Solomon's Key


Review by Chris Alaimo



Graphics: 8

Sound: 7

Gameplay: 9

Overall: 9


The arcade version of Solomon's Key was released in Japan by Tecmo in 1986, and was the company's fifth arcade release. Starring a wizard named Dana, the objective of this action/puzzle style game is to obtain the key in each room. This unlocks the door, which must then be reached. This becomes progressively more difficult as it becomes less obvious how to get to the key and the door unharmed.

solomon.gif (15827 bytes)The gameplay is deceivingly simple: place and delete blocks that Dana uses to move about the level. Deleting blocks directly underneath an enemy causes him to fall to his death. Dana can also smite his enemies with fireballs, but he can only carry three at a time, which must be collected one-by-one when found in various rooms.

Death of the player can be brought about in a number of ways. Some enemies can spit fireballs or breathe fire, and as in most games, simply touching an enemy will cause death. Each level is timed, and Dana will be killed if the timer is allowed to reach zero. Various bits of score-swelling treasure are strewn about in each level, and bells can be obtained which cause the appearance of flying fairies. The collection of 10 fairies yields an extra life. Spanning nearly 50 levels or "rooms", this game has the potential of eating up quite a few quarters were someone to attempt to complete it. Subsequent ports of this game were released on the Commodore 64, Sinclair ZX Spectrum, and most famously the Nintendo Entertainment System. Solomon's Key 2 was released in Europe and Japan in 1992, and was released as Fire 'N Ice in the U.S. the following year.

Solomon's Key offers a puzzle enthusiast a very engaging and addicting gameplay experience. The game utilizes a joystick and two buttons. The joystick is used to maneuver Dana around the room, with a jump being performed by pressing up. One button is used to create and destroy blocks, while pressing the other caused Dana to use a fireball. The controls are very responsive and do not feel in any way sluggish.

The game's graphics are quite colorful and detailed for it's time. Visually, the game has a Super Nintendo-like feel to it, and a direct port of the game to that system would have looked great. Although the same elements are used to create each room, some variety is added by cycling through various backgrounds. An excellent comparison would be to the 1986 Taito release Bubble Bobble. Both were released during the same year, and are of the same genre, but Solomon's Key is clearly superior visually. For it's time, this title has exceptional graphics.

solomon2.gif (17960 bytes)The games sound is equally colorful. A catchy background track plays during each room, and the game plays various little jingles when certain items are obtained, when a room is cleared, and when Dana is killed. The sound effects are pretty standard. The game has specific sounds for the creation and deletion of blocks, the usage of fireballs, etc. Nothing really noteworthy, but nothing stands out as being poor, either.

Solomon's Key definitely offers up a challenging gaming experience. The difficulty level is well balanced, starting easy and growing progressively harder. A patient gamer will have a hard time getting frustrated, as with each death should come the realization of what was done wrong and what can be done differently to avoid the same mistake on subsequent attempts. The game is just challenging enough that the player will feel motivated to keep trying to complete a problem level without throwing his or her hands up in the air and walking away.

The gamer that chooses not to give Solomon's Key a try is really doing themselves a disservice. For me, games like this are what being a gamer is all about. This game will suck you in and you won't stop thinking about a particular level until you have solved it. If you are interested in puzzle games with a bit of action mixed in, Solomon's Key will scratch you right where you itch.


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Last updated: Tuesday, October 18, 2005 12:33 AM