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Duck Souls +

Duck Souls+ from Publisher Ratalaika Games and Developer Green Dinosaur Games

Enjoyable platformer. Hard mode is not for the faint of heart or impatient. Novices should definitely stick to casual.

A fast-paced platformer

You play as a yellow duck who has been sent by a group of ghost ducks (the Duck Souls) to find the duck eggs and keep them safe. Each level has one egg and is contained on a single screen. You’ll need to navigate from one side of the screen to the other to collect the duck egg. That’s all the narrative or story that’s present in the game.

You can jump off of the walls and dash to get to the higher areas on the levels. You can also use dash to jump over spikes, avoid other hazards, and break through walls. 

There are 100 levels in the game. Some of the levels are very simple and can be completed in 1 life while others are more challenging and are likely to require multiple attempts. The game has a great respawn system which puts you back in control the second after you die. It also has a death counter that you can see both when you die and once you complete the level. 

While playing through the 100 levels you will come across new challenges, themes, and  mechanics. We enjoyed the variety provided by these. They kept the game fresh and enjoyable so it didn’t feel overly repetitive. 

You are able to customize the look of your duck by changing the hat your character is wearing. You will unlock and collect hats while completing the levels. The hats are only cosmetic and provide no alteration to your character’s abilities. It would have been nice if the hats actually did something other than just change the look of the character. Some players will really enjoy the customization options these provide while others will find them pointless. 

You are able to pick between 2 different modes. Casual mode has checkpoints placed throughout the levels while Hard has no checkpoints so if you die you have to start that level over from the beginning.

The controls are easy to pick up and play as you can use the thumbstick or D-pad to navigate with depending on what is most comfortable for you or provides you with the best control. You can also aim your dash by using the same thumbstick or d-pad you use to move. Being able to aim dash is a requirement for successfully completing some of the more difficult levels. This was an interesting variation to the dash feature typically seen in platformers.

The pixel artstyle is colorful in the early stages. The themes in the game become darker in the later levels as you go deeper into the ground to recover the eggs. These changes in the theme from level to level correlated directly with the increasing difficulty. The early easy ones were bright and colorful and as the levels became more and more challenging the colors became darker and darker. It was fitting of both the narrative of being further underground and the intensity felt by the concentration required to complete the harder levels.

The audio is enjoyable. They have a relaxing soundtrack that helps keep you calm with simple sound effects for your movements. 

Each of the levels have their own interesting names based on video games and movies. Some are easy to get the reference while others are a little more obscure. A little Googling will help if you don’t quite get the reference. You might find something really cool.

The game is single player only with no leaderboards. Once you complete all 100 levels and unlock all of the hats there isn’t a reason to go back and replay the levels unless you want the challenge of Hard mode. 

Duck Souls + is available on Xbox One, PS4, PSVita and Nintendo Switch. A digital copy of this game was provided to SimpleGameReviews for the purposes of reviewing the game.

Red Death

Red Death from Publisher Eastasiasoft and Developer Panda Indie Studio

Classic retro feeling shmup.

A Retro shoot’em up 

You are the pilot of a small ship called Red 001 who is protecting the earth from invading aliens and an Egyptian god.

The game mostly follows the classic old school shoot ’em up formula. It has minimal story, getting hit once results in insta-death, and the game employs basic control mechanics for movement and action.

While playing you will be controlling your ship the whole time shooting enemies and flying through obstacles. Killing enemies will drop extra lives, weapons, and stars to power the overload meter. Once the overload meter is full you are able to use a special attack which does a massive amount of damage and will kill any of the bosses within seconds. It is a little OP but is needed to defeat the later bosses. Keep in mind if you get hit you lose everything. Not only do you lose a life, your weapon reverts to the starting weapons, and the overload meter starts over.

The game has an interesting choice for artstyle and display. It has a 4-tone color palette with pixel art graphics and splits the screen into 3 equal parts. On the left side you see your character and your score. The middle area displays the vertically-scrolling gameplay and the right side shows your remaining lives and the Overload meter. We feel that the choice for screen real estate would have been better if the gameplay area were larger and the other 2 sides were  half their current size. 

The gameplay can become challenging fast. The enemies will spawn in the same locations each time which helps you to learn the patterns and destroy the enemies shortly after they spawn on screen. The really challenging part comes from the sheer number of projectiles you have to avoid while trying to find a path that lets you actually hit the enemy. There is no “continue” option so once you run out of lives it’s game over and you have to start over. During the later levels you really get punished when you die as losing your weapons and overload meter might end your run. Without a full overload meter it’s near impossible to beat the bosses.

The game is pretty short with only 4 levels but will take a lot of patience, skill and luck to complete. Once you complete the game you are able to unlock the Arcade Mode which has randomized challenges.

Red Death is available on Xbox One, PS4 and Nintendo Switch. A digital copy of this game was provided to SimpleGameReviews for the purposes of reviewing the game.