Solstice (released only for the NES) and its sequel Equinox (only on SNES) are two of the most underrated console titles ever made. Best described as “puzzle RPGs”, both games are isometric, third-person games that play like The Bitmap Brothers’ classic Cadaver games, but with more emphasis on physical puzzles similar to Contraption Zack. |
Both games are set in fantasy world, with plots that are as cheesy as most other console games. In Solstice, you play Shadax, the court wizard who must save Princess Eleanor from the clutch of evil wizard Morbius by venturing into his dangerous castle. In the sequel Equinox, you play Shadax’s son who must save his father from an evil witch.
Both games are played from an isometric perspective. If you have played Zelda or Cadaver before, much of it will be familiar: search for keys, blasting or avoiding monsters and solving physical puzzles on your way to meeting the end-level “boss”. A lot of reflexes are required to finish the games, the most infuriating of which are the moving platforms that you must jump on with pinpoint timing and accuracy. There is a wide range of weapons (magic potions in Solstice) and magic spells you can use, some of which are required to solve puzzles. In Equinox, you can travel on the above-ground map as well as the underworld, although all the action except for some battles will still happen underground.
Both games are a lot of fun and innovative, although I find the puzzles in Solstice to be more clever than its sequel. Both games are extremely challenging, though, so be warned. If you were playing them using the actual cartridges on the real consoles, you might give up after a while because saves are very few and limited. Thanks to NES and SNES emulators that allow you to “save state” in every game, you effectively can save and restore at any time you want. This makes the games much less frustrating, although you will still die often. Thankfully the monsters you've killed remain dead.
With an impressive range of monsters, items, and clever puzzles, Solstice and Equinox are highly recommended to anyone looking for a real challenge. They were hugely underrated on first release, so don’t pass up this opportunity if you like reflex-oriented puzzle games or action games with a strong puzzle element. Two thumbs up, way up!Reviewed by: Underdogs