Long Ago: A Puzzle Tale from Publisher and Developer GrimTalin
Puzzle game with a good story and great music. Simple concept with good execution.
Long Ago: A Puzzle Tale is a puzzle game and fairy tale rolled into one. The story is about a princess longing for freedom and adventure lovingly told in rhyme. This is a little different than most puzzle games as you don’t play as a character but as a ball. You roll around the levels collecting quills/feathers to uncover the next stanza of the story. Sounds pretty simple and boring, right? And yet, it’s not.
Like most puzzle games the early levels are easy to figure out but the game starts to become challenging as new mechanics are introduced. Luckily, you can undo a move with a simple press of a button and there is no limit to the amount of moves you can undo. You also have the option to completely reset the stage with a press of a button. We wish the reset button was not one of the face buttons as we accidentally restarted the level when attempting to only undo a move.
There are a total of 5 chapters. Each has its own theme and new mechanics to keep the gameplay challenging (and we do mean challenging), interesting, and fun. One of the challenges introduced in the game is the fact that only some of the feathers are visible at the beginning of the level. There are obstacles that you have to solve in order for the rest of the feathers to show up so path selection can be very tricky.
After completing all of the story levels you are able to replay the levels collecting coins instead of feathers. The coin placement is in different locations from the feathers which makes replaying the levels challenging and enjoyable. The coins are used to unlock new skins for your Ball which are only cosmetic. However, these challenge levels also award you with a 3 gem rating for how well you did. Completing the level using the least amount of turns will get you a higher rating. The game’s story progression is tied to the gems, so you might have to replay some of the challenge levels in an attempt to get a higher rating. There is a hint system that helps make it easier but you have to wait a while for the hint meter to refill.
It has a great soundtrack to keep you relaxed when getting stuck on a puzzle. After completing all of the levels in the chapter you are able to pull up a book to put all of the pieces of the story together. You can read them for yourself, or replay the audio of the characters reading the lines. We really liked this feature since it can take a while to solve the puzzles causing you to lose track of the narrative. Each chapter also has a really beautiful song you can play from the book. It will also keep playing if you navigate out of the book and start a challenge level. We were really impressed with these songs and would love to have the soundtrack so we can listen to them whenever we want.
It has a great pick up and play feel as you never feel lost when returning back for another puzzle after taking some time off.
There are 16 levels in the Narrators Challenges to be completed after finishing the story. The levels are true to their name combining several of the game’s mechanics at once making you use all of the skills you learned during the main game in order to complete them.
The background art is great. It has a photo realistic look with some subtle animations like grass flowing and moving in the wind and birds flying around. This was really well done and added an extra something that was really relaxing while solving the puzzles.
Overall it’s an enjoyable puzzle game that lets you take your time when solving the puzzles and provides a challenge.
Long Ago: A Puzzle Tale is available on Xbox, Nintendo, and Steam. A digital copy of this game was provided to SimpleGameReviews for the purposes of reviewing the game.
Knight Squad 2 from Publisher and Developer Chainsawesome Games
Top down, fast paced, multi-player, medieval fantasy combat. Good for adults and adolescents. Multiple match options for online or local play. Supports cross platform online matchmaking.
Knight Squad 2 is an arcade style multiplayer game with both online and couch co-op options. As we’re sure you’ve guessed, it is the sequel to Knight Squad. Just like in the original game there are multiple Knight characters for you to choose from and more that can be unlocked by completing various in-game requirements. Some of the requirements are as simple as entering a cheat code while others can be a little more challenging like holding a special weapon for a set amount of time. Sadly, it really doesn’t matter which knight you choose. It’s really just a skin/color change and a unique “emote” that you only see on the character selection and match end screen.
There are thirteen different game modes to play and enjoy. Each mode has several arenas (different maps) to play on. Each of the modes plays a little differently with unique requirements to win. All of them have a fixed top down camera perspective. We found it difficult to keep track of which character on screen was ours from time to time with them all running around over the top of each other. The gameplay is fast paced and the matches are short. After playing them all once you’ll have a pretty good feel for which modes you prefer. Most of the game modes have a default time of 3 minutes which keeps the games short and enjoyable but this can be changed to make them longer or shorter to suit your preferences. Just like the Knights, you can also unlock new Battle arenas. Their unlock requirements are much clearer; all you need to do is win on the previous map to unlock the new one.
