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OVIVO

OVIVO From IzHard

A simple momentum and gravity based platformer that mixes art and gameplay. 

You play as OVO, a color changing ball with an antenna. Your objective is to reach a spot in the middle of the map. To do this you make your way around the level by moving between colors, using momentum, sliding down slopes, altering gravity, avoiding spikes, or falling off a cliff. After reaching the objective the screen zooms out to display the full map revealing the piece of art that it is.
The gameplay and controls are very simple as the game only has 2 colors in it (Black and White) and uses 1 thumb stick and a single button to switch colors and move between the Black and White areas.
The music is simple, clean, and relaxing which keeps you calm during the later more challenging stages. 
Most of the levels are pretty simple and have more than one route to get to the end. It makes traveling around the levels easy and fun during the earlier levels. The levels start becoming more complicated and challenging when new mechanics and obstacles are introduced. Some of the new additions are moving platforms, floating flowers, and color changing spheres. There’s a small learning curve at the start and it returns with a significant difficulty spike on the later stages. It is not always clear what to do or where you need to go and there are many chances to die by falling off objects into spikes or sharp edges. The check point system is pretty good which only has you backtracking for a few seconds which helps to offset the difficulty spike by minimizing the penalty for sudden deaths.
Sadly the game has no story; no spoken or written words at all. It is more of a short experience as it can be completed in about 3 hours.  

A simple black and white momentum and gravity based platformer that mixes art and gameplay with a relaxing soundtrack.

OVIVO is available on Xbox, PlayStation 4, Steam and Nintendo Switch. A digital copy of this game was provided to SimpleGameReviews for the purposes of reviewing the game.

A Plague Tale: Innocence

A Plague Tale: Innocence from Asobo Studio

A 3rd person action adventure stealth game.

You play as Amicia de Rune, a young teenager and the oldest child of a Lord, during the 14th century in France at the height of the deadly Black Plague. Her mother, Lady de Rune, is an alchemist and has spent all of her time for several years trying to treat her son Hugo. She has isolated both herself and her son from the outside world. Amica resents her younger brother and his sickness for stealing their mom away. During that time, Amicia was mostly on her own but learned some highly useful skills from her father which are all about to come in very handy.
Your objective is to avoid the Inquisition, guards, and rats, lots of rats; all while trying to find help for your brother and his condition.
While traveling around the levels you lead Hugo by the hand. While at times it does feel a little like an escort mission that feeling goes away fast and seamlessly. You are able to provide commands to Hugo for him to get items, open doors, stay put, or follow you. You also meet some other companions on the way who help you through your journey. Each of the companions have unique commands/skills from picking locks, breaking down doors, or knocking out enemies. You also learn how to craft different items from your companions.
During the story you get to watch the brother-sister relationship develop between Amicia and Hugo. As the story progresses you see them grow from being basically strangers that wouldn’t recognize each other on the street to one in which they have a genuine bond. Both the writing and voice acting capture this relationship so well it feels very natural and believable.
While playing you will come across 3 different types of collectibles, Gifts, Curiosities, and Hugo’s Herbarium (Flowers). I really enjoyed the unique dialog that accompanies each of the Collectibles. The herbarium collectibles allow Hugo to tell you a little about each flower and their medicinal qualities or history that he learned from their mother. The gifts help to showcase the growing relationships between Amicia and the others. And the curiosities are all narratively appropriate and allow a little deeper glimpse into the time period and setting.
While exploring the levels you travel past some interesting locations with great views. The visual styling chosen for the game is great and very well done with very nicely done environmental effects. 
The audio is clean and simple and works well for setting the mood. Playing with good headphones adds a wonderful immersive feel that is very well balanced but the sound is good regardless of using a sound bar or the TV speakers. You can even specify your audio setup in the options for the best possible experience. I really appreciated the realism incorporated through the sound of Amicia’s breathing as you traverse the levels. The tension and fear you can hear in her not only serves as an indicator of guards being nearby but also adds a beautiful emotional element that makes it feel so much more real.
The game play mechanics are solid. You can choose your play style and either tackle things purely stealth or take out some of the opposition using your sling. However, since your combat abilities are limited to what you can do with a sling, a somewhat stealthy approach will get you farther as open conflict often ends in a swift death. 
The checkpoint system is very forgiving with frequent saves. This minimizes the penalty of death from failed stealth or wrong turns. They also have a lot of little quality of life finishing touches mechanically that make the combat system easier to use. 
There are 4 boss fights during the game. They’re each unique and will require different skills and strategies to win. Once you learn the patterns, the boss fights become more fun than difficult.
The maps are littered with resources which make it easier to craft the ammunition you’ll need and lessen the penalty of bad aim. You never feel like you’re having to be stingy with your resources except when keeping an eye on some of the rarer resources needed to upgrade your equipment.
There are several stages with puzzles and obstacles that help with the pacing, add variety to the gameplay, and are fun without being too difficult. Many of them require giving commands to your companions and working together with them to complete the challenge. 
In a recent update Photo Mode was added to the game which lets you pause the game and take control of the camera to capture some great looking photos. You can move the camera freely to gain a completely different vantage and really appreciate just how pretty or dark some of the scenes are.
A 3rd person action adventure stealth game that is so much more. It has an action filled and emotional story with solid mechanics that won’t piss you off, a generous checkpoint system, as well as interesting visuals and solid audio.

A Plague Tale: Innocence is available on Xbox, PS4 and Windows. A digital copy of this game was provided to SimpleGameReviews for the purposes of reviewing the game.

