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A Summer With The Shiba Inu

A Summer With The Shiba Inu from Publisher Ratalaika Games and Developer Quill Studios

A long story with a nice soundtrack. Convenient mechanics for scrolling back to reread passages. Lots of Dog puns.

A Visual Novel with Puns

This is a visual novel set in a world of dogs. It is riddled with canine puns which are amusing at first but some of them seem to be trying a little too hard at times. They used a lot of flashbacks to tell the story which made it a little confusing at some points and hard to follow. It would have been better with less re-reading needed if there was a clearer indication of what is a flashback and what is present day. We actually restarted the game at one point to try and see what we had missed because we got lost about what was happening. There is a button on the bottom of the screen that will show you to see all of the conversation logs as well as the choices you made. We used this several times later in the game when we got confused and needed to go back and reread what happened. This became almost overwhelming toward the end as the story is over 70,000 words long. 

The game has several endings for the story. The choices you make while playing through the story will determine the ending you receive. This adds a level of replayability to the game. 

They have an auto-play mechanic that allows you to be hands free and just read along with the story. The dialog is purely text based. There is no voice acting. The only sound you’ll hear is the soundtrack and an occasional “dog sound”. We found the soundtrack to be pleasant and varied. It added to the relaxed feeling of sitting back and reading a novel. 

The art work for the backgrounds looks a lot like photographs that have had an effect applied to them to make them look painted. The characters also looked a lot like photos with painted effects added just not to the same degree. Oddly, the clothes that the dogs are wearing looked like they’d been photoshopped onto the animals without having the blurring painted effect applied to them. 

A Summer with the Shiba Inu 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.

Task Force Kampas

Task Force Kampas from Publisher Eastasiasoft and Developer Casiopea Wave

Fairly short and straightforward SHMUP with good boss battles. A few missed opportunities that could’ve enhanced game play but still enjoyable for what it is.

A vertical shoot em up

Task Force Kampus is a vertical shmup. There are 5 different pilots or characters to choose from, each with their own bonuses. 2 of the 5 pilots are unlockable characters. You’ll need to complete the game for one of them and get enough coco collectibles (more about these later) to unlock the other one. The pilots all have their own individual and interesting looks but you only see the pilot when selecting it at the beginning and they all fly the same ship just in different colors. While the different options for pilots and their bonuses are great it seems like they missed an opportunity to add additional layers and options to the game by not allowing you to choose your ship or giving the ships any stat differences themselves.  

The screen has been split into 3 equal parts with the gameplay in the middle part and the sides left completely blank. Both Task Force Kampas and Red Death (previously reviewed HERE) are from the same Publisher Eastasiasoft. Both games seem to waste a lot of screen real estate but this may be a side effect of the need to limit the width of the play area in a shmup.

The game has an interesting mechanic that gives you hp regeneration for your ship if you can hold off on firing or taking damage for a set amount of time. It appears that hp regen delay is different for each of the pilots. This stat would be nice to know when choosing your pilot.

There are 3 bosses you will fight while working your way through the game. The boss battles are enjoyable and they appear to each have their own theme songs that play while fighting them (some of the songs are better than others). Each of the bosses has a movement and attack pattern that can be figured out pretty easily. Once you catch onto the pattern you can see where to position yourself on screen to avoid taking damage so you can hang out there and heal up. If you’re able to figure out the pattern the game is pretty short and can be completed in about 10 minutes depending on player skill. 

Meteors and enemies have a chance to drop the in-game collectible, Coco, when destroyed. A coco is a golden dinosaur. These collectibles add to your score and if you collect enough of them you will be rewarded with a flying coco wearing a helmet that is tethered to your ship who will attack enemies. These are also what you need to collect enough of to unlock one of the pilots as a playable selection.

There is a High Score leaderboard present in the game and it does have stats showing how many wins, deaths, and most cocos collected. Another missed opportunity here, the leaderboard is local only and only shows the top 3. We are glad they included a leaderboard so we can see our stats but would have loved to see it as an online leaderboard to be able to compare scores with friends and globally. 

Task Force Kampas is available on Xbox One, PS4, PS Vita and Nintendo Switch. A digital copy of this game was provided to SimpleGameReviews for the purposes of reviewing the game.

Active Neurons

Active Neurons from Publisher Sometimes You and Developer Nikolai Usachev

Relaxing music, challenging puzzles, excellent accessibility options

A logic puzzle

Each puzzle is contained within a single screen. You’ll need to move an energy block to the flashing goal located elsewhere on the screen. Once you press the direction you want the block to move it will move until it hits an obstacle. To solve the puzzles you will need to use these obstacles or the walls around the edge of the screen to help you maneuver through the level. 

