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I Beat Solaris

 

for the Atari 2600

Yes, it can be done.  After over a decade of trying with my best friend and brother, I finally beat it.  I had to cheat, though.  This web page is devoted to beating Solaris (in my opinion the best video game ever programmed for the Atari 2600 VCS) with and without cheating.

For those of you who own the game already you can legally download the binary and view the instructions and cover, all of which I stole from videogames.org.  If you don't own the game then I guess you can download it for 24 hours or something.  For more roms check out the categories I organize at NewHoo.
 

What is Solaris?

The game:
Solaris is an almost-first-person game of interstellar liberation.  It is complicated and can be confusing.  As the game starts you take off from a colonized world and must decide your next destination or battle on a map (which appears on your Galactic Scanner).  Your galaxy is made up of 16 quadrants, each of which has 16 sectors.  After warping from sector to sector, cleaning up this quadrant of the galaxy and maybe refueling at the colony, you warp to a new quadrant in one of four directions.  Of course, none of these quadrants are charted and you have no idea of how to get home and no idea what a quadrant will look like before you visit it, or even how many quadrants there are between you and home.

You start with three ships (lives) and some fuel.  Running out of fuel results in death.  Fuel is used when flying in battle, when warping between sectors and quadrants (the more you ship's images are apart the more fuel is burnt), when viewing the Galactic Scanner (one bit is used every time the timer resets) and fuel powers your shields so the more damage you take from enemies or asteroids the more fuel you use.

Read the instructions for how to earn new lives and such.  Points are meaningless but are scored none-the-less.  By plugging in a joystick to the second port on your Atari, one may toggle between battles and the Galactic Scanner by pressing joystick 2's fire button.

Most atari players aren't expecting such a complicated game and so give Solaris poor reviews after minutes of play, but those who give it a chance rank it as one of the best games ever.

The plot:
Evil aliens are conquering your galaxy and are poised to slaughter your civilization.  You are the only chance your people have.  You must navigate different sectors of the galaxy, stopping at colonies along the way, hyper jumping between sectors, until you find and free your planet.

Why I Made This Page:
I wrote this web page to help other lovers of Solaris who could never beat it.  However, I don't want to ruin the game for anyone, so I will not include a description or pictures of the ending.  Also, I provide the solution in two parts: the first any avid player should already know, the second shows the rest.

I have reviewed a few Atari 2600 emulators.

I give a way to cheat using one of the emulators.

Then I give my solution to Solaris.  The first half is my idea of where to go and what to do and a graphical map of the first part of the game - the part I assume most players have already seen for themselves.  Then, I show the rest of the solution.

If anyone has won this game on the real Atari without cheating, I haven't met them, and I'm not sure I would believe them, but I would LOVE to hear from them.

If you happen to own the Atari Connections issue about Solaris (#9?) could you please e-mail me about what it says?  I'd rather not buy a back issue if it doesn't tell me anything I haven't already written here.

Cheating with PCAE

After many hours of using the integrated debugger I finally figured out the RAM address that Solaris stores the number of lives in.  Assuming you've installed and setup PCAE, to give yourself more lives: Thanks to PCAE 2.1a, you don't have to do this much work to cheat.  You can simply save and load your game at will.  Strangely, PCAE is the only Atari 2600 emulator in the world that offers saving, and it only offered it recently.  I e-mailed other emulator programmers long ago, but no one thought saving was an important feature.
 

How to win (Part 1 of 2)

This is MY guide on how to win.  You do not need to follow this exactly, but it is what I think is best...  But then again I haven't tested it that thoroughly.  If you think otherwise then tell me why.  It may be easier to ignore free lives as it's easy to die trying to win free lives.  Of course, if you are cheating you don't really need to worry about free lives.

All I will reveal here is the sequence of moves between maps and suggestions of what to do.  Map are numbered based on the order I first drew them in the late 80s.  From the beginning:

1: East
5: Get a new life (save 1 man) and go West
1: West
5: North
6: Kill everything you can, go West
7: (Corridor has 2 doors.) Go North.
8: (Corridor has 2 doors.)  Get new life (2 men) go West.
6: Get new life (3 men), Take wormhole, Get new life (3 men), Kill fed planet, Go West
7: North
8: Take wormhole, Go North
3: Get new life, go South.
8: East
 

The first eight maps

1) 2) 3)

4) 5) 6)

7) 8)
 

Table of warps between maps

From
North
East
South
West
1
4
5
2
5
2
1
3
3
4
3
2
4
8
2
4
7
2
1
3
5
6
1
6
1
6
5
8
5
7
7
8
6
4
4
8
3
9
7
6
Red = one-way warp

If you haven't play Solaris much then I suggest you go play with this information before reading any further.

How to win (Part 2 of 2)

Here is the rest of the sequence and map to win.  The sequence is the only way I know how to win, but it is kind of disturbing for an atari game...  Maybe I played wrong...  You'll see what I mean.

9: (Coor. has 5 doors) Take wormhole to avoid Cobra Ships, North
11: (Coor. has 5 doors) West
12: new life (2 men) North (must kill fed planet)
14: Take wormhole only if it is 1 square from the right (they move), new life (2 men), North
16: (Coor. has 5 doors), East
15: South
11: The End
 

The last eight maps

  9) 10) 11)

12) 13) 14)

15) 16)
 

Table of warps between maps

From
North
East
South
West
9
11
10
16
X
10
12
12
13
9
11
15
13
9
12
12
14
11
10
10
13
10
14
15
11
14
16
16
12
13
15
13
11
11
16
16
9
15
14
14
Red = one-way warp

It took me 10 years to learn what took you 5 minutes to read, but Solaris is worth it.


Last updated 6/1/99
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