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.
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.
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.
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.
Super Destronaut: Land Wars from Publisher Ratalaika Games and Developer Petite Games
Repetitive but enjoyable retro FPS
A Neon First Person Shooter
The game is a First Person Shooter where you shoot enemies and pick up the coins they drop to buy upgrades for weapons and health. It has two game types: challenge, and arcade mode.
Challenge Mode has 30 stages to play and provides you with a specific challenge you need to complete before receiving your Gold, Silver, or Bronze rating. The ratings are based on how quickly you complete the challenge but there’s nothing to indicate what the requirements are for each rating until you complete the stage and see what your time was.
The first 15 levels or so, we didn’t find the challenges to be particularly challenging. Most of these stages were able to be completed in under 1-2 minutes. At times, the most challenging part is just finding the enemies.
Arcade Mode has 5 game types
Classic Mode – Normal Classic mode
Hardcore Mode – More Enemies with more HP
Combo Breaker – You need to keep a combo going if it runs out its game over.
Maximum Strength – You start out using a Rocket Launcher.
Snail Mode – You move slowly and can’t jump.
We enjoyed classic mode and maximum strength mode the most.
The artstyle is a neon voxel and has a retro mid 80’s feel. Enemies look like they could’ve been taken right out of arcade classics like Space Invaders or Centipede. The level design and sound effects fit the game’s aesthetic and are in keeping with that retro feel. They chose dubstep for the music. While this is not exactly in keeping with 80’s retro it still feels like a good fit for the gameplay. While the controls are very simple they work nicely and are pretty responsive.
Sadly, there is only one map that is used for every stage both in challenge mode and in arcade mode. After about 15 minutes you’ll figure out the fastest way to make it around the map and where to take cover during combat. While this does help make the challenges a little easier since you’re familiar with the terrain, it also makes it more boring.
There is no story or narrative and the challenge mode (30 Stages) can be completed in under 1 hour. With no online leaderboards, once you complete the challenges you are unlikely to replay them unless you want to try to get a higher rating for personal reasons. The arcade modes were more enjoyable as the stages last until you die (or lose your combo in Combo Breaker). That at least kept things going longer than a couple of minutes.
Super Destronaut: Land Wars 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.
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.