Solomon's Key

The NES cover art for Tecmo's Solomon's Key!

Solomon's Key is a puzzle/platformer game developed by Tecmo in 1986 as an arcade title, but later released for star consoles like the Commodore 64, NES, Sega Master System, and Famicom. The plot is astonishgly simple: you play as a guy named Dana (...I guess kind of like Dana Carvey?), a magician who goes on a quest to retrieve Solomon's Key (ohhh, I get it now) to restore light to the world after it has been overrun by demons. To do this, he must venture through 50 rooms by creating and destroying blocks to reach keys, and then getting to the door in each room to progress.

The only reason I took a chance on this game was because I continually saw some poster picture for its sequel on the homepage of, and I thought I might as well try one of them. I was actually pretty surprised by the level of challenge and how much I enjoyed it.

Let's outline the major probelms first: for one thing, you don't get neraly enough offensive capability. I know, I know, that would make it too much of an action game if you could just blast away everything in your way, but you should have been able to use a sort of fireball spell that could take out enemies right in front of you! Sometimes you could get some random power-up that gave you the ability to use one fireball that could skim the walls and kill any enemy in one hit, which was cool, but I didn't know the exact way of getting it, and you can only hold three at a time. I just think it would have been nice if you could defend yourself somehow.

Secondly, there's really no way to gain lives, and you only have three. This is yet another example of my frustration with ported arcade games that make the session stupidly short because of their origins, despite the fact that you're at home, and have already paid for everything in advance. Why not just go to the arcade and play?

Not only that, but you have one-hit kills from any attack and if you run out of time, another one-hit kill. Luckily, the levels are pretty short when you have a strategy, and there is a power-up to increase time. This makes the situation a little less frustrating, but they make a point of throwing a ton of concerns at you.

On the other hand, there were a few good aspects of the game. First, I just think the whole idea is really clever and inspired. This isn't just an ordinary NES title that reminds you of another one that came before it; this is original stuff, and the method of gameplay fits it perfectly.

The idea of being able to use blocks as your main ability is nicely unexpected, and it's a challenging task making your way through the enemies with just that. What's even better is that it is entirely possible and probable, as long as you learn from your mistakes and know what you're capable of in each situation, which is entire point of games. All I wish is that they were a little more lenient considering the fact that you continually had to adapt and could easily mess up, in which case you would get sent back to square one.

Solomon's Key is currently available on the Wii's Virtual Console, so the question is, do I support those who are interested in buying it? Well, first I kind of want to make it clear that I don't recommend you go out of your way to buy this. For those who are interested in getting it, I'd say buy it only if you aren't interested in any other genres, and if you can't find anything else that seems as satisfying. I do know that you just get an insurmountable feeling when you see a game you'll enjoy it, but in this case, be sure to make a considered decision.