Solomon's Key is a puzzle game from 1986. Released by Hamster in the Arcade Archives series, this is the arcade version of the game. However, it was released for several other platforms too.
You play as the sorcerer, Dana, with the goal to clear 50 rooms. Except it's not quite 50, as there are 12 groups of 4 rooms, plus extras. Each group is for a sign of the Zodiac.
Each level challenges you to collect the key and get to the exit. Aside from walking and jumping, your main technique is being able to create and destroy blocks. These blocks can be used in several ways: you can stand on them, you can use them to divert enemies that follow the walls of the level, and you can use them to defeat enemies who are standing on them - though, not all enemies. You can also use them to trap enemies, or trap yourself. Some enemies can destroy the blocks too.
It starts out easy enough - but boy does it get difficult.
You can die by touching enemies or certain objects (usually flames on the ground, or fireballs from a shooting statue). And you can die by running out of time. In most levels, you really can't hang around - the time limits are far from generous.
Aside from collecting the key on each level, which is a requirement to move on, there are several other collectibles. Touching a bell will release a fairy, which you can collect by touching it. Fireballs can be collected and you can store up to 3 at a time; you can expand your carrying space to hold up to 5 fireballs - if you can find them. They are easy to find early on, but you'll soon be wondering why you haven't seen one in a while.
There are also various gems that simply increase your points, although they have a double purpose: you can't create a block in the space occupied by a gem. You'll often collect a game so you can create a block there instead.
You'll be dealing with sparks that move around the edges of the level, walking enemies that endlessly spawn from specific points, and flying enemies that move back and forth in a set pattern. With fireballs being so scarce, you're more likely to be avoiding enemies than killing them. Sometimes, that's easier said than done. A couple of particularly annoying enemies can jump and really get in your way...
There are various secrets to discover - creating and destroying a block in certain places can make gems or other items appear. Though, this can be laborious to do, and you don't really have time to try this in every possible part of the level. But it adds an incentive to go back and play it again.
Many of the levels are a careful, tricky exercise in strategy, and some can be quite daunting when you first see them. Others, such as the one below, keep things simple. How can you make your way to the top when the statues keep destroying your blocks?
Graphically it's nice and colourful, and does the job well. The music is ok but it does begin to grate after a while, as the main theme plays on pretty much every level. The sound effects are fine, though the shooting statues had me reaching for the mute button on the TV.
One gripe I had is with the controls - you push Up to jump, which can be frustrating when you're in a sticky situation. It's not particularly responsive, and I've died a few times either because the jump didn't work when I wanted it to, or it did work when I didn't want it to!
Apart from that, it's a really solid game that's a lot of fun to play. I'm glad I can keep adding more credits - this would've been an expensive game to play in the arcades!
I'll leave you with a short video where I managed to complete a level by running really fast! This definitely doesn't work in every level - I think I got lucky!
Screw tactics, I'm just gonna leg it! #ArcadeArchives #SolomonsKey #NintendoSwitch pic.twitter.com/0GzOoVJUrg— switchben (@switchscores) June 20, 2020
In summary, Solomon's Key is a difficult but enjoyable platform/puzzle game that is well worth picking up.