after all.
Solar Ash is available across PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4 and Microsoft Windows. Don't sleep on this gem. The next big blockbuster from Sony will be Uncharted: Legacy of Thieves Collection on PS5. Make sure to check out T3's official review of the game to see if it's worth picking up.