Johnny Rocket from Publisher Restless Corp and Developer HEDE
Decent 2D platformer. Minor issues with hit detection. Great hand drawn art style. Very short completion.
Side Scroller Shooter Platformer
You play as Johnny Rocket, who has been tasked with defeating the “Evil Forces” aka Nazi’s. There are a total of 3 levels that you will make your way through. Each of the levels ends with a boss fight. The boss fights can be challenging at first as each of the bosses have a special attack that can kill you in a few seconds. Once you are able to figure out their attack patterns you can easily avoid their attacks.
New enemy types are introduced pretty often. There are soldiers wielding pistols, machine guns, and heavy machine guns on a turret, as well as attack animals, aircraft, and even UFOs. The new enemies add a little more challenge to the levels as they each have their own attacks you will need to counter or avoid.
Most of the levels are pretty standard; kill the enemies, avoid the traps, and get to the other side. There is a small section in the second level where Johnny jumps into a plane and you get to show off your 2D-aerobatics skills. This was great to see as it was a new mechanic being added to the game but it was way too short clocking in at only about 2 minutes of game play. We would have loved more time in the plane or other vehicles.
The game leans into toilet humor as each level starts and ends with your character on a toilet. Your health is measured in toilet paper rolls and picking up a roll will refill your health.
The game does have some difficulty spikes. Enemies are able to see and shoot you as soon as they appear on screen. Most of them have machine guns and will damage you several times before you are able to shoot them. Hit detection could be better as we ran into a few issues where Johnny would get hit before seeing the shot or enemies taking more hits to kill than they normally would. You will die often due to these issues. Luckily each level has several checkpoints and they are spaced out pretty often. This helps with the frustration of dying as you will only need to replay a small amount of the level.
There are 2 difficulty levels to choose from, Normal or Hardcore. Hardcore is no joke as it is a 1 hit kill. Add that with the other issues and hardcore feels unplayable at times.
The artstyle is a 2D comic, hand drawn, black and white and is by far the best part of the game. It is very animated in a cartoony style. They also added a fun little “character idle” animation that gave us a chuckle.
The game is rather short and can be completed in under an hour depending on player platforming skill. Overall it’s a decent platformer with an interesting hand drawn art style but really short.
Johnny Rocket is available on Xbox, Nintendo Switch and Steam. A digital copy of this game was provided to SimpleGameReviews for the purposes of reviewing the game.
Road to Guangdong from Publisher Excalibur Games and Developer Just Add Oil Games
Driving Simulator + Visual Novel Mashup. Decent story but would have been more enjoyable without the poor driving sim.
A Visual Novel and Driving Simulator
The main character is Sunny. After her parents passed away, she was given the family‘s cherished restaurant by her Aunt (Guu Ma). Before she takes over the restaurant she needs to visit other family members and ask for their guidance and maybe their secret recipes too so she can attempt to revive the once thriving restaurant. To accomplish this you will set out on a driving adventure across the province of Guangdong in the 90’s with her aunt in Sandy which is the family’s old run down car. It needs a lot of maintenance and TLC just to keep it on the road which is going to be one of your primary tasks.
While driving with your aunt you can have a conversation with her. This makes the time spent in the car a little more realistic and enjoyable. You can do a few things in the car like turning on the headlights at night, turning the key to start the car, and even changing the radio station. If there is a song playing that your Aunt doesn’t like she will let you know and even change the station herself if you don’t do it first. The music is good and fits the time and place and is relaxing during the frustrating driving sections. Some trips seem to drag on and require several stops to fill the car’s gas and oil. We would have loved more stations on the radio as there were only a few songs being played on each and with the amount of time you spend in the car you will hear them over and over again.
The driving mechanics could use some work. Getting from one location to another takes more time than it should. You’ll spend more than half of the game in the car just getting to the locations. While in the car you will need to keep the car in working order. To do this, you will have to make stops at scrap piles and garages to pick up and replace parts when they start to wear out and you’ll have to keep refilling the gas and oil. They did a good job capturing the experience of driving a POS car that has to be kept under a certain speed or it will overheat and has to stop often to repair parts and top off the oil just to keep it running. The amount of time you will have to spend dealing with the car gets in the way of enjoying the game unless you’re a sadistic weirdo that enjoys that sort of thing.
There is an element of in-game economy introduced with the scrap piles and garages. You can pick up parts from the scrap piles and sell them at the garages to make some money. You will need this to afford the cost of the car’s maintenance. Unfortunately, participating in this economy is both required and subject to additional load times and inconvenience. Each time you stop at the garage each area (fill up gas/oil or buy/sell a part) requires separate load time. This really slows down the gameplay as you will need to do this a lot.
You will be visiting 6 locations during your adventure, there is a map that pops up and lets you pick your next destination. The driving is very linear as you will be driving in a straight line during your time on the way to your destination. The only deviations are pulling into a garage or scrap pile or stopping on the side of the road because you ran out of gas or oil (hopefully you packed some extra last time you were at a garage).
