My absolute favourite thing about Solipskier – and pretty much everything is my favourite thing about Solipskier – is the end-game music.
That might sound like a damning endorsement of the actual game part, but it’s not. Consider it instead a testimony to the overall quality of Solipskier because the whole package is so utterly suave.
In Solipskier you paint a path for your skier to ski along. It’s a 2D side-scroller by way of the Wachowski’s Speed Racer, Canabalt and Sonic the Hedgehog circa that time when he was relevant. The skier snowballs along automatically, gaining momentum with each drop drawn on the screen and losing momentum should you force him to ascend too harshly. It’s a painfully simple process and your finger will spend the entire game caressing the far right side of the screen, occasionally lifting to create jumps.
It’s a score attack game so painting Solipskier’s path through the many yellow gates and blue tunnels and by making him perform tricks by leaving gaps for him to jump across increases your score. You’re versed on which gates and hazards are incoming by on screen indicators, which count down the distance to and illustrate at which height the gates and the like are. Without these the game would be nigh on impossible because it’s so blindingly quick. By piloting Solipskier through the gates and tunnels – or by making him jump through them – you increase your score multiplier and with that the suicidal skier gains even more pace.
The game eases you in gently with Solipskier trundling along like a neophyte early on but it quickly mutates from tranquil ski holiday with Rupert the ski-instructor into a hardcore, blisteringly paced, one-way ticket to annihilation. The sense of speed is pivotal and the developer absolutely nails it – thundering through the mountains is every bit as exciting as roaring through one of Need for Speed’s mountain passes or Dirt 3’s dust bowls. Solipskier isn’t a racer but it damn well feels like one at times.
Those moments of uncertainty are when Solipskier is at its best, when you only narrowly have control of the guy and the slightest of miscalculations is going to culminate with his spine making a hurried exit through his left nostril. It’s electrifying because you’re flirting with disaster every step of the way and because there’s absolutely no time to think about what’s going on.
And that’s where that wonderful music comes into play. Slipping up by failing to keep Solipskier on the snow (or by cannoning into a steep incline) sees the daredevil hurtle a thousand meters into the moonless abyss where this melancholy piano refrain drifts out of the darkness. After the ballsy heavy metal number booming alongside your jaunt above, this somber track is like being clouted in the face by a horse. It almost makes you feel ashamed for killing Solipskier.
Simplicity is instrumental to the success of every element whirring away underneath Solipskier’s delightful exterior and frankly I’ve not been this helplessly obsessed with a high-score game since Canabalt.
Adrenalised. Frantic. Genius.