Flat Heroes from Publisher and Developer Parallel Circles
Not for the faint of heart or easily frustrated. Fast paced platforming with high degree of difficulty.
Flat Heroes is a fast-paced, minimalistic, intense, action platformer. You control a square just trying to stay alive. To do that, you need to jump from platform to platform, landing and jumping off walls to avoid being killed by the enemies and traps that appear.
There are 3 modes to play: Campaign, Survival, and Versus. Campaign is divided into two parts. Normal, which is the standard mode, and Heroes, which is pretty much equivalent to Hard mode. We suggest leaving Heroes until you have completed Normal mode. Most of the levels consist of avoiding the different types of enemies/traps and staying alive.
The game does provide a lot of challenges with 300 levels broken up into 20 worlds between normal and hero mode with boss battles at the end of each world (and we do mean battles). Some of the boss battles take a little bit of time (and many deaths) just trying to figure out what you need to do to beat the boss.
New mechanics are introduced every few worlds and new enemies/traps are introduced every few levels which keeps the gameplay interesting and keeps upping the challenge. If the levels become too challenging we suggest getting a friend to join as you only need 1 player to survive to the end in order to finish the level. Sadly, the game only offers local (couch) co-op. But, it does have drop-in and drop-out 4 player co-op which made it easier for a friend to drop in to help for a couple of levels and then drop out and we could keep going on our own. If you don’t have a local co-op player who is willing to join you there is an option to skip the level but it looks like you can’t skip back to back levels so be aware of that when choosing to skip or not. You are unable to skip the second to last level in the world (the level before the boss battle).
Survival mode, as you might have guessed, is a timed mode seeing how long you can stay alive. There are a bunch of modes to play but sadly most of the modes are locked behind SP, the game’s point system. You “earn” SP by climbing the leaderboards. There is a daily challenge that you can play once for free. If you would like to retry it to try and get a better time it will cost you some of your SP which turns it a little into a currency system. It does have online global leaderboards which is great to see as that adds to the replayability. We did notice that the top scores are all Dev accounts which should probably be removed or not included in the leaderboards.
Versus mode is a battle mode. Much like Survival mode, most of the versus modes are locked but can be unlocked after playing a few games. There is couch co-op for all of the modes and the option to add AI for the versus modes. We would have loved to see different options for the AI as it is no joke; they play to win.
The game carries its minimalist theme throughout from the controls and enemies, to the art style and music. All of this adds to that pick up and play feeling where we can play it for 15-30 minutes here or there, put it down, and come back another time.
Overall we enjoyed the game in spurts, some of the levels were very challenging and a little frustrating as we didn’t know what we were supposed to do during the boss battles. It is satisfying finally completing a level that you died a bunch on and that included the boss battles. The game does not hold your hand, you learn by dying over and over until you learn the pattern or figure out the objective. We would have loved to have been able to play more of the modes without having to grind points or battle the AI.
Flat Heroes is on Xbox, Playstation, Nintendo Switch, Steam, and Epic Games. A digital copy of this game was provided to SimpleGameReviews for the purposes of reviewing the game.
Endling – Extinction is Forever from Publisher Hearobeat Studios and Developer HandyGames
Don’t mess with momma fox. Emotional journey of a momma getting her stolen cub back. Beautiful art and well told story.
Endling is a 3D side-scrolling survival eco-conscious journey in a beautiful yet polluted world. You play as the last mother fox on Earth with 4 newborn cubs. A hunter traps one of the cubs and you will need to track down the hunter to rescue your cub while keeping your other 3 cubs safe, fed, and alive. Mankind is slowly destroying the world with trash and junk everywhere. The forests are being cut down and rivers are polluted. As the game goes on you will see the world getting worse and worse.
For the first little bit, when the cubs are very young, they will stay in the shelter and you will need to go out and bring back some food. Sometimes, you will have to hunt other animals or dig through garbage looking for food. Most of the expeditions take place at night while the humans are sleeping. The game does recommend you return to the shelter before morning. This is not mandatory although it does make it easier to move around because if the humans see you they will attack. When returning to the shelter to sleep you will see an adorable image of you, the momma, and your cubs sleeping. Every once in a while you will see an animation of a cub yawning or moving around.
