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Niffelheim

Niffelheim from Ellada Games

Norse Mythology 2D side scrolling action survival game. 

You choose one of four different locations/tribes and one of four different classes for your character. Each choice has its own strengths and weaknesses. 

While in the character selection screen you will see all four of the characters classes.
  • The Viking has a bonus resistance to Bleeding and Stun. He does decent damage and has a slow metabolism which causes your satiety to deplete at a slower rate. Once all of your satiety has been depleted you will start to lose health.
  • The Valkyrie has decent defense, low damage output, and a very slow metabolism so your satiety depletes at an even slower rate. 
  • The Berserker does great damage, has bonus resistance to Bleeding and Poison, but has a fast metabolism which will require you to consume more plants to keep your satiety in check.
  • The Shaman is resistance to all damage types, has great defense, but deals the lowest damage of all of the characters, and has the fastest metabolism and will deplete satiety faster than the others.

The starting location does not seem to matter as each location has the same resources you will need to collect as well as the same enemy types to fight. It’s only the appearance of the backgrounds that’s really different.

The premise of the story is that your character died a true and glorious viking death in combat. But instead of the promised reward of ascending to Valhallen, you have instead wrongfully fallen to Niffelheim, the viking version of Hell. Your goal is to make your way out of Niffelheim and ascend to Asgard where you belong.

Once you’ve made your world creation choices (class and tribe/location) you are unable to make any changes to them. Each tribe has a designated starting location so choosing one dictates the other. 

The artstyle is hand drawn and looks greats. The sound track is pleasant too. However, the audio is plagued with technical issues and does not live up to the quality that the art work deserves. While playing we found several issues where the audio cracks, pops, stutters, and cuts out. The beginning cutscene that sets up the whole story is a perfect example of some of the audio issues. These were consistent across every load of the game and across multiple consoles.

The game only allows you to have one game save file per gamertag. This is a little odd, very frustrating, and inconvenient. Having to delete your only save to try another class or clan seems ridiculous and makes you very unlikely to try different things once you’ve started playing the game and grinding to collect items and resources.

You will spend most of your time grinding for and managing resources. You be running around cutting down trees for wood, collecting plants, and killing animals. These resources are needed both to recover your health and for crafting. You’ll also use them for upgrading your castle inside and out. Outside renovations include adding walls, towers with archers, and even a Citadel. On the inside you are able to build a Kitchen, Alchemy Lab, Sawmill, and Forge. 

You’ll also need to keep track of your resources to replace your tools and weapons as they wear out. They have a health bar to let you know when they’re nearing the end of their life. As you upgrade your base, you’ll be able to craft better quality items.

As you explore the map you will find new locations, crypts, mines, dungeons, and a town. The town is in the middle of the map and contains the only merchant. He will let you buy and sell items and potions.

You will come across a few different types of enemies including armored skeletons, wolves, and spiders. Most of the variations in enemies seem to just be a color swap as they are otherwise identical in appearance, take the same amount of damage to kill, and don’t have any differences in their attacks. You’ll also encounter some of the larger almost boss type monsters like Stone Trolls, Giant Wolves, and Giant Spiders while exploring the mines you come across in your explorations.

The combat is very simple. You use one button to attack and one to block. The animations for your attack are based on how far away from the enemy you are. Depending on the distance you might do a sword swing or a kick on the smaller enemies. They do have both ranged and melee combat options but you can only have one equipped at a time. The attack button will attack with whichever weapon is currently equipped. 

Since you are already dead, when you die from starvation or combat you will return as a spirit until you reconnect with your body. While in spirit form you are unable to attack, be attacked, or collect/harvest anything. Death also carries a penalty in the form of a decrease to the cap on your max health. Every death further decreases your max health. This is a semi-permanent penalty as the only way to restore the original cap is by consuming a very expensive potion. 

To recover health you can eat meats, vegetables, or drink potions. Eating the meats and vegetables will also increase your satiety meter. They also provide another interesting way to recover health besides consuming things. Near your camp and in other areas around the map you will see thrones. Sitting on one of these will also cause your health to regenerate for as long as you remain seated.  

One of the more confusing mechanics in the game revolves around the tutorial. There isn’t one. Except there is. Much of the time you’ll just be pressing buttons because they’re on the screen and just sort of figuring out what things do as you see the effect of pressing the indicated button. There is no on screen prompt or dialog to help guide you and introduce mechanics as you encounter them for the first time. We only found the actual in game tutorial when searching for the menu that was hidden in the back.

