Solaris is a space combat game designed and developed by Doug Neubauer and published by Atari Corporation in 1986. It is supposedly a sequel to Star Raiders, and does contain similar elements, but features a third-person viewpoint this time, rather than first-person. Solaris is one of the most technically-impressive games on the Atari 2600 and is a far cry from the early games released for the system.
Gameplay in Solaris revolves around clearing 16 quadrants of hostile Zylon forces. Each quadrant is divided into a grid of 48 sectors, some of which contain enemies; some contain planets, and others have nothing in them (indicated by dots which I assume represent stars) and these you can’t move into. The layout of the sectors, in effect, creates a maze that you can move through, and your ultimate aim is to warp through and explore this space maze to find the planet Solaris from where you must rescue some colonists. When you rescue the colonists on Solaris the game ends in victory.
Battles begin when you enter a sector with Zylon spacecraft. First you must destroy attacking forces, then destroy the Zylon flagship and avoid the fuel-sapping drones that they shoot at you. Managing your fuel is crucial to an effective campaign. When you warp between sectors you have to stay on course to conserve fuel and to do that you basically follow a ‘ghost’ version of your ship during the warp. If you stray too far away from the ghost then your fuel will drain more quickly. You can, however, re-fuel by descending onto a planet (if there are any) and entering through the doors of a small, red base.
Solaris is one of those games that looks very basic but does have some depth – a bit like the original Star Raiders – which does make it an absorbing game if you’re prepared to learn how to play it properly (although don’t depend on the manual for help – use this map instead). As I said earlier: Solaris does look impressive for an Atari 2600 game and will appeal to those who like space combat games. The game is still fairly simple, though, so – like all 2600 games – don’t expect too much and you might be pleasantly surprised by it.
More: Solaris on Wikipedia
More: Solaris on dougneubauer.com