IT’S PADDLE TIME!!! If you ask me the Paddle is one of the most under-utilized controllers ever made, there just weren’t enough games made that use them, and even fewer actually used them to their fullest potential. Unfortunately the game we’re looking at today doesn’t use the Paddles in any new or interesting way; actually I don’t think I could classify any of this game as ‘new or interesting’ in fact it’s somewhat generic which is weird from a company like Imagic. Yeah this is an Imagic game, it’s also the only Imagic game that used the Paddles, which is rather unique, but I wouldn’t say that it utilizes the paddles ‘well’, it seems rather generic. Solar Storm was published in 1983, pretty much Imagic’s final year of operation, and I hate to say it but it kinda feels like it when I play the game, it all seems a bit rough around the edges, like a little bit more polish could have really made Solar Storm into an incredible game, but it feels like more effort was put into the box art than the actual game.
Solar Storm looks and feels a lot like Astrosmash from Mattel; There are a bunch of enemies falling to earth and you’ve gotta shot ‘em before they get there, the enemy designs are at least fairly good looking and colorful, and there are a good few of them. The planet beneath your ship is wibbly and wobbly and is rather mesmerizing to look at, especially on an emulator, and the bars on the sides of the screen nove in a suitably fluid fashion. Unfortunately however much of the screen is black, and despite being in space there is no starfield to liven things up (yes we’re back to complaining about the lack of a good starfield, just like the old days), c’mon this is Imagic these guys were known for their amazing graphics I refuse to believe that a starfield was beyond them (I’m not a programmer so please educate me if I’m wrong). Even the second screen where you are an orbital gun platform circling the planet, in space, there are no stars it’s just a black void, call me crazy but I’m feeling a little disappointed right now.
This game has one of the most juxtaposed soundtracks I’ve ever heard. Depending on how you play the game you’ll either be lulled to sleep or forced to mute the sound, this is all because of the firing sound. On its own the firing noise isn’t too bad, it a bit abrasive but tolerable, and the game’s ambient humming is a good counter to it. If you’re an aggressive player however and choose to simply mash the fire button constantly, your ears will be assailed by a keening wail from the firing sound effect bleeding into itself causing an awful ear splitting screech. I may be exaggerating somewhat but the noise truly is intolerable, sadly though spamming the fire button is the best way to play the game so get those mute buttons ready.
Solar Storm is your standard move-around-the-bottom-of-the-screen-and-shoot-at-things game, seriously, with the exception of the orbital gun platform screen that lasts about ten seconds, that is all you’ll be doing. There are several different types of enemies but most act in a similar manner, some will come at you straight on, others will come at an angle, some will come at a very slight angle, I’m not going to go through all the different enemy names and behaviors since many of them are ostensibly the same except they move differently and are worth differing amounts of points. Some enemies will shoot at you, this is infuriating mainly due to how you shoot in this game, you don’t fire a projectile like in most games, in Solar Storm you shoot a laser beam that is simply a line of damage that appears instantly on the screen, both you and the enemies shoot this beam and it is both good and bad because of an inability to dodge it. They can’t dodge it and neither can you, and since enemies give no indication of when they’re firing you’ll be losing a lot of ships on the first wave. I have to mention though, that Solar Storm is far easier to play on actual hardware with an actual Paddle controller, sure you can use your mouse with Stella but it’s still not quite as fluid to control making the game far more difficult, just a little FYI for those who didn’t know. The second screen where you control the orbital gun platform is a ten second time waster that really didn’t need to be in the game at all, your gun platform can only be positioned at four different points around the planet completely negating the fluid movement of the Paddles. All you do in the second screen is try, and fail, to hit ships that are moving parallel to Earth, and just like in Atlantis you can’t aim so you’ll miss, and the ships will never pose a threat to you, ever. I know they were trying to break up the possible monotony with a bonus screen but this just doesn’t feel finished. Once you finish the bonus screen it’s back to what you were doing before, rinse and repeat forever. One rather cool thing I’ve neglected to mention up until this point is the heat system, you’ll notice on the sides of the screen those two bars, those are your heat meters, the more enemies that get past you the higher the heat gets and when it gets too high it’s game over. The problem however is that you’re more likely to lose all of your lives before the planet overheats since it takes so long to overheat the planet and the enemies move and shoot very erratically so it’s rather difficult to avoid them.
Solar Storm is a simple shooter that just doesn’t live up to expectations or the price tag, yeah this is an expensive one. Since it’s a 1983 Imagic title it’s gonna be scalped to shit, I’m seeing loose cart listings on Ebay anywhere from 17.50$ to 80$ and boxed copies are listed for 80-180$ and believe me it ain’t worth any of that. I got lucky and got a boxed copy with no manual for 25$, which when considering the other prices up at the moment is pretty darn fair. Solar Storm goes to the Collector’s Zone for being a mediocre game that’s too damn expensive.