There are 120 puzzles to enjoy and several unique game mechanics that are introduced as you progress through the levels. The idea of neurons and the neurological pathways through the brain and body are represented through the menus and level selection format. Completing puzzles fills a neuron and when the neuron is full you get to progress to the next set of puzzles. 

The Brain levels are where you start and are a good introduction to the game’s mechanics. After the first section they start to introduce various obstacles, some of which can kill you. This gives the player the opportunity to get familiar with how to move around and solve the puzzles.

Once you’ve progressed far enough and are making your way through the Body, the levels start to become very challenging and can be failed from your first move. That may sound odd but for most of these levels your block begins from a location in the middle somewhere that can never be returned to since your block will always travel as far as it can until it runs into something. Luckily you can restart any level if you find yourself stuck or put yourself into an unsolvable position. The level reloads in seconds which is great and keeps you playing.

If you get really stuck on a puzzle there is the option to see the solution for the puzzle at the press of a button. That is a nice option to have and is conveniently located right beside the restart button. If you like the challenge of actually figuring things out for yourself, be careful when restarting levels as it is easy to accidentally select the solution button instead. 

The soundtrack is great and relaxing with mellow tunes. This was a good choice for helping players stay cool when the harder levels lead to frustration from repeated failure.

There is a color blind option as well which was great to see and really well done. It adds icons to all of the interactive blocks letting you know what each of them does. It makes it very easy to know what will happen when you hit the blocks. We actually preferred playing with this feature turned on just to make it easier to see what effect all of the blocks would have. 

There is also a monochrome mode if you want to use it. This makes all the blocks shades of grey instead of different colors. You can pair monochrome mode with color blind mode so the icons will still appear.

The majority of the game can also easily be played with just the left thumbstick with occasional presses of the A button. This and the above mentioned colorblind mode make it very friendly for anyone with accessibility needs.

The game is very enjoyable. It scratches the puzzle itch and makes you feel good when you figure out a difficult puzzle. Once you have completed the puzzles there is little to no replayability as there are no leaderboards, challenges, or time trials. Some would consider this a good thing while others may find they miss having a reason to replay levels. 

Active Neurons 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.

Woodle Tree 2 Deluxe Plus

Woodle Tree 2 Deluxe Plus from Publisher Chubby Pixel and Developer Fabio Ferrara

A cute platformer unfortunately plagued with glitches. Some can be worked around, some can be game breaking.

An open world 3d platformer.

You play as Woodle whose world has been taken over by a dark slime. The slime has taken the Water Tears from the Sage Protector trees turning them to stone and is stealing color from the world. Woodle has been sent to recover the Water Tears and save everyone.

As with most open world games, each of the levels (8 in total) are accessible at any time but the later ones are easier to access after purchasing Power Ups, Items, and higher tier Leaves. 

The game has 2 forms of currency; Red and Blue Berries. You collect these while moving around the game and exploring. Red Berries respawn but Blue Berries do not. Some of them are hiding behind destructible objects like leaf blocks. You’ll use the currency to purchase upgrades for your character and weapon as well as on customization options. There are shops in the main plaza for upgrades and for the customizations. You can buy hats that give bonuses and make moving around the levels a little easier while the masks are just cosmetic. 

Your only weapon in the game is a leaf that you carry with you. It is your weapon and is also used to transport droplets of water. The droplets can be placed on seedlings to make them grow which makes them climbable and gives access to higher areas. We encountered a lot of issues climbing up the “beanstalks”. We would often clip through them and fall back to the ground again. This made them into a barely usable mechanic. More often than not, we would have to do a jump/glide/climb combination to get up to the higher area. 

There are different strengths for your leaf. These are color coded for Power and Damage. You start out with a Green Leaf and end up with a Blue Leaf. All of the leaves are able to do a charged shot by holding the attack button. The upgraded leaves do more damage and have a larger charged shot. Combat is very simple and ends up basically a button masher. There are some enemies that cannot be destroyed and will need to be avoided. As we got further into the game we started avoiding most enemies just to save time.

In addition to the different colored leaves dealing more damage and having larger charged shots, you also need different colored leaves to break different colored leaf blocks. The higher level leaves will break leaf blocks of the same color and all the lower tier colors. Many of these higher tier leaf blocks are covering entrances to hidden areas. Most of these areas will have Blue Berries for you to collect. We ran into occasional issues with leaf blocks “breaking” but not actually being removed which prevented us from accessing some areas. Sometimes reloading the area would allow the block to be broken and actually removed. 

The controls are basic and responsive which is always nice to see. The basic mechanics of the game (jump, double/triple jump, glide, and attack) all work well and can be combined to give you a lot of mobility. 

