Solomon's Key was an arcade game
produced by Tecmo
, better known for Tecmo Bowl
and the Ninja Gaiden
series. One conversion has been published for the NES
and two for Gameboy
(the first under the title Solomon's Club, the second quite recent, though bearing the Monster Rancher
name). The NES version is the best known, though the arcade version is cool. All versions play similarly, but have different secrets.
Solomon's Key is one of the most fiendishly difficult of all video puzzle games, even out-evil-ing the infamous Adventures of Lolo series. Every level, of around fifty in each game, is one side-view screen consisting of the player, a small wizard named Dana, unbreakable white blocks, breakable yellow blocks, items, monsters, and most importantly, a key and a door.
The idea is to avoid monsters and place blocks to enable you to reach the key, and then do the same thing in order to reach the door. Dana's abilities along these lines are that he can place or destroy yellow blocks in certain ways using his wand, he can jump up to one block high and break blocks overhead Mario-style, and he can also fry enemies with the limited supply of fireballs he may acquire during the game. As is typical with this genre, the monsters all move in easily predictable patterns, which often must be exploited in ingenious ways in order to proceed.
Solomon's Key is especially noteworthy for being one of the most secret-laden of all video games. In addition to containing such a wide variety of cool special items that it has been termed "The thinking-man's Bubble Bobble," in addition to containing a large number of secret rooms that most people never even see, the best ending of the NES version can only be found by carefully finding all of a fair number of very obscure secret items, "Solomon's Seals," scattered throughout the game on one play, leading the way to even-more-secret rooms so well hidden that, compared to them, the warp zones in Super Mario Brothers are helpfully located three blocks down the road, by the drugstore, with copious road signs written in flashing neon pointing the way.
Despite high difficulty, however, the game will always have a soft spot in my heart for its excellent standards in design and play.