Risk System from Publisher and Developer Newt Industries
Photosensitivity warning. Challenging but enjoyable retro style shmup with a couple of interesting mechanics.
In the distant future of A.D. 2149, a race of energy parasites have taken over mankind’s technology and are using it against them. The main character is Alys. She is piloting an experimental ship, the RSK9, and is on her way to prevent the extinction of mankind.
This is a challenging, side scrolling, shoot ’em up (shmup) with a twist. Like most shmups you need to kill the enemies, build up your meter for a special attack, and avoid enemy fire. The twist is the risk reward system they’ve introduced. Narrowly avoiding enemy fire allows you to absorb energy from their attacks. This supercharges your normal weapon and will fill your special attack meter much faster. There is an autofire option that is turned on by default. It will only fire when an enemy is in front of you which lets you focus on controlling the ship and avoiding attacks. We recommend leaving this turned on though there is an option to turn it off if you really want to.
Your special attack, “Barrier Breaker,” does a lot of damage to all of the enemies on screen and gives you temporary invulnerability. Powering it up as fast as you can will help a lot, especially on the more challenging levels.
The ship’s movement feels sluggish compared to some other shmup’s. Fortunately, they have a Barrel Roll maneuver for quick vertical movements. This helps to compensate for the otherwise reduced mobility. One button will have you barrel roll up and another to barrel roll down. It takes a little bit of time to get used to it, but once you do you’ll use it all the time.
Each of the levels ends with a boss fight that is very challenging as each attack from the boss does a lot of damage. These attacks are difficult to avoid but not impossible. You can also time your special just right to be invulnerable and avoid damage that way. Each boss has a different pattern that you will need to learn if you want to defeat them. Luckily, there is a good checkpoint system. When you die you are seamlessly respawned at the boss so you don’t have to replay any of the level. This rapid restart helps you learn their patterns.
After completing a level you are given a letter rank and the choice to retry for a higher rank or to continue to the next mission. To get maximum rank you essentially need to complete the level without taking any damage. It looks like there is an alternate ending if you achieve S rank on every level but we were unable to achieve this during our time playing the game.
The game has a retro pixel art style. The sound effects and music help capture that old school feel of playing hard shoot-em ups in the arcade or on the original consoles. We also really enjoyed the nod to the Metal Gear series that happens pre and post boss fight.
The game has a photosensitivity and seizure warning that is well deserved. It does have an option to turn off screen shake which helps a little. While our reviewer doesn’t have issues with photosensitivity they did find that there were a few times that it was hard to stare at the screen.
Overall it’s an enjoyable but challenging shoot em up.
Risk System is available on Xbox and Steam. A digital copy of this game was provided to SimpleGameReviews for the purposes of reviewing the game.
Active Neurons 3 from Publishers Sometimes You, Usanik STD and Developer Nikolai Usachev
Good puzzle game with great features, accessibility options, and enjoyable soundtrack.
Active Neurons – Wonders of the World is the third and final installment in the Active Neurons series. Being the third installment in the series it has most of the game mechanics from the previousgames as well as several that are new to this one. Like the previous games, new mechanics are introduced to the puzzles at a regular pace to keep them challenging and keep things interesting. A few of the new mechanics that we really enjoyed are one that lets you swap places with another square, another that gives you the option to turn some blocks on or off (both add a whole bunch of challenges), and a mini puzzle inside the level that locks off an area until you solve it.
One of the best new additions is the Step Back button which lets you “rewind” your moves. There is no limit to the amount of moves that you can rewind and you can do it all with the press of a button. This allows you to make a mistake without having to restart the entire level and is especially helpful during the later levels as the puzzles will require a lot of moves to complete.
Like the previous 2 games, solving the puzzle requires moving an energy block to the goal located elsewhere on the level. Once you press the direction you want the block to move, it will continue in that direction until it hits an obstacle. You will need to use these obstacles along with portals or the walls around the edge of the screen to help you maneuver through the level and solve the puzzle.
If you get really stuck on a puzzle there is the option to see the solution. This option has been present in all of the games and is one of the many staple mechanics to the series.
The game is broken down into 2 areas; the “Wonders of the World” which spans from the Great Pyramid of Giza to the Lighthouse of Alexandria (BC), and the “New 7 Wonders of the World” which covers from the Colosseum to Christ the Redeemer (AD). The New 7 Wonders of the World is where the difficulty really ramps up with new mechanics being introduced. Sometimes you’ll need to combine a few mechanics to solve the puzzles. There are 140 puzzles to complete between both areas.
They brought back the colorblind mode accessibility option from the first game. Sadly, the monochrome mode from the first game was not part of the comeback. The colorblind mode is extremely useful and we recommend using it whether you’re colorblind or not as it adds icons to all of the interactive blocks making it easier to know what each of them does.
There is a great relaxing soundtrack that comes in handy when you start to get frustrated with the harder puzzles. It works well with the minimalistic art style.
Overall the game is enjoyable, the puzzles are challenging, and it’s a good ending to the series. Since there’s not really a “story” you don’t need to have played the previous games to enjoy this one.
Active Neurons 3 – Wonders Of The World is available on Xbox, Playstation and Nintendo Switch. A digital copy of this game was provided to SimpleGameReviews for the purposes of reviewing the game.
Kick it, Bunny from Publisher and Developer DillyFrameGames
More bunny kicking things around and trying to solve block puzzles. Bunny redesign potentially the stuff of nightmares.