The music is upbeat and relaxing and the background atmosphere sounds capture the feel of the location you are in. They also have fun musical sound effects for collecting Berries but the amount of sound effects for every action you take can start to get a little overwhelming. This can be adjusted to some extent by adjusting your audio settings. 

While playing you will come across musicians locked up in cells made of slime. If you choose to free them you will be rewarded which is good and makes the extra time spent finding and carrying a droplet of water over to the cell worth the hassle. 

The game also has drop in and out local co-op for up to 4 players. The second player gets to play as an adorable fox. Player 3 and 4 get to be a beaver and strange green thing that we’re not quite sure what it is. The fox is by far the cutest. He was so cute we wished we could’ve used it as our main character instead of Woodle. 

There are also challenge areas located all over the world that you can complete to save the Sacred Flowers. You’ll step on a teleporter and be sent to a new world to complete the challenge area. The areas are more challenging than any other part of the game. The checkpoints are far apart and the platforming is quite difficult. If you want to attempt these we recommend waiting until you’re fully upgraded. The Sacred Flowers don’t appear to have any in game purpose which makes these more difficult areas entirely optional. 

The artstyle is cartoonish with bright colors for the environment, characters, and enemies. It looks very much like a kid friendly game.

Each area is a different setting with its own theme and feel. The themes are done well, some are better than others. The ice area has ice physics which causes your character to slide around and adds a twist to the platforming. Sadly you only see this mechanic used in the one ice/snow area.

There are a few camera issues where the camera clips into the wall obscuring your view. Fortunately, you can move the camera manually to get it out of the wall and see what you’re doing again. Though this issue can make some of the platforming more difficult.

We ran into a large issue where the controller would stop responding in game forcing us to close the game and restart it. When this happened we lost all of our checkpoints in the area that we had previously discovered and saved costing us 2 hours of gameplay. We also had a number of issues with falling through floors and walking through walls. These all made it very challenging to access certain levels or parts of the game. We also had an issue with the final Water Tear needed to complete the game glitching which necessitates a whole new playthrough. We contacted the developer about these issues and they have confirmed that they are working on an update/patch to resolve some of the issues we experienced. 

Woodle Tree 2 Deluxe Plus 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.

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.

Hidden Through Time

Hidden Through Time from Publisher and Developer Crazy Monkey Studios

A modern animated Where’s Waldo enjoyable for all ages. Wonderful relaxing music and animations that are both cute and entertaining. 

A point and click where’s Waldo-esk animated hidden items game.

The game presents you with maps full of interactive objects and a list of items to find that are hidden on the screen. Each item on the list has a hint to help you locate it. Once you click the item it will put a temporary circle around it marking it as found and check it off of your list by changing the background color of the item from white to a nice bright green.

While playing the story mode you will travel through time from the Stone Age, to Ancient Egypt, through the Middle ages, and onto the American Old West. Each of the maps has its own look and feel and pretty much everything on the map interacts when you click on it. You’ll start out looking for just a few items on a smallish map. As you progress from stage to stage it starts to get a little more challenging as they add more items, hide them a little better, and make the maps larger. Depending on how you handle the challenge or frustration of searching for small well hidden items on a large map, this will either be tons of fun or irritating.

The graphics are delightfully stick figure cartoonish. It fits the game nicely and really nails the nostalgic feel of the Where’s Waldo books. They also have really gentle, relaxing, and peaceful music. We felt like we could happily spend hours exploring the maps and interacting with the different pieces presented while listening to the sound track and hunting down every last elusive little item.

There are a total of 26 maps in the story mode. They’ve also added a Map Editor mode where users can make their own maps and share them with everyone else. In this mode you have tons of options and can choose from everything in the game to populate your maps; structures, props, characters, animals, and the environmental elements (plants, trees, and rocks). Once you’re happy with your map you can play it locally or upload it for others to play online.

That leads right to the Online mode which lets you play maps created by other users and give them feedback in the form of Thumbs Up or Down. Some of the user made maps are very easy with only a few items placed and others are more elaborate where you can tell the creator spent some time to make a really enjoyable map or tell a little story.

We was surprised by the amount of options you have for searching the online maps. You can search based on like percentage, most played, most cleared, clear percentage, most recent and oldest. You can also favorite maps to find them again quickly if you want to come back to them. 

The thing we loved the most about Where’s Waldo wasn’t finding Waldo. It was discovering all of the other little stories and activities that were happening on the page. This game captures that spirit perfectly. Every map had such interesting things happening and captured a little slice of the world with so many things to discover. 

Hidden Through Time is available on Xbox One, PS4, Nintendo Switch, Steam, iOS and Android. A digital copy of this game was provided to SimpleGameReviews for the purposes of reviewing the game.