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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.

Bunny Parking

Bunny Parking from Publisher and Developer DillyFrame

Harder than you’d think for a cartoony “kids” puzzle game.

A Slide Puzzle Game 

You play as a bunny who is a valet and needs to move a Red car from one end of a parking lot to the other. The lot is full of vehicles that are blocking the way. You need to kick the cars to move them and clear the path.

The game has 3 difficulty levels; Easy, Normal and Hard. You can start at any difficulty level you want to but you always have to complete the puzzles in order for each difficulty. As you progress through Easy they begin to introduce new obstacles and increase the difficulty of the puzzles. This prepares you for the increased challenge of Normal. Normal will likewise become increasingly difficult with more obstacles limiting your available moves. Before you even get to Hard you’ll find that you can no longer clear the whole pate. Instead you’ll sometimes need to move the vehicles blocking your path back and forth multiple times as you clear part of the path, move forward, and then move the vehicles around you to clear the next part of the path and exit. Jumping straight from Day 1 Easy, to Day 1 Normal, or Hard is a very steep difficulty ramp. Playing through all 100 levels of Easy first, makes for a smoother increase before starting Normal.  

The graphics are pretty basic and simple, almost cartoony and very colorful. 

The audio is simple and peppy there appears to be 3-4 different songs that will play while working on the puzzles.The songs are kind of an electronic polka and pretty repetitive. Fortunately, you can turn off the music in the menu if it starts to drive you as crazy as the little bunny valet. The vehicles will also honk when you kick them if they can not be moved in that direction. You will hear the car horn a lot. This is partly due to poor hit detection and vehicles not being able to detect which one you’re trying to kick and in which direction.

If you get bored of kicking cars you could play some soccer, jump on a trampoline, wreak havoc on some carrots from the patch, or go for a boat ride. There are a few other hidden things on the map for you to do if you decide you want to explore for a bit. We liked that there was more to do than just kick a bunch of cars and trucks around the parking lot.

The game does have a multiplayer/co-op option. We had a very hard time finding anyone to play with so we could test this out. When did finally find one person online to play with. The multi-player is indeed just co-op. One joins the other’s game. You can play soccer against each other or work on the puzzle together.

The controls are very simplistic but work fairly well. 

The game is enjoyable and could be especially fun to play with younger gamers. We did run into a few issues with cars not responding to being kicked and a lot of unpredictability with kicking the soccer ball.

Bunny Parking is available on Xbox One and Steam. A digital copy of this game was provided to SimpleGameReviews for the purposes of reviewing the game.

Vasilis

Vasilis from Publisher Sometimes You and Developer Marginal Act

Kind of a weird story. If you’re looking for a slow paced game this is probably right up your alley. If you’re not a fan of walking simulators it may not be a good fit.

Hand drawn in black and white side scrolling adventure.

The story is based on political events in Ukraine during 2014. You play an elderly lady named Vasilis who is trying to locate her husband. While searching for him you’ll have to make your way through the troubled city. There are riots happening throughout the city as it starts to burn.    

You have several locations to visit while exploring the town. The locations start to become weirder the further into the story you progress. 

You’ll pick up items around the town to trade with the townspeople for other items necessary to continue the story and access new areas. There were a few times during the earlier “days”  where we were unsure what to trade to whom in order to progress. We traded every item we had until finally finding the right thing. This was only confusing during the earlier parts of the game as it became clearer what you needed to trade with whom during the later days. 

Most of the actual game play is walking back and forth around the town locating items to trade and going from location to location. It starts to feel like a walking simulator.

The controls are pretty simple but a little loose. We found the in game map to be pretty useless since you will be going to the same locations over and over again. You will also pick up a to-do list which will help you figure out what to do and where to go.

There were a few times we got stuck on invisible walls which became a little frustrating. Moving Vasilis around with the thumbstick seemed loose and it was very easy to drift up or down while trying to walk a straight line. We had better results using the D-pad to ensure there was no vertical drift when trying to walk horizontally across the screen.

The artstyle is hand drawn in black and white. Most of the animations are very simple with only a few frames that repeat over and over again. 

The audio is very minimalistic. There’s not so much a “soundtrack” as there is different background or ambient noises for different locations. There’s no voice acting either. Just a “scratching” sound to represent speech while dialog boxes are on the screen.  

The game is a little short and can be completed in just a few hours depending on how familiar you become with the best paths to traverse the town. After about an hour of walking back and forth you’ll wish there was the option to allow Vasilis to run.  

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