Saturday, July 23, 2011

The Top 30 Hardest NES Games Ever. Day 23

Solomon's Key

Go ahead and post your hate mail to the comment section of this entry.  So many people had this one pegged as #1 for this list, but baby, it ain't even close.  I'm not saying Solomon's Key is easy, far from it, but I am saying that it is much more beatable than its reputation.  Heck Solomon's Key isn't even the hardest puzzle game on the list (that's for tomorrow).  What Solomon's Key is, however, is one tough puzzle game that, like Mutant Virus yesterday, wants both your attention and you reflexes.
You better run, squirrel!

Solomon's Key is an extremely intelligently designed puzzle game that asks you to find your way out of a room by locating a magic key and then figuring out how to reach the door it unlocks.  In the path of your success are many different kinds of monsters, a time limit and of course the puzzles themselves. Picking up faeries along the way will grant you extra lives and other power-ups are there to help you solve the puzzles by destroying enemies or adjusting your time limit.  Your only real ability in the game is to magically create or destroy earthen blocks.  You  must use this ability to solve each room's puzzle, find the key, and leave.

Top: The Puzzle, Bottom: The Solution
The puzzles are the meat of Solomon's Key and the sole source of the game's difficulty.  And these puzzles are daunting.  Some ask you to stretch your brain to its limits others demand swift reflexes and the most insidious of the lot insist upon both.  Some puzzles are straightforward action: dodge enemies while making a mad dash for the key and then door.  Others are more plodding and want you to carefully construct or deconstruct a structure made from your blocks.  Some want you to face enemies head on, others force you to seek ways around the bad guys.  No two puzzles are the same, even thematically, and there isn't necessarily only one solution for each puzzle.  It takes many, many tries to learn how to solve each room and each puzzle, and in many cases the solution isn't obvious, even after many tries.  Quite often a room will seem impossible and completely unsolvable, but trust me, it isn't, the solution just hasn't come to you yet.  I have been there several times, especially after Room 17.

There are no continues in Solomon's Key (not without cheating anyway) and with 50 total rooms in the game, you can expect to become a master at the earlier rooms pretty quickly.  As a matter of fact, that might be why the game isn't #1 on this list.  Once you learn to solve a room, it's solved.  Oh, sure you have to do everything all over again, but the legwork of figuring out what works and what doesn't is already in the can.  When you know what you have to do, executing that isn't so tough (admittedly, some rooms are still a beast, but the real difficulty stems from figuring out what to do, not doing it).  So, you actually do become a master of the earlier rooms, and pretty soon that means rooms 1-15 and beyond as you delve deeper into the game. What's more, once you know the rooms inside and out, and the location of the shrines, you can use that to your advantage to stockpile extra lives and power-ups that make your job in the new, tougher rooms, just a little bit easier.  You can easily get to room 20 with 9 extra lives, and having all of those extra tries at that level means you can experiment a little more without having to worry about the big start over.

In my 5 hours of playing Solomon's Key for this project, I was able to make it to room 21 (out of 50) on a fairly consistent basis.  The funny this is, rooms I thought were impossible soon became routine once I had solved them, and I was getting through them with little effort.  It was always the new room that was beating me down.  However, with sufficient practice and trial and error, the solution for each room can be found and accomplished.  Solomon's Key is definitely one of the top 10 hardest NES games ever, but maybe not as hard as some people claim.  Send hate!
Thomas Jefferson once said Roger Sherman was "a man who never said a foolish thing in his life. "  See, don't take my word for it!  Listen to Roger Sherman for the love of God!  He signed the Declaration of Independence and like every other historical document of the period!  Sheesh!

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