This is the next game in the Kicking Bunny Series of games from DillyFrame. They’ve made a change to the character design of the titular bunny and this time around you will be kicking around tetris-esqu puzzle pieces to rotate and place them on a puzzle board in the specified shape.
All of the puzzles are stone figures that have been destroyed. Your job is to rebuild the 50 figures by kicking the pieces back together and rotating them into the correct shape. Most of the puzzles/figures are animal themed. You will have to travel all over the large open world as the puzzles are scattered all over the map. As you complete each puzzle a large green check mark will be placed on it when you view the map. This is very helpful for knowing which ones are still left to be completed. While traveling around you can take a break from the puzzles to play a game of soccer or sit in a chair and relax for a bit.
There are several other animals in the world that you can interact with. Some of the animals are friendly while others are not. The not-so-friendly animals can be a bit of a pain as they will come after you and kick you randomly. When you are kicked you are pushed back and stunned making you unable to move for a few seconds. This can be annoying when you are trying to complete a puzzle and get attacked by an alligator, or a hippo comes and kicks a puzzle piece out of its way.
For some reason they’ve redesigned the main character. The bunny has less comical proportions now and is a more “natural” color. But its face is a bit scary like something from a childhood nightmare. Fortunately, when you’re playing the actual game you don’t see your character’s face much since you’re primarily behind him looking at where you’re kicking the puzzle pieces.
Some of the puzzles can be completed in about 5-10 minutes depending on the player. While others can take upwards of 10-15 minutes, again depending on the player. Luckily there is the option to “restart level” which comes in handy if you overthink the puzzle and just want to reset it.
The kicking mechanic can be a little tedious at times at it doesn’t always do what you want it to or expect it to. For puzzles like this, we would prefer a top down view and directly selecting and manipulating the puzzle pieces instead of navigating a character around them and kicking them around.
Overall the game is enjoyable for what it is as the puzzles can be challenging but still accessible for gamers of all ages.
Kick It, Bunny is available on Xbox and Steam. A digital copy of this game was provided to SimpleGameReviews for the purposes of reviewing the game.
Butterfly from Publisher Xitilon and Developer Grin Robot
Very basic platformer. Issues with the controls and a few other things. At least it’s short.
A puzzle platformer where you play as a caterpillar on their journey to become a butterfly. You will make your way through 40 levels on your journey collecting the many flowers scattered around the levels while avoiding hazards.
Unlike most platformers, this game does not have a jump mechanic. Instead, you can fall and bounce off other objects like bees, selectively marked blocks, and blocks floating in the water. You can only bounce off each object one time. They disappear after being bounced on. You will also use tubes to move around the screen. New mechanics are introduced as you progress to keep a sense of challenge and interest.
Most of the puzzles are very simple to figure out. The “puzzle” is really all about planning your moves before getting too far into the level. Path selection is vital to successful completion. Fortunately, resetting the levels is quick and easy since it’s highly likely you’ll need more than one attempt to get the order right on your path selection and on later levels to get the timing and control right on some of the more difficult platforming parts.
The controls made the game harder than it needed to be. There is no option to use the D-pad which means you have to use a thumbstick for all movements. There is also an issue that causes your character to stutter at times when moving. This became a big problem on some of the later levels that required precise platforming.
The gameplay area has a 4:3 aspect ratio which leaves a large amount of screen real estate empty on modern displays. Between the aspect ratio and the graphics, we were reminded of gaming back on Windows 3.1.
We ran into an issue on a later level that was game breaking making it impossible to complete the level. Since there is no level numbering or level select we’re not really sure which level this was. We have reported it to the publisher who advised that they will be releasing an update that should make the level completable shortly after release if not on day 1.
Update 01-30-2021: The game breaking issue we ran into on the later level has been patched and the game is now able to be completed.
Butterfly will be available on Xbox. A digital copy of this game was provided to SimpleGameReviews for the purposes of reviewing the game.
ReactorX from Publisher Xitilon and Developer Lovixsama
Short and easy but enjoyable 2D puzzle game.
This is a top down 2D puzzle game. The narrative premise for the puzzles is repairing your spaceship by rerouting power. This is done by pushing or pulling the reactors located on the floor to power the corresponding colored floor.
There are a couple of key mechanics to successfully solve the puzzles. One of these is that the reactors are directional. The top of the reactor block indicates which of the 4 possible directions it sends power. It also shows you what color floor it works with. The other key mechanic is that you can change the color of the reactors by charging them with a different colored laser. Caution: Lasers are fine for reactors but deadly to players. Fortunately, the game provides a magnet function that allows you to pull blocks out from in front of the lasers so you can avoid walking into them while pushing the blocks out of the way.
There are a total of 30 puzzles to complete. Most of them are very easy to solve and provide little challenge. That said, it’s totally possible to overthink them and make it harder on yourself. The new mechanics and additional levels of challenge were well paced throughout the game. The only real difficulty spike was with the final level.
The game has a relaxing soundtrack that we found enjoyable. It is easy to pick up and play with simple but well done controls and a pixel art style. Overall the game is enjoyable but a little short as there are only 30 levels and depending on the player it can be completed in under 30-60 minutes.
ReactorX is available on Xbox. A digital copy of this game was provided to SimpleGameReviews for the purposes of reviewing the game.