The game is easy to pick up and play, with the option to play against bots or people. The controls are also pretty simple which makes it easy for anyone to enjoy the combat.
The game has two big selling points. First, is the many customization options for the match’s variants. You can add modifiers, change the item spawn rate, or remove items all together. This allows you to keep the gameplay interesting and varied. Second, is that the weapons you use to fight the other Knights are great, weird, and even a little magical. You have both melee and ranged weapon options. Each of the arenas will have a few standard item spawn locations and a bunch of random ones. The randomized item spawns adds some challenge to the matches. When the weapons spawn and you run over them you will pick up a level 1 version of the item. Picking up the same item that you already have equipped will give you the maxed out version of it. The maxed out version does more damage and sometimes has bonus powers to it.
You can play with up to 8 players locally or online. We liked that they give the option to back fill missing players with bots. This really comes in handy as you can’t always get a full lobby when playing online.
Overall the game is fun to play with a group of people and would be a good addition to a party game list. If you enjoyed the original, you’ll love the sequel with its added options. Good for a party game. Price point may be contributing to lower online player counts.
Knight Squad 2 is available on Xbox, Nintendo, and Steam. A digital copy of this game was provided to SimpleGameReviews for the purposes of reviewing the game.
Buildings Have Feelings Too! from Publisher Merge Games and Developer Blackstaff Games
A cute but complicated time based strategy/puzzle game. If you like complex variables this could be a great game for you.
Buildings Have Feelings Too! is marketed as a “city management” game. Watching the trailer it looked like it was going to be an intro to world building type of game play experience. However, this was not quite what was delivered.
You play as a cute building called the Halfway Hotel who is in charge of building and fixing up neighbourhoods. You will need to help rebuild the city to its glory days.
There are a total of 9 neighbourhoods to unlock and rebuild. Each neighborhood has a main building/quest-giver. You will need to complete the full quest line from this building before being able to access the next neighbourhood. Most of the requirements are simple; get a specific building type to a certain level or get the neighbourhood’s total appeal to a set number. So far so good. Seems fairly straightforward, doesn’t it? Oh but, wait!
The buildings all have their own feelings, personality, likes, and dislikes. There are several different types to make and place and each type has a different set of businesses that can be put in them. Each of these businesses will have specific “appeal” requirements that must be met by having the right surrounding buildings/businesses in order to level them up. If/when a building really dislikes the others around it a Red “X” will appear over it letting you know that if you don’t move the building or change its surroundings it will be closed down when the circle around the X is full. There were times where we couldn’t figure out what was causing this or how to stop it and had no choice but to let the building close down.
After a building type has been upgraded a few times you will gain access to new businesses that can be placed in it. This introduces new challenges for getting the right buildings/businesses in proximity to each other. It took us a bunch of time to learn what all of the building’s resources did and how to correctly fill the requirements.
There is a lot of hand holding in the game which isn’t a bad thing at first as the game is very complicated with many mechanics that take a long time to understand and learn. They introduced multiple mechanics at the same time which made it difficult to grasp them properly. This made the hand holding a lot more necessary than it might’ve otherwise been. Unfortunately, this led to it feeling like we were still in the tutorial after more than an hour of playing.
There is a relaxing soundtrack that is mixed with different sound effects making each neighborhood sound a little different while still maintaining a sense of continuity throughout the levels. The building animation was good and seeing your character running around was cute.
Overall the game was far more complicated than it needed to be. It seems to us to be more of a time based strategy/puzzle game than the world building type game we thought we were going to be playing. If we could make any recommendations for improvement, it would be to K.I.S.S. (Keep It Simple Sweetie).
Buildings Have Feelings Too! is available on Xbox, Playstation, Nintendo Switch, and Steam. A digital copy of this game was provided to SimpleGameReviews for the purposes of reviewing the game.
Moon Raider from Publisher Drageus Games S.A. and Developers Cascadia Games and Crescent Moon Games
Solid side-scrolling platformer. Good story idea but it’s not really developed into a strong driver for the game.
