Title: Arcade Archives Solomon’s Key
System: Nintendo Switch (eShop)
Release Date: 06/06/2019
The Arcade Archives UI returns for this game, with all the display options and settings that are to be expected from these rereleases. The actual game looks pretty darn crisp for a game made in 1986, with the visuals looking significantly better with more vibrant colors than the NES port most people recognize, and even some expressive, if brief animations that accompany some of Dana’s movements.
The audio is pretty solid as well, using the familiar stage themes that people know from the NES game, although they don’t seem to go on nearly as long as in that port, thus leading to them looping more frequently. Still, despite the repetitiveness, the background music is catchy.
Being a puzzle platformer, Solomon’s Key tasks the player with finding a key in each stage in order to unlock the door to the next one. This is done by creating or destroying blocks with a button and jumping onto them by pressing up, and making your way to the exit. Along the way, enemies will come and try to stop you, since Dana dies in one hit from any enemy or projectile. Luckily, you can counter some enemies by shooting a fireball towards them, only available if you collect a blue vial, and you can only hold three fireballs at a time.
Every now and then you’ll end up finding a secret, whether it comes from discovering a way to change the exit key into a secret key, or finding a hidden item that will give you a crazy point bonus. Still, the puzzle solving is the main focus of Solomon’s key, and the ability to continue whenever you get a game over is much appreciated considering how you had to enter a code in the NES version to do so, making this version a bit friendlier and more prone to trial and error goodness. The difficult scales at a decent pace, with over forty levels to clear and the main challenge coming from how to make your way to the exit. Once you figure out the best route to the exit doors, clearing the stages can be real easy, and the faster you clear a stage, the more points you get as a bonus.
Unlike the NES game that came out a bit later, the levels in this Arcade version are totally different. A few are similar to the NES one, but most of them are different or remixed in certain ways, making this an interesting version to play even if you’ve already cleared the NES version. It also has a bigger focus on score chasing, retaining a local hi-score leaderboard which also works with the ACA online leaderboards.
Likewise, the Hi-Score and Caravan modes from other ACA games return and work just as you’d expect, though oddly enough the Caravan mode is based on the in-game mechanics since it triggers the Time Over once the timer wears out, instead of just interrupting the game like it would normally.
In conclusion, Solomon’s Key is a very solid puzzle platformer that holds up just as well today as it did back in the 80s. In fact, I honestly found this version to be vastly superior to the NES game, thanks to a better continue system, prettier visuals, and a focus on score-chasing.
Anyone who checked out the NES version either on Nintendo Switch Online or back in the day should really give this Arcade original a shot, since it’s surprisingly addictive. The speed focus is perfect for the caravan mode, making this game one of the most fitting for the score chasing mode in quite a while. It’s still a tricky game, but it’s much more fun than you may expect, and it’s great that Hamster brought this arcade gem to a new generation.
I give Arcade Archives Solomon’s Key a 7 out of 10.