After a few nights of solo foraging for food, the cubs will venture from the shelter and join you. This adds another component to the game as you will need to make sure they are safe and keep them within range. They start off not being able to do much, just following you around waiting for food. There are certain areas of the game that will teach your cubs new skills. With some of the new skills they learn they will be able to get their own food and escape when being hunted. The cubs can get scared with everything happening in the environment or when you have been attacked. You can pet your cubs to reassure them everything is ok. This little extra touch adds something special to the game and really makes you feel connected with your character.
With all that said, not all interactions with humans are bad. Yes, most of them will be trying to hunt you with traps and if they do get too close to you they will attack you but, some of them will ignore you and a few will give you some food and try to pet you. For the ones that are hostile, you are able to fight them off but it does take a toll on your character as you are unable to run and will have to walk away.
If you die you are provided with a message letting you know that your cubs couldn’t survive without you as well as the image of your character being killed sometimes a little graphically. If you don’t take care of your cubs, they will die so it’s important to not neglect them if you want to keep them alive. This adds to the message about how serious survival is.
From time to time you will come across other animals; some you will hunt for food and others will attempt to hunt you. You can also befriend a few who will give you food and maybe even show you some short cut (fast travel) locations around the world.
The game provides you with a sniff mechanic, showing you a “scent trail” for food (prey and garbage) as well as the hunter who took your cub. Everytime you find a clue, which is something the hunter has interacted with, you get a little flashback image. This is used to help progress the story and also unlocks new areas. We really liked the way this was used as it felt like the hunter’s tracks came every few days normally after you had finished exploring your current area. The more clues you find the more you learn about the hunter.
As you play the world keeps changing, seasons change and so does the environment. While following your goal of keeping the cubs safe and getting the taken one back, new paths and escape ways to use and explore open up. There are events that happen on certain days in specific areas that you can completely miss out on. Luckily, this doesn’t impact the story but it does add another little something extra if you happen to experience them and gives players the opportunity for unique experiences in their playthroughs.
Overall we really enjoyed the game, the story, the world, and with all of the little extras it made it feel more like an experience than a game.
Endling – Extinction is forever is on Xbox, Playstation, Nintendo Switch, Steam, GOG and Epic Games. A digital copy of this game was provided to SimpleGameReviews for the purposes of reviewing the game.
PowerWash Simulator from Publisher Square Enix Collective and Developer Futurlab
Excellent power washing sim with a delightful story. Great for zen-ing out and relaxing after a long day.
There is something very relaxing about cleaning a dirty object and this game does a great job capturing that feeling. You might think it’s a simple simulator for power washing and it might be a little boring but, you couldn’t be more wrong. Yes, it is a simulator for power washing, that much is true. But this deceptively simple concept masks a really fun little story with some interesting characters.
You’ll start the game with a basic power washer and a text from a friend. As you continue cleaning you’ll see more messages pop up and the text messages are how you’ll be notified of new job opportunities. Most of these appear to come from referrals from your very satisfied customers. These on screen text messages are also how you experience the delightful story in the game.
If you miss some of the on screen text messages you can pull up your in-game tablet and reread them on the messages tab of your job. Sadly, when re-reading the messages in this tab it doesn’t tell you who the message is from so if you miss that when it first pops up on the screen you won’t be able to tell who said what later. We did notice that while playing co-op the messages only showed up on the host’s game. We would have loved to see the messages on both players’ screens and been able to tell who they were from when reviewing them from the messages tab of the job info.
There’s a solid difficulty progression introducing you to steadily larger or more complex buildings and vehicles to clean. They have different degrees of difficulty on the dirt and stains that need to be removed as well as the sheer size and shape of what needs to be cleaned. For every level you complete in Career Mode you’ll earn both stars and money. The money is used to upgrade your equipment, buy soap to make the cleaning a little easier, or buy skins for your character and equipment.
They helped balance the difficulty curve by locking the more powerful washers behind not just a price tag but also a “stars” requirement. This ensures that you have to be at least X far into the story before you can purchase them. Each level earns you 5 stars upon completion.
