Ever since I watched Red Dwarf as a kid I've always wanted to play pool with planets. No jokes. The White Hole episode where Lister has to knock a moon into a white hole to fix the timeline is a classic moment in science fiction and comedy.
And so we jump forward in time from the mid-nineties to 2014 and we're confronted with Firebrand Games' Solar Flux, an intriguing physics-based puzzle game where you have to guide a small ship around an array of planets and stars collecting energy to help rekindle the stars.
In concept it is very similar to Red Dwarf's White Hole episode. Players must set up the ultimate galactic trick shots to score as highly as possible to unlock the next level and get as high up the online leaderboards as is humanly possible.
The ship begins it's life in dock/launcher space station which you can aim in any direction in a 360-degree range simply by clicking, holding and dragging the mouse to until the aiming line points where you want the ship to go.
Controlling the ship is done in a similar fashion by clicking and holding in the direction you want the engines to fire. Collect the energy balls by passing over them and fire them into a star by clicking on the said star.
You can be caught in the orbit of a planet which can aid your journey around the map you're on and each star lets out a pulse of energy when you fire your collected solar energy into it which will propel the ship away from the star.
It's all physics-based so you can predict when and where to fire off solar energy and your engines to plot a course around each map. Crash into anything, run out of fuel, let the shields run down or fail to rekindle the stars to 100 percent strength and you must replay the level. Efficiency is key scoring highly so making use of all of the exterior propulsion sources is main path to success.
Solar Flux is actually pretty simple when you get down to it and the first handful of levels teach you all the mechanics that you'll need to make your way through the game's 69 levels. Each level you complete is graded with a three-star system so you know just how well you've done in completing it.
The game is a visual treat as well. The stars are vibrant and bright and every animation, as simple as it may be makes so muhc sense within the confines of the game. The ship drifts and glides around the maps smoothly no matter whether you're playing in full-screen 1080p or in windowed mode while you watch your Facebook or Twitter feed scroll down in the background.
Accompanying the sumptuous visuals is a minimalist ambient soundtrack that really clicks with the game's very relaxed feel. It almost inspires images of floating on the surface of the Dead Sea rather than drifting around perilously close to the coronae of dying stars.
Firebrand Games has almost exclusively made games for other people, either porting them to other platforms or making licenses for mobile and, to be honest, from playing Solar Flux it seems that what they have up their own sleeves creatively far outstrips the properties they have been handed in the past.
Solar Flux is an exceptional physics puzzler that well deserves your attention. Just don't play it after a few beers because it'll just end in humiliation.
Solar Flux is availabe on Steam for PC, Mac and Linux as well as on the Google Play for Android devices and iTunes App Stores for iOS devices.
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