Fade to Silence

Fade to Silence from Black Forest Games

An open-world survival game with some RPG elements, a hint of base building, and resource management.
It is set in a post-apocalyptic winter. Snow and ice cover the landscape.
You have to deal with starvation, hypothermia, monsters, and the weather. From tornados to blizzards, it all takes a toll on you and can become deadly fast. 
The in-game resources are used for crafting and upgrades. You have access to a simple crafting system from the get-go. As you progress and upgrade your camp, more advanced crafting becomes available.
You are able to find and rescue followers in various locations around the map. You will also have followers that will randomly show up at your base/camp and you have the option to have them join the camp or send them on their way. The followers help by maintaining the camp’s resources, building structures, and they can join you on your missions but they also consume resources from the camp. If a co-op buddy joins your game, they will play as one of the followers. 
Combat is limited as you only have a few weapons to choose from (melee and ranged). You also only have a light or heavy attack with each melee weapon and can parry or block with them if you time it correctly.
The weapons and armor can be upgraded by crafting a higher level version. These higher level versions unlock as you upgrade your camp and gain access to more advanced crafting.
The environmental and set graphics are great but the facial animations could use some work. The audio is good as well and fits the atmosphere.
The game has a bunch of bugs. Your followers can get stuck in areas, they can freeze to death by not coming into the shelter to warm up, and there are collision issues when riding on the dog sled. They can knock you off and make you have to replace the sled which slows down your travel or escape and sometimes gets you killed in the process. The developers are working on fixing several issues and a patch has been promised. But there’s no word yet on when it will be dropping.
The story is interesting but a little vague in its telling. It’s largely told through visions or flashbacks and you see them seemingly randomly while resting at camp.
The game is slow at first due to the resource management burden and starts feeling like a chore. Once you start getting followers to join you in helping with the little things and gain the dog sled which lets you travel around the map at a decent pace, the whole thing becomes a lot more enjoyable and feels less like a chore and more like the game it’s supposed to be.  
Overall the game has an interesting concept, the execution leaves a little to be desired and could’ve benefited from more time in development and/or testing. Even with its issues and bugs, I still find myself going back and playing it more. I’m looking forward to the update.

Ascendance

Ascendance from ONEVISION GAMES

A colorful First Person 3D Platformer. 
The art style is a minimalistic, low poly with very colorful platforms and backgrounds. The audio is calming, relaxing, and adds to the atmosphere.
The gameplay is simple. You traverse the three levels by running and jumping from a stationary platform to collect orbs around the level. Once an orb is collected it reveals more of the level. While moving around the levels you will be using jump pads to access higher areas or platforms. Some will drop when you touch them which keeps you on your toes. Once you collect all of the orbs you are granted access to the next level. All three of the levels have collectible presents that can be found in hidden places around the maps (around corners or behind objects).
Each of the three levels is unique; not only visually but with new mechanics added to the mix which add a nice bit of variety.
The controls are simple as you use the thumbsticks to move and look around, and just two buttons are used for the rest; one for running and one for jumping.
What little bit of story the game has is told by finding Crystals around the levels. When you approach them, text will appear on the screen with the next installment of the narrative.
I encountered an issue with parts of the map not loading/rendering after hitting an orb/checkpoint and exiting the game then reloading the level at a later time. This was game breaking as it was not possible to complete the level and progress further in the game without the map rendered correctly and it was ultimately necessary to delete all saves both local and in the cloud and start the game over from the beginning.
I reached out to the developers to let them know about the issue. They responded that a patch is in development to address it but is not ready for release at the time of this writing.
Overall the game is fun, simple, relaxing and enjoyable but just a little short. More levels, mechanics, and a timed mode is planned with future updates.

Daggerhood

Daggerhood from Ratalaika Games S.L.

A Pixel art, side-scrolling, platformer. During the level you will be collecting treasures and fairies before they disappear, killing enemies and trying to complete the level under the levels par time. The faster you complete the level the higher chance you have to earn a 3 star rating.
You traverse the levels by jumping, double jumping, wall jumping, and by throwing a magic dagger to teleport to the location the dagger was thrown. During the later stages temporary power ups are required to complete the levels; from a hammer to break blocks to a feather that gives you a floating ability for a few seconds, shields to keep you from taking damage, and gravity reversing magic bean.
The game has little to no story outside of the intro cinematic.
The audio is simple and fits the art style but has issues where is cuts outs at times.
Daggerhood is fun to play and becomes challenging during the later stages due to adding more difficult traps, more enemies, and narrower areas to platform and maneuver between.
Each of the 5 worlds has a unique boss challenge. Replaying the levels trying to get all 5 treasures, the fairy, and earn 3 stars can become addicting.

Super Weekend Mode

Super Weekend Mode from Pixelteriyaki

An interesting looking game with very simple and clean controls. Most of the game is played with just 2-3 buttons. Bumpers control left and right shiny shooty shuttle positions and another button fires both simultaneously. There is also and auto-fire option that I highly recommend.
Your goal is to destroy the boss before you get killed. You destroy the boss by shooting it with one of your two shiny shooty shuttles. While trying to shoot the boss you also need to dodge insta-death falling skulls, bump off the dust bunnies, and catch all the hearts. Missing a bunny or heart will shrink the field of battle and bring you closer to being crushed. Catching a bunny will cause insta-death like a skull.
The game nails the retro feel with the colorful pixel artstyle. The 8-bit soundtrack and effects all capture that old school feeling.
You can select which outfit your princess will wear. The outfit you pick determines which bonus you’re awarded after beating a boss. The bonuses could be more lives, more speed, or a barrier for your shiny shooty shuttles that lets you take one hit before insta-death. You can’t change your outfit mid game so choose wisely.
The game is fast paced, simple, fun, and easy to pick up and play.