While cleaning, some of the stains are easy to remove while others will take more pressure (swapping nozzles) and require you to move a little more slowly over the area. The game does give you some “forgiveness” when cleaning during the earlier levels letting you complete areas without getting every speck of the dirt/stains. As you advance into the later stages of the game there is less wiggle room and it becomes harder to ensure all of the dirt is cleaned away. There is a dirt finder button which highlights the dirt for a few seconds. This becomes a mandatory tool on many levels. We would have loved to be able to double tap the button and have the dirt stay highlighted instead of fading after a second or two but that is not currently an option. We did find a few times that even using the dirt finder we were unable to see the dirt and had to go over the area again from different angles and pay close attention to corners and “seams” to remove the missed dirt.
The game doesn’t have a soundtrack, just ambient sounds (background noise) which is a good thing for a few reasons. 1.) If/When you’re power washing in real life, you probably have headphones in and are listening to whatever you want. 2.) With the amount of time it takes to complete some of the levels you will get tired of hearing the same songs over and over again.
There are a few different modes to play which adds to the replayability. Career mode is the story mode for the game, Specials lets you clean unique objects, Challenge Mode where you need to complete the job within a certain amount of time or within a set amount of water being used, and of course, Free Play which lets you replay any Career Mode level you’ve already finished. All but 1 mode is playable in co-op (Challenge Mode is 1 player). Career Mode lets you play in a 2 player co-op while Specials and Free play is up to 6 players which lets you complete a job very fast.
While playing the game in co-op we did notice a few things that seemed a little odd. Only the host was able to buy upgrades or soap from the shop. The second player could not use soap at all and only had access to the upgrades that the host had. We understand the upgrades as the second player could have already unlocked the highest tier equipment and made the job easier than intended. And as previously mentioned, the story texts only seems to show for the host. One of the benefits of playing in co-op (other than completing the job faster) was the second player got the same amount of money for completing the job as the host did. When the second player goes back to their own game they will have all of the extra money they earned while in co-op. When replaying a level in free play the amount of money you receive is pennies on the dollar compared to finishing the job in the career mode. Luckily after completing the campaign you should have more than enough money to get all of the upgrades, soap, and a few cosmetic items.
Overall we were surprised at how much we enjoyed the game and how fast the time flew while playing it. Don’t be surprised if you start playing it and the hours just wash away all while having some good clean fun.
PowerWash Simulator is available on Xbox, Windows and Steam.
Bunny Factory from Publisher and Developer DillyFrameGames
More bunny puzzles, now with a mech suit. Play it for the achievements not the game play.
In the great tradition of the Bunny games this 3rd person puzzle game puts you in control of a Bunny as you work to solve the puzzles. This time you have a fancy mech suit and you’re working in a dead factory trying to bring it back to life. Each puzzle you solve provides a power core to restart part of the factory. Sounds pretty easy right? Well it starts out that way but it doesn’t last.
After you solve each puzzle located in the engineering room, you are presented with a power core, each of which needs to be taken to a different specific location in the factory. This process slows down the progression and pacing of the puzzle solving as you have to run around to plug in the core and run back to the main room before you can start the next puzzle. When you plug in the core there is a short cutscene animation of the machine being powered up and starting production.
There are a total of 100 levels to complete but only the first 50 have these different locations and animations. The remaining 50 are all located in a small room off to the side and there is no animation like the previous ones had. It almost seems like the developers ran out of time or just gave up on the concept they had introduced for the first 50 levels.
The puzzles are electrical schemes that require you to place colored blocks to power the floor and complete the circuit. The interesting part is that the blocks will only send power in certain directions. There are triangles located on the side of the blocks letting you know which directions it will let the power flow. There are also yellow arrows that appear on the floor when you’re holding a block and are standing on a square that it can be placed on. This helps you remember which directions that block will activate.
