Developer: Firebrand Games
Price: $1.99
Version Reviewed: 1.01
Device Reviewed On: iPad 2

Graphics / Sound Rating: ★★★★☆
Controls Rating: ★★★½☆
Gameplay Rating: ★★★★☆
Replay Value Rating: ★★★★☆

Overall Rating: ★★★★☆

When it comes to games where collecting stars is the sign of success, Solar Flux HD has other games beaten in two aspects: One, its star system is far more clever than pretty much every other physics puzzler out there. Two, it actually involves saving stars. Like, the-sun-in-the-sky type stars.

SolarFluxHD-3The goal of the game is to command a ship that picks up balls of plasma to be launched into the suns to give them back their energy. Of course, flying too close to the sun will get one’s wings burned (Am I right, Icarus?), so there’s definite hazards involved. Crashing into one of the many suns, for one. That will not end well. The stars in this game are very hot, and the ship the player controls is rather resilient but it’s not that resilient. It will burst into flames if exposed to the heat for too long. Get into the shadows of asteroids and planets to cool it off.

The ship has the ability to propel itself through space but many of the levels discourage this, instead preferring to have the player navigate by shooting plasma into the sun and riding solar flares to their next destination or into another planet’s orbit. Yeehaw!

SolarFluxHD-2The game reinforces this behavior through its star system: instead of having some abstract points goal, each level has a certain objective such as not using too much fuel or not taking too much solar damage in order to complete it. This means for some levels, mastering the riding of solar flares and not using the jets at all, or learning how to use them really quickly.

This is the source of much of Solar Flux HD’s variety: it becomes challenging to try and complete the goals at hand! Sure, the levels might be easier when just flying through them at one’s own leisure, using all the fuel one desires, but it just feels so much more elegant when doing it as intended. Also, I like that the goal is to refill the stars at any cost – dying while a plasma ball is being shot can still win the level if the shot goes through. It’s like basketball, not hockey, though no one usually crashes into an asteroid or star in basketball.

This is a more mature physics puzzler, too: the theme and music are all subdued, with no cutesy characters. This is the physics puzzler that Carl Sagan would probably play. The game’s highly recommended on iPad – having the greater amount of room to see and navigate just feels like the way it was meant to be played. I also wish I had a Retina iPad to play this game because the lower-resolution screen just feels lacking for this experience.

While I think that part of the fun comes from the artificial goals that Solar Flux HD presents, at least they bring some clever new structure to the physics puzzler genre.

Posted in: iPad Apps and Games, iPad Games, Reviews

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