The writing is the best part of the game. Once you get to your destination the game switches from driving sim to visual novel. The conversations that happen in this portion feel natural and at a few times hit you in the feels as you start to feel for Sunny and the situation she has been put in. When speaking with people and family members you will have several responses to choose from. At times you will need to change areas to speak with someone else to unlock another choice. Keep in mind that your choices and decisions matter as once the conversation is over it’s over. If you leave a location and attempt to return some of the areas are no longer available to access. The conversation controls felt a little odd as you would use one button to select your choice but a different button to continue the conversation.
The worst part of the game was all of the driving. The time involved with maintaining the car was excessive and the load times required for interacting at the garages really killed the momentum. The driving controls are simple as you only have gas, reverse, and a thumbstick to steer yet somehow the mechanics were still kinda bad. The only positive here is that your car doesn’t seem to take damage when you inevitably run into something.
The artstyle is colorful with low poly characters and backgrounds. The simple graphics work fine since you will be more focused on the story.
Road to Guangdong is available on Xbox, Nintendo Switch, Playstation and Steam. A digital copy of this game was provided to SimpleGameReviews for the purposes of reviewing the game.
My Aunt is a Witch from Publisher Sometimes You and Developer Graven Visual Novels
An interesting expansion on the typical visual novel genre. A little slow to start out but it picks up.
A Visual Novel with some Point and Click elements.
The story is told from the perspective of a boy named Thomas. He was sent to live with his Aunt by his dad and stepmom. Shortly after getting to his aunt’s house, he discovers that she is a real witch who has a talking cat and a bunch of magical things laying around the house. Thomas takes on some of the household chores learning about magical items and making potions. This is where the story starts.
After spending some time in the house, Thomas starts to see and experience the magic and plans on becoming a master potion maker as well as an apprentice to his aunt. During his journey you will meet several interesting characters and have to complete quests and a few puzzles. You will also have a few locations that you will visit and get to explore.
After a while, the visual novel adds some point and click game elements allowing you to take control of Thomas and explore the house. You will be provided with check lists that Thomas will need to complete with items located all over the house. This house might not be the safest place for a child to be left alone to explore. There are interesting ways that Thomas can die while looking around the house. We recommend saving often as there is no auto save and if you die without a save you will need to start the story over. Since there is no way to skip the text, dying without having a save is a time consuming mistake. We would have liked to have some form of checkpoint auto-save feature in the game.
During the visual novel parts of the game they did a great job letting you easily know who is talking by having a nice easy to read graphic above the text box. Each of the characters have their own text colors with a cute little graphic on them making it easy to tell them apart.
The backgrounds and environments are well done with a colorful anime art style that works well, looks good, and fits the story. Some of the conversations will have a small amount of animation in the background. It has a relaxing original soundtrack with well done sound effects that help the immersion and keep you interested in the story during some of the longer conversations.
The story is pretty straightforward with a few interesting parts. There are some pacing issues in the first half with some of the conversations dragging on and needlessly describing in detail things that are pictured on screen. In the later half of the story several characters are introduced at a pretty fast rate. This is where the story starts to come alive and pick up speed.
When you enter the point and click part of the game and take control of Thomas the controls become very important. It wasn’t always clear what button needed to be pressed so it took some time to get used to the controls. Holding a button on the controller will show you which items you are able to interact with. A glowing star displays over the items making it easy to see what you can and cannot interact with. There are times that the on screen user interface will be blocking an item you need to interact with and you will not be able to see it unless you hold the show active objects button.
There is an option that will pull up a book of all the previous text in case you missed something that was said. This is a helpful feature in a visual novel as it is easy to click the next text button a few to many times and miss something.
We really enjoyed the point and click parts of the game and would have liked to see more of this. There are some minor spelling and grammar issues that pop up in the story but they can be overlooked as it does not happen often.
My Aunt is a Witch is available on Xbox, Playstation, Nintendo Switch and PSVita. A digital copy of this game was provided to SimpleGameReviews for the purposes of reviewing the game.
The Touryst from Publisher and Developer Shin’en Games
A fun voxel art style, Island Vacation themed, puzzle game.
You play as a bespectacled mustachioed tourist on vacation. You will be visiting islands, relaxing, taking photos, scuba diving, and other things you would expect to do while on vacation. While on the islands you will discover and explore monuments and complete tasks (To-do lists) that people offer you.
You travel between islands with the assistance of the friendly boat captain who chauffeurs you around. As the game progresses you’ll gain access to new islands. To gain access you have to first discover the islands from travel guides. Some of these are received from characters but most are purchased from a store.
Most of the islands will have a monument for you to explore. You have to solve a puzzle just to open the monument so you can enter. Once inside there are more obstacles leading to a boss fight to obtain the orb inside. Most of the obstacles are pretty straightforward, while others are a bit tricky and will require you to move the camera around to try to figure out the solution.
You are able to purchase new “upgrades” for your character at a store once they are unlocked by story progression. The introduction of the new upgrade abilities is paced well. They’re also necessary to reach some areas that are otherwise inaccessible. Between those areas being temporarily inaccessible and To-Do’s that will be picked up on later islands, you’ll end up going back and forth to each of the islands several times.