Like most puzzle games it starts out pretty easy with the blocks already being powered (colored in) and the puzzle sizes are small. Depending on placement some of the earlier puzzles can be completed without using all of the blocks. As you progress through the levels new challenges are added. Sometimes the blocks need to be powered/colored in the right charging station (Red, Blue, Yellow, Green). They also add more colours to the same puzzle, limit the effective range of the blocks, and the puzzles become increasingly larger both in size as well as the amount of blocks needed to complete the puzzle.
The game is lacking any real story at all. A few lines of text on screen telling us what happened to the factory and why we were there trying to reactivate it could have fixed that. The amount of time spent running around dropping off the power cores really hinders the pacing of the game and the enjoyment of solving the puzzles. This issue could’ve been improved if we could have picked up the core and dropped it off in the same room after solving the puzzle. The cutscene showing the machines powering up would still explain what the power core was used for but you would save a lot of time not having to run around and it would allow greater flow in the game play since the player would be able to start the next puzzle faster.
There are collectibles that you can find scattered around the factory. They are parts to a mech but they did not seem to do anything as the only customization option you have is to change the colour of your mech. We would have loved to have seen the collectables as equipable upgrades to the mech. They could’ve provided a performance boost like increasing your speed or jump height or they could’ve been some sort of cosmetic change. As is, they seem pointless.
There is online co-op which can help on the larger puzzles but it is invite only. There is also level select to allow you to replay previous puzzles. There is no challenge or leaderboard type thing so there’s not really any point in replaying the levels solo. However, we did find that a co-op partner can join you and the host can level select to just the levels with achievements attached and the co-op partner will get the achievements. The collectibles are also all present for the co-op partner so they can collect all of those as well.
Overall we feel like there were hints at a higher concept or story that just didn’t quite make it to execution. With a few tweaks this could’ve been a better game. But most of you are probably playing it for the achievements and not the game play and it does deliver on the relatively easy achievements.
Bunny Factory is available on Xbox, Playstation and Steam. A digital copy of this game was provided to SimpleGameReviews for the purposes of reviewing the game.
KungFu Kickball from Publisher Blowfish Studios and Developer WhaleFood Games
Street Fighter meets FIFA in this 2D sports ball combat game. If you like 2D fighting games you’ll probably really enjoy this cute combat version of soccer/football.
Sports Ball Combat, that’s right. KungFu Kickball is a 2D mix of soccer and old school kung fu movies.
What do we mean by old school kung fu movies, well you can jump into the sky, bounce off bamboo trees, punch and kick your opponent all while trying to ring a bell in the opponents goal using a ball. Sounds pretty fun doesn’t it?
It has a bunch of modes to hone your skills as well as four different AI difficulty levels. Three of these are accessible right off the top but the fourth is only unlockable by beating the “Master” difficulty first.
The difficulty level naming follows the Kung Fu theme with Apprentice, Teacher, Master, and Grand Master. The AI is no joke as the teacher, master and grand master difficulty levels are very challenging. Luckily, you have unlimited continues. The only catch is you need to complete the mode in one sitting because if you stop you’ll have to start over when you come back. We would have loved to see the option to continue where you left off as the harder difficulties are very challenging which can be very time consuming.
The different modes are Practice, Training (the tutorial and target practice), Custom (these matches have a decent amount of options you can change), Tournament, and both Local and Online Multiplayer (versus and co-op). The online multiplayer lets you do Quick Play 1v1, 2v2, and host or join private games including letting you run custom matches. There is an interesting option in the Custom mode that lets you change the ball. “Why does this matter?” you might ask. Well each of the different balls behaves a little differently. There is even a ball shaped like the Publisher’s (Blowfish Studios) mascot which sticks to your character as a blowfish might.
To keep the wait time between online games short they have added Cross Platform Play which can be turned on or off in the options (they have it labeled “crossplay”). Being able to do this in game rather than having to change the setting on a system level is really convenient.
There is something cool we’ve never seen in a game before. While searching for a quick match you are able to practice against the computer without any bells to keep score. After a while of practicing a message pops up on screen with a QR Code. “Can’t find a match? Hop on the discord and challenge someone!” We really liked this feature as a tool for community development and a way of connecting with other fans of the game to get a match going.