Ava is the young daughter of the brilliant-but-aging scientist Dr. Cavor and Selene, the former queen of the moon. As a selenite, Selene’s life depends on the special energy only moon gems can provide. With none left and time running out, Dr. Cavor enlists his daughter to raid the moon of as many gems as she can find! Ava must survive the treacherous catacombs deep beneath the surface of the moon. Her enemies, a legion of corrupt aliens that now rule the moon with force, are far less primitive than they first appear. Their world is full of terrifying technology, deadly traps, and armed soldiers at the ready. Ava soon realizes that the only way to save her mother is to save the moon from itself. At least that’s what the press kit says. This exposition was presented perfectly in the promotional materials but sadly, the game does not succeed very well at conveying it in the cinematic intro. All of the ‘story’ is told in this intro and a single cutscene at the end of the game. We were only able to pick up the broad gist of the premise for the game from the cutscenes. More cutscenes and more content in the cutscenes would’ve helped to flesh out the world and the characters. But this may not have been a priority for a side scrolling platformer.
Unlike traditional side scrolling games, the platforming elements introduce more verticality in the levels. Some of which have sections that scroll vertically instead of only right to left. The game has a retro feel that reminded us of a mix of Megaman and Metroidvania possibly in part because your weapon is a blaster arm like Megaman. All of the zones are connected by doors and can be returned to if you are willing to do some backtracking.
After completing the first zone you gain a dash attack that is a little overpowered if used well. You are invulnerable while dashing and can use this to avoid taking damage as well as to help access vertical sections in the levels. It can also be used to attack and can one-hit most of the enemies you come across. You will need to kill the enemies, shoot targets, and break boxes to refill the energy gauge that powers your dash attack.
While moving around the levels you will need to unplug power sources to unlock doors on the levels. The doors lock off parts of the levels blocking access to the moon gems needed to save your mother. They did a good job making it clear when you are able to interact with the power plug as a large “Y” button will appear on screen. You will also use the same button to free aliens locked in jars that you will encounter every few levels. These aliens will be asking for your help and freeing them will grant you additional energy.
There are upgrades hidden behind false walls in each of the zones as well as a bonus room that lets you refill your energy and health. The false walls are easy to spot as they have an alien head logo on the adjacent wall, while the bonus rooms are a little harder to find and can be missed if you don’t see the door.
There are a total of 10 zones in the game and each zone has 6 levels. There’s a boss fight at the end of each zone. These fights can be a little challenging as the bosses do a lot of damage, but all of the bosses have a pattern that is fairly easy to learn letting you avoid their attacks and make short work of them.
The game has a decent checkpoint system that creates a checkpoint after you enter a room. If you die you will be placed at the beginning of the room you are in and anything you collected will need to be collected again. Since the game will re-checkpoint every time you go through a door, we started to use this to our advantage to save progress periodically. There’s nothing worse than dying at the very end of a level and having to redo the whole thing.
Each of the zones has their own look and feel with their own environments and enemies. In the later levels new challenges are introduced with underwater and ice physics. Each of these presents unique elements to the game play and mechanics.
It also has drop-in/drop-out local coop. Coop requires that Ava has at least 10% Gem Energy available to call in the coop partner before the other player will be able to jump in. Having a second player can make the boss fights a little easier but the second player has to jump in before starting the boss fights.
Overall the game is fun, has a retro feel but we would have loved more story and some character development.
Moon Raider is available on Xbox, Playstation, Nintendo Switch Apple TV, and Steam. A digital copy of this game was provided to SimpleGameReviews for the purposes of reviewing the game.
Pretty basic trivia party game. Could be more polished in a few areas but is still enjoyable for those that like quiz show party games.
Papa’s Quiz is a party/trivia game for up to 8 players. Players can either use a controller, phone, tablet, or any web browser to play the game. Much like the Jackbox games, you will go to a website and use the game code on the game screen to enter the game or you can scan the QR code instead. The “controls” appear on the screen of your chosen device for players using a mobile device or web browser. They are simply four colored buttons that resemble controller face buttons.
There are 2 hosts for the game, Mr. Papa and Sir Monty, who provide instructions and a little color commentary during the game. The host characters’ voice overs are done in a stilted robotic style and could have been better as they are a little distracting at times.
You are able to customize your avatar in several different ways to make it feel unique and more like your own style which is always nice to see. They have a variety of stock hats, eyes, mouths, outfits, and names for you to mix and match.