There is a surprisingly large number of mini games as well as to-do lists. Most of the to-do’s are not required for story progression. They are easy to understand and figure out what is needed, and have good mechanics. Many games suffer with poor mechanics in their mini games when they have a lot of them. For the most part The Touryst managed to maintain good mechanics in their minigames. The only exceptions to this were in the retro arcade games found on one of the islands. There’s a To-Do list task related to beating the high score on all 3 of these. They can be a bit frustrating due to issues with the minigame mechanics/physics.
Each of the islands has its own look, feel, and theme. This makes it a lot easier to remember what is on which island when you have to go back to finish future To-Dos.
Overall, we enjoyed playing this game. The puzzles and little games were enjoyable. Other than a couple of issues with game mechanics in one or two places it plays really well and can be completed in 6-8 hours. You can complete the story missions in less time if you skip the side missions (To-Do lists).
The Touryst is available on Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, and Windows.
Active Neurons 2 from Publishers Sometimes You, Usanik STDand Developer Nikolai Usachev
A great sequel with fun new mechanics, nice soundtrack, and challenging puzzles.
A Logic Puzzle
This is the sequel to Active Neurons (Review Here ). There are more puzzles, new mechanics added to the game, and a great new soundtrack.
We noticed several changes/improvements from the original Active Neurons. Previously, all of the puzzles were single screen. Now, some puzzles will require you to move to a second screen which adds a bunch of new challenges. Solving the puzzles now comes with a bigger animated explosion that provides a very satisfying feeling. We also noticed that some of the options available in the first game are not present in this game; namely, Color Blind mode and Monochrome mode. This is a let down for those that use these accessibility features. Hopefully they’ll be added in a future update.
The soundtrack is great with lofi beats to keep you relaxed when struggling with a puzzle. They’ve also added an RGB sound graph across the bottom of the screen that visualizes the soundtrack. During our game play the background music cut out at one point for several minutes. Quitting and reloading seemed to fix it.
Much like the first game solving the puzzle requires moving an energy block to the goal(s) 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.
There are over 150 puzzles to enjoy and several unique game mechanics are introduced as you progress through the levels. As you make your way along this journey you will discover the 12 greatest inventions of humanity and reflect on the power of human thought. Once you complete the 10 levels for each invention you are provided with information about the invention. We really liked these nuggets of knowledge gained along the way.
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 was present in the original game and returns for the second game. It’s really nice for those that are impatient or just really stuck to be able to keep moving through the game. There is also a convenient reset button which restarts the puzzle in a second or 2. This got a lot of use for us especially in the later levels where mistakes cannot be recovered from. 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 of the reset button. Fortunately, you can stop the solution from completing even if you accidentally click it.
It is a very enjoyable gameplay experience. The puzzles start out pretty easy and increase the difficulty at a nice pace while steadily introducing new mechanics to keep the game fresh.
Much like the original game there is little to no replayability after completing the game. If there is a 3rd game we would love to see leaderboards, challenges, or time trials added. Some would consider it a good thing that these additions aren’t present while others may find they miss having a reason to replay levels and the ability to compete with friends and strangers.
Active Neurons 2 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.
A short enjoyable puzzle game with a couple of cool mechanics and a very bright background.
A minimalist puzzle game
You need to move your square to the yellow square somewhere on the screen. Its start is pretty simple and can be completed without thinking. After a few levels they start to add new game mechanics and the difficulty starts to ramp up.
Eventually you are introduced to the clone mechanic. Presumably this is the mechanic that inspired the title. It allows you to record your movements and clone your square. After making your clone it will play your recorded movements. This was a big surprise when we figured out that if you keep moving in one direction and clone yourself the recording will keep moving in that direction. This was one of the coolest mechanics introduced in the game. Overall, the controls and game mechanics are simple and work nicely as intended.
There is a narrative thread in the game. It is told through text on screen after completing every few levels. We didn’t feel this “story” element really added to the game in any appreciable way.
The game has a very relaxing soundtrack which helps soothe the frustration when getting stuck on a level. Some of the later levels you will probably end up restarting over and over trying to figure out the solution. Luckily, you can reset the level with the press of a button and get back to trying a different method within a second or two.
There is the option to enable a Colorblind mode. We love to see developers putting in the effort to make their games more accessible for all gamers. The one thing we do wish is that there was an option to lower the brightness of the background or play the game in “dark mode” as most of the screen is white which can be painful for those with photosensitivity.
As for replayability options, they added a “Best Time” under each level which gives you the option to replay each level trying to beat your best time. We would have loved to see an online leaderboard to compare your times against friends and strangers. There is also a Player Statistics area that you can see at the end of the level selection area which shows your Total Time and Total Deaths. The total time does not calculate the total amount of time played it just adds the total best time for each of the levels. The game is fairly short and can be completed within an hour depending on player skill.
Déjà Vu is available on Xbox One and Windows. A digital copy of this game was provided to SimpleGameReviews for the purposes of reviewing the game.