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One of a Kind - Solaris

On 09/19/2020 at 05:04 PM by Matt Snee

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Solaris (having no relation to the Stanislaw Lem book or Russian film) was released for the Atari 2600 in 1986. Originally meant to be a game version of the hit film The Last Starfighter, it was developer by Doug Neubauer, who still owns the rights. For this reason, Solaris has never been included on any of the many Atari compilations that have been released over the years, and probably never will be. The only way to play this game is to have the original cartridge, or with a hacked rom. 

Solaris was my favorite Atari game growing up, and I still believe it has the best graphics for a 2600 game, and some of the best sound effects. It's a pretty complicated game too, with multiple screens/levels and different mechanics. Players are tasked with flying through different zones in space (selectable from a map). Once an area is chosen, the player will fly through space and destroy enemies, or visit a friendly planet and refuel, or visit an enemy planet and rescue space cadets. There are also "red zones", which are completely controlled by the evil enemy Zylon aliens, and here the controls of the joystick are reversed, resulting in a disorienting, difficult experience. 

I was really into sci-fi stuff as a kid, mostly due to Star Wars (thanks for nothing, George Lucas), so this game really captured my imagination. While a lot of it is repeating environments, it really felt immense at the time, and I was dazzled by it. 

I haven't played it in over twenty years, and I probably wouldn't enjoy it as much now, but it still saddens me that people can't experience this game like Asteroids, or Defender, or other classics easily available. 



Cary Woodham

09/20/2020 at 08:08 AM

Don't think I've ever played Solaris, but I've heard about it a lot.  My favorite 2600 game is Pressure Cooker from Activision.  You should try it if you ever get a chance.  It's surprisingly complex for a 2600 game!

Matt Snee Staff Writer

09/21/2020 at 10:03 PM

you know, I had never heard of Pressure Cooker until you mentioned it a while back. Is it on any compilations?

Cary Woodham

09/22/2020 at 08:20 AM

It's on Activision Anthology on PS2.  That's actually one of the best classic collections out there to this day!


09/21/2020 at 01:12 PM

My best friend who was my Atari 2600 go-to got this in the last year the 2600 was the main system before he got a NES. This game was pretty amazing for its time. You'd have never thought just a couple of years earlier that the 2600 was capable of running a game like Solaris. The worst parts of the game were those "snake" enemies that would materialize out of thin air and were incredibly hard to hit. Especially if your base planet was destroyed, which would cause the screen to be red with constant lightning flashing and your controls to be inverted while you were on that map. I had Star Raiders on the Atari XE, so I got into the Solaris game pretty well. I do wish it was available on the Atari Flashback Classics on Switch.

Matt Snee Staff Writer

09/21/2020 at 10:04 PM

Yeah, I really would like to play it again, even if only for five minutes. Such a shame. 


09/23/2020 at 07:24 PM

It always seems like an improved sequel to Star Raiders to me. I would love to play it. 

Matt Snee Staff Writer

09/23/2020 at 09:41 PM

you know, I've never played or possessed Star Raiders, but I've heard a lot about it. I'll always have nostalgia for the Atari. 


09/24/2020 at 07:03 PM

Me too. It was my first console (I'm not counting Pong).


09/29/2020 at 03:35 PM

Wait is this why there is no Last Starfighter video game? Man I loved that movie. Solaris really has Gyruss vibes with the graphics, and sounds. As someone with only small amounts of time with a 2600 the graphics look really good.

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