When the round starts you are shown 4 categories to pick from. Choosing the category is a minigame all on its own as everyone is able to fight for the category they want by spamming the buttons on their screens to move the pointer to their desired category. They have a “junior” category in the lower corner with questions for younger gamers. This is nice to have so gamers of all ages can enjoy the game.
After you fight over the category, the questions begin and the first person to answer it correctly gets the higher number of points, second gets less and so on. When you press the button to select your answer a clock will appear beside your character to let you know how long it took to pick your answer. There is a round where the first correct responder is able to steal points from another player of their choice. In this round that is the only way to earn points. After each round the player with the most points earned in that round is able to show off their dance skills or skip it if you want.
One of the issues we found when playing was that when attempting to stream the game the questions/answers were only present on screen and not on the devices putting anyone not playing locally at a huge disadvantage since the time delay would hurt their score. This puts them at a major disadvantage in the final round where your points get converted to time and the last player standing wins.
While the game is said to have 3000 questions and 185 categories in our experience a few categories seemed to come up repeatedly making it seem like there were a lot less options. It is still an enjoyable party/trivia game for those like this genre especially if you have a fun group of friends to play it with.
Papa’s Quiz is available on Xbox, Playstation, Apple TV, and Steam. A digital copy of this game was provided to SimpleGameReviews for the purposes of reviewing the game.
Call of the Sea from Publisher Raw Fury and Developer Out of the Blue
Walking sim/puzzle game with a great story that is well told (if you take the time to explore and find all of the clues and notes and read the resulting journal).
A walking sim/puzzle game set in the 1930’s.
You play as Norah Everhart, who was born with a strange disease that causes black marks on her arms and hands and will eventually lead to the same slow and painful death that her mother suffered. Norah and her husband Harry have been unsuccessful finding a cure with the doctors. So, Harry sets out on an expedition to try and find a cure himself. After many months, Norah receives a mysterious package and a letter sending her to where Harry’s expedition took place. She sets out to this strange but beautiful island in the South Pacific in search of Harry who has gone missing and this is where our story begins.
The island is filled with secrets waiting to be discovered. During Norah’s adventure on the island she will discover many things about the island, Harry, and herself. She will have to find clues to solve the many puzzles on the island. You explore by walking around, interacting with, and picking up items. You can discover clues by picking up photos, papers, and items left in the many camps spread out over the island. Not everything you find will be necessary to solve the puzzle in front of you but they do all add to context and flesh out the story.
The game is broken down into 6 chapters each taking place in a different part of the island. Each level has a unique look and feel that enhances the story very nicely in addition to providing visual variety and interest. The puzzles in the earlier levels are easy compared to the later ones. As the game goes on the levels become larger and start adding verticality to some of the challenges. They do not hold your hand at all and discovering the clues is mandatory for the later puzzles since a pure trial and error method would take hours. Luckily, once you pick up a clue it gets added to your journal so that you can refer to at any time.
The journal is broken down into 2 parts: Notes and Log. The Notes area holds all of the clues you picked up and will be referred back to often for the puzzles. The Log area is where Norah journals about everything that is discovered along the way, her thoughts and feelings, and is a large part of the story of the game.
The game’s writing is great, Norah feels like a real person but, some of the journal entries had minor issues with spelling or grammar. This might come down to a translation issue as the developers are not from a native English speaking country. The game has 2 endings each with their own emotional push. They did a good job laying the groundwork for either ending to make sense and seem right for the character. One of them really hit us in the feels.
Our biggest complaint about the game is Norah’s movement speed; it is a little slow. Even when “sprinting” her movements are slow. Since the game is part walking sim you will spend a lot of time “running” back and forth across maps that are sometimes pretty spread out trying to solve the puzzles. We would have loved the current “sprint” speed to be the normal walking speed and sprinting to be double that. An autosprint option would’ve been nice too since you’ll have to stop and start repeatedly to interact with items but that’s probably getting a little nit-picky.
The artstyle is hand drawn and cartoony. The music and sound effects are well done. Our only critique is the way the background audio changes abruptly when crossing the threshold from one “area” of the map to another. A more gradual fade from one ambient soundscape to another would’ve helped the environment to feel more seamless. All of the voice over work was great.
Call of the Sea is available on Xbox, Windows and Steam.