Usually, when a game’s objective is to save the universe, it involves super powers, laser guns and/or lyrca underpants as wars between alien or human factions rage on. Set in 2107, the universe in Solar Flux HD literally needs saving as dying suns teeter on the brink of extinction, threatening to plummet the universe into an eternal darkness.
Heading out from remote docking stations in my fragile, doughnut shaped spaceship, the mission set out before me was to travel across unmanned space delivering vital fragments of fuzzy, glowing plasma balls to struggling stars in order to restore their state of equilibrium. Let’s not beat around the asteroid belt here, this is one hell of a tough mission!
I found myself constantly having to make miniscule manoeuvres by tapping behind my little craft to thrust it forward as I navigated around planets, meteors, and force fields. There was an authentic, pressurised atmosphere and drift-like uncontrollability when thrusting which either resulted in the slimmest of happy escapes and successes or multiple crashes. Slight timing inaccuracies when riding solar waves or skewed routes taken when leaving a planet’s circulating gravitational flow, as I aimed to sling-shot into precious plasma, often left me bitterly aware of my failings as a cosmic pilot.
It wasn’t just the flying and plasma flinging that had me on high alert. If I strayed too close to a fiery sun, my delicate shields would take damage and I’d have to seek out cool sanctuary in the shadows of another planet. At other times, I’d have to plan emergency replenishing trips to the docking station if I found myself running on fumes. Yet even when combined with other problematic level objectives where I’d be required to use no fuel or complete a plasma run in a set time limit, Solar Flux HD remained at all times, beautiful and addictive.
Chatting to developers Firebrand Games whilst at the Gamescom event in Germany this week, they confirmed that Solar Flux HD is indeed a demanding sci-fi challenge. “It’s unashamedly difficult” Creative Director Pete Shea said with a wry smile. “It will test your reflexes and you have to keep adapting to the challenges, there’s no room for complacency here - we don’t provide instant win. Impatient gamers can unlock levels earlier by buying them if they want, but we think that although it’s sometimes tough, the immersion and the feeling you get when you do clear a level is rewarding.”
Drawing on Danny Boyle’s Sunshine (which itself was heavily influenced by Solaris, Alien and 2001: A Space Odyssey), the crisp, glowing aesthetics in Solar Flux HD were the prettiest, most accurate and mesmerising of science delights. Turquoise blue asteroids were mottled with deep craters and crags that drew me in, whilst the giant suns with heat spots, flares and flecks pulsated an artistic warning. All floated across a high definition wispy, star flecked universe which made this by far, the most beautiful vision of space I’ve seen on a mobile device.
Paired with a good set of headphones, the captivating Moon inspired soundtrack vibrated alongside classic sci-fi plasma pings and I found a casual ‘universe-saving’ session would stretch long beyond 15 minutes. With four galaxies, 80 solar systems, and leaderboards, Solar Flux HD provides hours of puzzling, satisfying, stunning sci-fi fun and is out now for iPad.