Solaroids: Prologue is a twin stick “SHMUP” (Shoot ’em up) inspired by the 1979 arcade shooter Asteroids and its 1992 clone Maelstrom. True to its inspiration, Solaroids brings forth the classic asteroids experience and advances the concept well to become something unique and creative.
The game features a decent amount of customization and gameplay options, in terms of settings and style. For those who like options, you can play with either a keyboard or controller, and use up to four controllers supported for local co-op.
From the intro screen, you’re presented with two options: Campaign and Free Play.
Campaign mode begins with Wave One, allowing the player to get into the swing of the game. As the player defeats enemies, the wave indicator in the bottom center of the screen will continue to fill until an alarm sounds, and the screen begins to flash red around the edge. At the end of each wave, a final boss will spawn with increasingly powerful weapons and greater numbers of enemy defenders. Wonderfully, players can upgrade by flying after and catching upgrade modules with their ship. These can range from better weapons, ship modules, points boosts, repair utilities, and so forth.
The first wave consists of small alien warships, consisting of a simple square shape. As the player progresses, more powerful and diverse enemies and upgrades appear. For example, the below screenshot shows a player battling a “space centipede”, being chased by player-seeking killer asteroids (the pointy rocks on the left), while using a rapid fire weapon upgrade and two modules which add additional ship weapons to the side of the player ship.
Earlier, I talked about the co-op feature, so let’s dive in to that. Each player flies independently, but the group can select either “Split Screen” (shown below) to fly off in their own direction and pursue enemies independently or “Shared Screen” (all players sharing one single screen, as above) to work together. It really depends how you like to play!
Co-op can be customized considerably. Friendly fire can be turned on and off, as can friendly collisions. In both single player and co-op, you can change the background, set the level of parallax and change various gameplay mechanics. I have a fond memory of my wife and I flying in a straight line looking for enemies, and slamming into each other head on 😉 You can choose to shoot through each other…or at each other, to get to the enemy. PS: Some enemies explode, violently, on death. Be ready to fly fast and hard to survive.
The game features a scoreboard, which allows you to track your score against the world – as well as yourself. You begin with three lives, and your score is reset if you exhaust your lives. Minimize how many times you explode in order to compete for the highest score. There are power ups which increase your score and add boosts and bonuses. Enemies have a chance of dropping a repair upgrade, which you must catch if you notice your ship is a little…on fire. As you play, you’ll encounter limited use collectible upgrades like homing missiles, plasma explosives which cause an area of effect explosion around your ship, and a more powerful area attack which can destroy most of the smaller enemies in a single blast.
At the end of the tenth wave, the game goes into “infinity” and now you must survive as long as you can against the full might of the alien armada. This could mean fighting a handful of battle stations, centipedes, floating mines, and more, all at once. You can also jump right into this with Free Play. It’s deadly. Keep an eye on your health, ammo and upgrades. Your ship will start burning. You’ll want to get repaired, fast.
Solaroids: Prologue is a true pleasure to play. It never gets old, repetitive or boring, especially with friends. Each experience is a little different and you can sense the love and passion the developer has put into the game. Chad Yates is well grounded and wonderful, the ingredients you need in a successful indie developer.
For those who love arcade style games and want to play something with excellent replay value that is well suited for casual play, I highly recommend Solaroids: Prologue.