Brief Impressions: Solbot: Energy Rush

Freakout Games’ Solbot: Energy Rush is a free game on iOS and Google Play. Though it costs you no money to play, it only has some light and simple gameplay and enough ads to make playing more hassle than anything else.

The gameplay is bare bones. By touching either side of the screen, you move Solbot, your spacesuit-wearing, jet-boosting character, to the left or right. The goal is to dodge balls of energy but hit those that are the same color as your suit, which changes color at each level. By doing this, you score points. Once you reach the score limit given at the top of the screen, the level will end.

To help guide you towards the correct orbs, there are yellow outlines around them. When these outlines appear around yellow or orange orbs, it is hard to discern them. As I am slightly color blind with reds and greens, and blues and blacks, I rarely knew what color my suit was in the first place, and, by proxy, had trouble making out which orbs were the same as it, regardless of the outline. When dealing with orange or green or whatever-they-were orbs, I often bumped into them and was killed. I did not find a color-blind mode to help with this.

Another inconvenience: there are so many ads that ad-management becomes a game in itself. This is understandable given Solbot‘s free price, but is nonetheless burdensome. If you die, you have to watch an ad before continuing. You could continue immediately by using items that the game calls keys, but to get these you have to watch ads – two in a row. In the second ad there is a red X in the top right corner you can press to close it out, but you can only hit it once a counter has run down. I received five keys for watching one ad, but all the ordeal made me wish I could just pay a few bucks to remove ads permanently. Indeed, the developers may rethink their free-to-play strategy if they knew how much I was willing to part with.

Besides the annoyance of ads, you also can’t pause, so have to leave the game in the middle of the action if you want to stop. The only method to return to the game menu is to die and choose not to continue. Then before you actually get to the menu, you have to wait through an ad. These commercials seem to lurk at every corner of the game, and are as deadly as the energy orbs.

It isn’t all dodging orbs and watching ads. Sometimes a special challenge pops up between levels. In one, you have to dodge five different lasers that go on and off in a pattern. You can also get powerups, including one that summons a group of ships that shoot at all the bad orbs. These little breaks in the standard gameplay offer no real substantive difference from how you usually play, though, and the game remains monotonous.

There is one interestingly out-of-place addition: tips on real-world energy conservation. These are called bonus keys and can be seen by swiping left on the menu. One was: “To conserve energy, turn down your water heater thermostat.” Another, more obscure, tip was: “A heavy coat of dust on a lightbulb can block up to half of the light.” There are a few sponsors listed for these tips, like Conserve Energy Future. The developers included this section to enlighten players on energy sustainability. I appreciate the thought, but having this noble goal paired with such a simple, straightforward game is like eating Haagen-Dazs ice cream with Zesta saltines. Although in the game you are collecting renewable energy, this is not apparent from only playing the game. The developers could have made a game more thematically tied to energy conservation, instead of lending that purpose a tacked-on feel. There is no gameplay purpose to these bonus keys, and such a connection could have lent them more significance.

Solbot: Energy Rush demonstrates that nothing really is free, even “free” mobile games beset by ads. You may not want to play because of the barrage of advertisements, and you may also find difficulty distinguishing between the different colored orbs. If you want some free energy conversation advice and the chance to give a small game a chance, the effort to install and play some of Solbot will not be too great a sacrifice. However, you may suddenly be offering the developers any amount of money to be able to play unhindered by commercials, and realize, too late, that you have fallen into a hole.

For a quick, fun, and aesthetically interesting mobile game, you should check out Ava Airborne, which I also covered.

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