The controls are very simple. You can either use the right thumb stick or 3 buttons to control your character’s attacks. This keeps the game easy to learn, very accessible and yet hard to master as you are able to do many different combinations of button presses or directions to do some other moves.
There are a total of six different characters (a few need to be unlocked before being able to use them), each with their own positives and negatives. There are also six different locations to play on. Each of the arenas comes with different environmental challenges that make each stage feel different and fun to play. Since there are only six it won’t take long for you to find your favorite arena.
It has a pixel art style for the backgrounds and characters. There is a nice cartoon intro that reminded us of the Power Puff Girls/Dexter’s Laboratory art style. Like any good sports game it has an announcer who chimes in when certain things happen. He reminded us a little of the announcer from NBA Jam with lines like “From Downtown”. There is also a Slow-mo replay that shows up when you do something cool to score a point.
Overall the game is enjoyable, addictive, and pretty challenging on the harder difficulties.
KungFu Kickball is available on Xbox, Nintendo Swtich, Playstation and Steam. A digital copy of this game was provided to SimpleGameReviews for the purposes of reviewing the game.
One Hand Clapping from Publisher HandyGames and Developer Bad Dream Games
Find your voice (or other musical instrument) and play a fun game with 2D platforming and time manipulation.
One Hand Clapping is a 2D puzzle platformer that requires a microphone to play. Why a microphone?? I’m glad you asked! It is because your voice is the main tool you’ll be using to interact with the world and solve puzzles.
During your musical journey you will visit 6 vibrant biomes and will come across 3 adorable characters that will assist you. Each one is more adorable than the last. There are hidden glyphs and other secrets located somewhere on the levels. Some of which are very challenging to find. They are not mandatory but having them hiding there does add to the game’s replayability as the search to find adds additional challenge and things to explore after you’ve mastered the puzzles.
One of the interesting parts is you don’t have to be able to sing. It doesn’t hurt if you can but you can also hum, whistle, or make weird noises/sounds (we did that a bunch). Because of the game’s sensitivity to mic input we suggest warning the people around you that you are gonna be playing this as extraneous noise will make it difficult to impossible to complete the challenges. Or, they might come to check on you because “it sounds like a cat being strangled” and they were concerned.
As expected the puzzles in the earlier levels are pretty easy which lets you learn the game at a decent pace. The difficulty comes with new mechanics including time manipulation in the later levels. Some of the later puzzles were quite challenging and we ran into issues with not knowing what was needed to solve a puzzle.
They have a couple of great accessibility options for the less musically skilled gamers, Educational Mode and Voice Visualizer. Educational mode shows you the notes you are hitting vs the notes you need to hit using a small musical scale displayed on the screen. This would be a fantastic tool for music teachers to help their students with ear training and pitch control. The voice visualizer overlays the waveform of the mic input on the left side of the screen which partially obscures the view. We don’t recommend using it as it seems to get in the way more than it helps. They also built in an “easy button” that you can use to solve the current puzzle if you are stuck or are unable to complete it due to lack of musical ability. This provides a solution to the current puzzle but that is often only part of what’s needed to progress as you will still need to complete the platforming part as well.
The range calibration and sensitivity calibration options are very easy to use. We highly suggest using them before starting and potentially recalibrating mid-session if you find your voice starting to wear out after playing it for a while.
The art style is very colourful (after the first level) with a beautifully hand drawn cartoonish feel and is one of the best parts of the game. At times we found ourselves just looking around the level enjoying the world. The background art is very well done as well and adds a little extra to the game’s atmosphere making it feel whole.
The game/story can be completed in around 5 hours or less depending on musical talent. Sadly, there’s not much of a narrative (or it was somewhat lost on us). The gist seems to be that you need to battle the silence (darkness) and bring back the music (light).
Overall we enjoyed the game and got to make a lot of funweird sounds to solve some puzzles. We just wished there was more to the story and that the characters were a little more fleshed out.
One Hand Clapping is on Xbox One, PS4, Nintendo Switch, Steam, iOS and Android. A digital copy of this game was provided to SimpleGameReviews for the purposes of reviewing the game.