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.
In Rays of the Light from Publisher Sometimes You and DeveloperNoskov Sergey
Intriguing backstory for those that take the time to find it. Fantastic use of sound design and visual elements to create the atmosphere. Relatively short walking sim/puzzle game.
An Atmospheric Walking Adventure
In a post-civilization world you find yourself in the decaying remains of an abandoned school. Nature has started reclaiming the building. This is where the game begins.
The world is empty and you are alone… or are you? This is where the atmospheric adventure starts taking you into dark areas with only a small flashlight to illuminate the way. You need to explore the building and side structures to find a way out. While the game is in first person and you do carry around a pipe, there are no enemies, combat, or jump scares to worry about. The pipe is just for prying open doors. Seems like it should be a relaxing walking sim, right? Wrong. The tension is built with a great sound design that creates a really spooky ambiance layered with other sounds like footsteps and lockers/doors being opened and closed. This combines with moving shadows and other things just in the corners of your vision as you look around giving you that super creepy feeling that you are not actually alone.
While searching the building you will spend some time in above ground areas that are partially lit by the light coming in through the windows. In contrast, the underground areas are very dark adding more tension and some navigational challenges. It is easy to get lost as some of the areas feel like a maze in the dark with only a lighter and flashlight to find clues leading to the way out.
While exploring the world you will find items to interact with or pick up. Some of these will be needed to solve the puzzles. You’ll also see a lot of writing on walls and blackboards all over. The puzzles can be challenging as there is no hand holding and it’s easy to miss a clue in the dark. We also found that you have to be very close to objects before you can tell if they can be interacted with or not. This made things a little more time consuming and we would have liked to be able to tell from a greater distance what is interactable and what isn’t.
One of the things you can pick up is notes scattered around the world. The notes provide backstory for what happened to everyone and the state of the world. The backstory is intriguing enough it makes you want to check every possible spot that a note could be just to learn more about what happened.
The game is on the shorter side and can be completed in under 2 hours depending on how lost you get when trying to find the clues to solve the puzzles and navigate through the maze-like areas.
There are two different endings depending on how much time you spend in the light. We thought this was an interesting mechanic but we don’t recommend trying for the low light ending on your first playthrough.
Overall it was an enjoyable game with an interesting story. A little too dark at times though as even with the brightness turned all the way up it’s easy to get lost in the darkness.
In Rays of the Light is available on Xbox, Playstation and Nintendo Switch. A digital copy of this game was provided to SimpleGameReviews for the purposes of reviewing the game.
Active Neurons 3 from Publishers Sometimes You, Usanik STD and Developer Nikolai Usachev
Good puzzle game with great features, accessibility options, and enjoyable soundtrack.
Active Neurons – Wonders of the World is the third and final installment in the Active Neurons series. Being the third installment in the series it has most of the game mechanics from the previousgames as well as several that are new to this one. Like the previous games, new mechanics are introduced to the puzzles at a regular pace to keep them challenging and keep things interesting. A few of the new mechanics that we really enjoyed are one that lets you swap places with another square, another that gives you the option to turn some blocks on or off (both add a whole bunch of challenges), and a mini puzzle inside the level that locks off an area until you solve it.
One of the best new additions is the Step Back button which lets you “rewind” your moves. There is no limit to the amount of moves that you can rewind and you can do it all with the press of a button. This allows you to make a mistake without having to restart the entire level and is especially helpful during the later levels as the puzzles will require a lot of moves to complete.
Like the previous 2 games, solving the puzzle requires moving an energy block to the goal located elsewhere on the level. Once you press the direction you want the block to move, it will continue in that direction until it hits an obstacle. You will need to use these obstacles along with portals or the walls around the edge of the screen to help you maneuver through the level and solve the puzzle.
If you get really stuck on a puzzle there is the option to see the solution. This option has been present in all of the games and is one of the many staple mechanics to the series.
The game is broken down into 2 areas; the “Wonders of the World” which spans from the Great Pyramid of Giza to the Lighthouse of Alexandria (BC), and the “New 7 Wonders of the World” which covers from the Colosseum to Christ the Redeemer (AD). The New 7 Wonders of the World is where the difficulty really ramps up with new mechanics being introduced. Sometimes you’ll need to combine a few mechanics to solve the puzzles. There are 140 puzzles to complete between both areas.
They brought back the colorblind mode accessibility option from the first game. Sadly, the monochrome mode from the first game was not part of the comeback. The colorblind mode is extremely useful and we recommend using it whether you’re colorblind or not as it adds icons to all of the interactive blocks making it easier to know what each of them does.
There is a great relaxing soundtrack that comes in handy when you start to get frustrated with the harder puzzles. It works well with the minimalistic art style.
Overall the game is enjoyable, the puzzles are challenging, and it’s a good ending to the series. Since there’s not really a “story” you don’t need to have played the previous games to enjoy this one.
Active Neurons 3 – Wonders Of The World is available on Xbox, Playstation and Nintendo Switch. A digital copy of this game was provided to SimpleGameReviews for the purposes of reviewing the game.