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The Enigma of Solaris

by jkj yuio

Science Fiction

(based on 11 ratings)
5 reviews

About the Story

Amidst the stars, Solaris stands as a beacon of human achievement and discovery. A space station dedicated to unravelling the universe's deepest secrets, it has been a centre of groundbreaking research.

But now, Solaris faces a crisis. A mysterious power loss threatens to destabilise its orbit hurling the station into the planet below, jeopardising thousands of lives.

Agent Elara Grey, a master trouble shooter, is sent on a perilous mission to Solaris. As she delves into the heart of the station's secrets, she'll grapple with the consequences of obsession, the balance between knowledge and humanity, and the ultimate choice between saving lives and unlocking the cosmos.

Game Details


69th Place - 29th Annual Interactive Fiction Competition (2023)

60th Place (tie), Best in Show - The IF Short Games Showcase 2023


Updated to use latest GUI. might expand the ship areas later following people's suggestions.
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Number of Reviews: 5
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Most Helpful Member Reviews

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
Just pull the plug…, November 22, 2023
by manonamora
Related reviews: ifcomp

The Enigma of Solaris is a short interactive game set on the Solaris station, where you must find the reason for the power loss threatening the lives of its inhabitant, fighting any hurdles along the way. It can be played as a choice-based or (limited) parser. There seemed to only be one ending.

The story was reminiscent of those old pulp sci-fi stories, with the strive for advancement at the cost of human life, and the hubris of it all. The game is not afraid to go at full speed into those tropes, which makes it a bit comical (in a good way). The visual characterisation of the NPC add a bit of creepyness to the situation, with it’s uncanny valley-esque vibe.

Though I quite enjoy bite-sized games, this one felt somewhat incomplete - as if a whole part of the story or a different angle to it was missing. Starting strong with multiple options to explore the station, interact with different elements, and diagnosing the issue, the player sees its agency disappear by the second half of the game - railroaded towards the ending, with not even the illusion of being able to make a choice.

I think it could have made the ending a bit more satisfying if you had a final choice between fulfilling the mission to save lives or being persuaded to take a path of higher purpose just before the end. Maybe even a bit more choice in conversation with the second NPC.

There was also a bit of friction with the engine used, with the image messing a bit with the placement of the text (if they were more to the side, it would be nicer), or the longer portions of the text forcing you to scroll up and down to read the new bits.

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Artificial AI, December 24, 2023
by JJ McC
Related reviews: IFComp 2023

Adapted from an IFCOMP23 Review

This is a short choice-select story about saving a threatened space station and perhaps the ground population beneath it. It is attractively, liberally illustrated. I find myself increasingly preoccupied with the “is this human or AI?” question when I encounter this style of art these days, and I hate it. The question I mean. On the one hand, enabling artistic expression for everyone, including all-thumbs illustrators like me, is a powerful creative tool. On the other, the massive-scale corporate theft necessary to feed it is despicable. In this case, the art was in fact NOT AI-generated, sidestepping that particular concern for another day.

Though if the artist had been AI, at least here it’s kind of thematic?

The setup is you are a commando engineer, called to fix an injured space station. The presentation is reasonably good, illustrations wrapped by text with choices at the bottom. I liked the darkening of old text as a way to emphasize the new, though the illustrations more often than not provided sufficient break that it wasn’t really necessary. The choices on offer are sufficient to make progress, if a bit constrained. The blocking is a bit weird though, you have a full exploration cycle before encountering the ship’s boss?

The story itself ramps quickly from ‘well, what’s going on?’ to ‘ok, dire decision to make!’ I think the story kind of sabotaged itself on two fronts though. For one, nearly the entire plot, certainly the player’s main conundrum, is completely exposed (Spoiler - click to show)in the blurb! Before the player has started playing! That’s some spoiler-Inception there BTW, spoiler-blurring some spoiler spoilers!

The second way it sabotaged itself was with the writing - it pretty routinely telegraphs its intentions in advance of the narrative in a way that both jars and dilutes whatever surprises might be coming. It applies an urgency to your work, before the need for urgency is uncovered. An NPC (unprompted!) alludes to a difficult choice long before any such choice is apparent. Even the text pacing is off - after some scene setting we get some observations by the protagonist, followed by a REsummary of the setting and setup! It is a jittery focus - from macro to micro back to macro.

There are other choices that jar in the moment - stilted, unnatural dialogue, choices being forced when there are clearly other options possible - that latter maybe ultimately gets some measure of justification? The question mark is because it is not clear that the narrative recognizes these things NEED justification or not. It is possible I am doing more work than the narrative there! Anyway, you make your choice then things proceed to an ending with a reveal that is interesting but also kind of confounding on its mechanics. All in all, the text consistently put me just off my center enough that it never crested beyond a Mechanical exercise for me.

Played: 10/16/23
Playtime: 15min, finished

Artistic/Technical ratings: Mechanical, Mostly Seamless after bugfix
Would Play After Comp?: No, experience seems complete. Well half complete, but complete enough.

Artistic scale: Bouncy, Mechanical, Sparks of Joy, Engaging, Transcendent
Technical scale: Unplayable, Intrusive, Notable (Bugginess), Mostly Seamless, Seamless

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:
Approached as a very short game, December 20, 2023
by Denk
Related reviews: Strand

Ok, I am obviously an outlier here, though five people gave this game 8 or 9 during IFComp. However, I did not play this game during IFComp. Instead I found it as an entry in the Short Game Showcase 2023.

So I expected a very short sci-fi game, which it was. It delivered a very smooth experience on my phone and I was in the mood for a short and simple but yet interesting game. Sure, there are no puzzles but I liked the story and the user interface and graphics were great. There is a sort of moral choice at one point and the ending was interesting.

I think this showcases the Strand engine well for choice based games, which still seems to take into account location based gameplay though I am not sure. However, I do know it can be used for parser games as well.

In general, I rate games based on what I feel when I complete the game as I believe in subjective ratings as enjoyment, being impressed etc. is all about feelings which are always subjective. The game gave me very much what I was looking for at that particular time and I enjoyed it a lot.

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The Enigma of Solaris on IFDB


The following polls include votes for The Enigma of Solaris:

Outstanding Science Fiction Game of 2023 by MathBrush
This poll is part of the 2023 IFDB Awards. The rules for the competition can be found here, and a list of all categories can be found here. This award is for the best Science Fiction game of 2023. Voting is open to all IFDB members....

Outstanding Game in an Uncommon System of 2023 by MathBrush
This poll is part of the 2023 IFDB Awards. The rules for the competition can be found here, and a list of all categories can be found here. This award is for the best game of 2023 written in an uncommon system. Voting is open to all IFDB...

This is version 9 of this page, edited by jkj on 1 May 2024 at 9:25pm. - View Update History - Edit This Page - Add a News Item - Delete This Page