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Active Neurons Review

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.

Duck Souls + Review

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 Review

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 Review

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.

A Winter’s Daydream

A Winter’s Daydream from Sometimes You and ebi-hime

A text based visual novel story by ebi-hime

The story is told by our narrator, 19 year old Yuu, who is a University student returning home to spend some time with his family over the holiday’s (New Years).

You start out with Yuu returning home and learn about his family relationships, mostly the relationship with his spoiled sister Otoko. As you guessed it Yuu can not stand his sister and how lazy, rude and spoiled she is and she can’t stand Yuu. While back for the holiday Yuu decides to go visit his Grandmother who lives in a distant isolated village. Due to a snow storm Yuu is forced to stay at his Grandmother’s overnight. This is where the story takes a weird change when Yuu wakes up and his Grandmother is young again. 

The music is very relaxing and fits the atmosphere nicely.

They recycle the same backgrounds here or there with a character appearing, disappearing, and reappearing with a different expression or animation. This is common with most visual novels.

The game also has an auto-scroll mode in the options if you just want to just relax and enjoy the story without having to press anything on your controller. 

It is a rather short story and can be completed in a few hours depending on how fast you read/scroll the text.

A visual novel with an interesting story. Auto-play mode is nice if you want to experience it more like a movie than a game.

A Winter’s Daydream is available on Xbox, PS4,Nintendo Switch and PSVita. A digital copy of this game was provided to SimpleGameReviews for the purposes of reviewing the game.

2064: Read Only Memories

2064: Read Only Memories from Midboss

A cyberpunk point and click visual novel.

The story is set in Neo San Francisco during the year 2064; just in case you couldn’t guess by the title. You are met by a Relationship Organizational Manager (ROM) named Turing. Your friend Hayden, who is Turing’s creator, has disappeared and Turing is requesting your aide to find him. 

While playing you will meet up with a massively diverse cast that you will need to interact with. These supporting characters have their own personalities that you can discover during the conversations you have with them. Some are one time characters, others are recurring. 

During your conversations with the NPCs you will have several different dialogue options to choose from. The choices you make during these conversations will affect the outcome of the conversations and determine the nature of your characters relationship with them. If you successfully befriend the NPC’s they will be more willing to help you and will provide you with additional dialogue that reveals more about their back story. Some of the back stories and pretty messed up and will pull at your emotions. You cannot choose every possible conversation option. Some of them will end the conversation immediately or lock out other paths of dialogue.

The pacing is a little slow during the first few chapters but starts to speed up towards the later chapters. You will spend a lot of time reading and or listening to the conversations in game. While they do give you the option to mash a button and skip through the dialogue we recommend taking the time to listen to or read the conversations as that is how the story is told to you and the voice over work is very well done. The game also has a good soundtrack that fits nicely.

We noticed a few issues with the dialogue selection. If the dialogue choice you wanted to make was already selected and highlighted it wasn’t always clickable. Another choice needed to be selected before the choice you wanted to make would become clickable.

True to the cyberpunk genre, science and technology are a big part of the story. From Turing being an AI who develops a personality to genetic modifications using animal DNA to find cures for diseases you see the emphasis on futuristic sciences throughout. Sadly the genetic manipulation has repercussions causing the people who undergo it to manifest animal characteristics. The resulting chimera are called “hybrids” and treated badly. Some are even sterilized. There are also “pure humans” which are humans that have not been modified in any way.

And you guessed it, there is a divide between the “hybrids” and “pure humans”. While playing through the story you will need to interact with NPC’s from both sides to get more information to help with your investigation.

There are several locations to visit some are based on real San Francisco landmarks and locations. This was an interesting choice and great to see. 

The pixel art style is nicely done but sadly it doesn’t come close to filling the screen. There is a lot of unused space above as well as on the left and right side. The lower area is used for the dialogue choices so we understand having that space available but it feels there is a lot of wasted space that could’ve been used for .

The game is more of a visual novel then a point and click as you will spend most of your time reading/listening to the game than playing it. Although, like some point and click games it does have some puzzles/mini games which are simple and pretty easy to figure. A few towards the end start to become more challenging.  

This game does not have auto save at all so make sure you remember to save. This is something we forgot to do the first time playing and it necessitated replaying several hours of the game…

The game has multiple endings depending on the choices you make during the conversations with the NPC’s and Turing. Which is another reason to save often and make a secondary save.    

A futuristic cyberpunk graphic novella. Great cast of voice actors. Arcade art style and soundtrack.

2064: Read Only Memories on Xbox One, PS4, Nintendo Switch, PSVita, Steam, iOS and Android. A digital copy of this game was provided to SimpleGameReviews for the purposes of reviewing the game.