The Upside to Mario Games

Classic Game Review: Solomon’s Key 1987

King Solomon’s treasure is what you’re seeking, but the wily old king has defended it well – before reaching the riches you have to pass through some 20 caverns, each featuring an arrangement of stone blocks, an exit, a key and hidden bonus objects. In some ways Solomon’s Key is a sort of Boulder dash in reverse – instead of clearing a pathway to success, you have to build one.

Yet another in the current crop of US Gold arcade licences arrives, this time a coin-op game from TECMO. The people behind RYGAR amongst others, and yes, it’s those busy boys at Probe Software who are responsible for the home versions.

Every screen is a little puzzle in its own right – a route has to be found to the exit door, and at the start it’s not obvious. Some of the blocks that form walkways are immovable, whereas others can be magic away and recreated elsewhere with a wave of your wand – blocks can be created or destroyed in six directions by ‘waving’ the wand and pressing fire. Blocks may be disposed of. Super Mario Bros style, by head butting them twice, and hidden bonus objects or potions are often revealed. By drinking a potion the otherwise defenceless character gains a fireball to throw at the creatures scurrying through the screen.


Most of King Solomon’s guardians move in predictable patterns – some simply turn around when they hit stone, while others breathe fire to destroy anything blocking their path. All are deadly and best avoided, but look out for the fairies that make the occasional appearance – capturing one confers an extra life.

To progress from one screen to the next, the key has to be collected so the door can be unlocked – and in most cases this task is far from easy to complete, as there is a time limit to beat. Time remaining on the clock as you leave a screen is converted into bonus points.


Each level has many rewards which will have to be found or won by the players such as first few levels player will storm through battle grounds and underworlds, end of each level you will be rewarded with a small amount of treasure that can be used for road ahead.

Killing creatures using might and magic can earn you different rewards too, if you kill several windy creatures using tactics as sword instead of magic you will be rewarded with less treasure than if you killed them using magic. How ever it’s vice versa using magic against strong ground foes.

Solomon’s Key is in a similar vein to Bubble Bobble – it’s simplistic but immensely playable, and requires an unusual combination of fast reactions and quick, logical thinking.

It is a truly inspiring game and some of this games attributes are seen being used on modern games such as God of War, Dante’s Inferno, Prince of Persia and many more.

Considering graphics and game play I will rate it 4 out of 5.

More Classic games reviews coming soon.
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