The game also gives you quests that you can complete for rewards like weapons, gold, or potions. Most of the quests are pretty simple and have basic requirements like collecting a certain amount of eggs or toadstools. You’ll end up completing some of the quests without ever even knowing they were there. Once you find the tutorial, if you browse around there is also a page where your quests are tracked. 

Grindy 2D dungeon crawler-esque game. One part dungeon crawler, one part resource management grind-fest. Great art. Audio issues. No co-op or multiplayer on consoles. Single save file limits options for trying different things.

Niffelheim is available on Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, Playstation 4 and Steam. 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.

We Were Here

We Were Here from Total Mayhem Games

An Online only Co-op Puzzle Game

You are one of a pair of explorers who got lost in a blizzard. You found and entered a castle to escape the storm only to wake up separated from your partner. 

One of the players will be the Explorer and the other player will be the Librarian. Communication is key in this game. The Explorer is presented with several puzzles that must be solved but they only have access to part of the information necessary. The Librarian will have the other parts needed to find the answers. Without good communication about what you’re each seeing and able to do, you won’t be able to make it through. Each of the roles provides a different perspective of the levels and a unique game experience. 

The game has an interesting mechanic surrounding communication. When you first wake up, each of you will have a walkie talkie nearby that you have to pick up and use to communicate with each other. You’ll need to press a button to pull up the walkie talkie and speak to the other player. This can become a little frustrating at times if/when you forget to push the button and wonder why your co-op partner isn’t responding to what you say or ask.

There are a total of seven puzzles in the game. The early puzzles are relatively easy and fun with good communication between partners but the later ones start to become more challenging as they have more steps involved to locate the answers to solve the puzzles. They also introduce the possibility of death from obstacles or timed events that happen if you don’t finish the level quickly enough. 

The game does a good job creating a haunted castle look and feel. There are torches for light, stone walls and floors, and things disappearing just out of sight around corners and on the edge of your field of view. The music and audio effects are also very effective at setting the mood. Each level has different music and the sounds experienced by each player are different from each other.

It also has 2 different endings depending on what choice you make at the very end of the game.

Like most puzzle games, once you know the puzzles you are able to run through them pretty quickly. But be careful, just because you already know the answer doesn’t mean you can do it without your partner still doing their part. We suggest playing the game twice so you can play each of the roles to get the full experience of the game. 

An enjoyable puzzle game that is HEAVILY dependent on clear and precise communication between teammates. Online only co-op.

We Were Here is available on Xbox One and Steam

Riverbond

Riverbond from Cococucumber

A simple hack and slash dungeon crawler.

The game has a system called “Rally Points” that will save you time when you respawn as you will respawn at the rally point instead of at the beginning of the level. They are respawn points only and not checkpoints.The game does not save your progress until you fully complete all of the levels in a world. The final level is always a boss fight. The good news is, when you die and respawn the enemies health does not reset and any enemies you already eliminated do not respawn. This is helpful for younger players or people who don’t want to grind kills. 
The controls are pretty simple as you only need a few buttons; press 1 button to attack, hold the same button for a stronger attack, another button to do a special attack, a third button to interact with items, and the fourth to jump, and one more to roll around the levels.
The soundtrack is clean and simple which fits the colorful voxel based art style.
It has 8 different worlds that you play through, each with its own look and feel, challenges, and enemies. Each of the worlds has 4 or 5 levels. 
You can recover health by picking up red potions that are dropped by killing enemies, destroying the environment (boxes, trees, and so on), or unwrapping presents.
While playing you will find chests that give you weapons and skins for your character. The weapons are an interesting variety from swords to lollipop’s to bear claws and rainbow umbrellas. The weapon classes are swords, spears, clubs, slap weapons, dual wield, and guns. 
When starting a new world you start with a sword and a gun. The weapons you unlocked from the previous worlds do not carry over. Every new world resets you to basic equipment. 
There are a lot of character skins in the game in the shape of food or animals. They even have some skins from other games like Bastion, Guacamelee, Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime, and Enter the Gungeon just to name a few.
The little amount of story is uncovered by speaking with characters around the levels.
Sadly, the game is pretty short and can be completed in under 5 hours. It is couch only co-op and has little to no replayability.

A 3D voxel hack and slash dungeon crawler. Has convenient respawn system, simple controls, tons of skins, lots of crazy weapons, couch only co-op, and very little “story”.

Riverbond is available on Xbox, PS4 and Steam

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.

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.