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Concept Destruction Review

Concept Destruction from Publisher Ratalaika Games and Developer Thinice Games

Enjoyable cardboard demolition derby. Well executed and easy to play with surprising solid driving mechanics.

Cardboard Demolition Derby

The game is a demolition derby with remote controlled cardboard cars. The play area is a cardboard arena sitting atop a large table in the concept garage. The arena is still littered with the scissors, pens, sticky notes, highlighters, tape, and rulers used to make the cars. To win you must cause the destruction of your rivals by inflicting enough damage to cause them to eject their batteries before they do the same to you.

There are a total of 8 different cars that you will unlock while playing the game, each with their own stats.

While driving around your car will get damaged from smashing into other cars, walls and objects in the arena space. They did a great job making it easy to see the amount of damage your car takes in different areas. If you take enough damage on the left side your door will fall off and so can the tires. You also see that part of your car crushed in. If/when your car takes too much damage you will lose your battery and your car is dead. 

The car physics are better than typically found in games like this. The handling responds to the damage taken in a realistic way. If you lose a tire your car will drive like it only has 3 wheels and will lean to the side that’s missing a tire. The controls are good and responsive which is always nice to see. Like most of the arcadey driving games you have no gears to shift through just gas, brake, e-brake, and boost.

There is a “School” option which is the game’s tutorial. It provides a helpful place to start teaching you the basics. It is broken down into 3 sections: learning how to drive and control your car, explaining the way you damage other cars, and learning how to roll back onto your wheels. The last section is very useful as your car gets turned over a lot.

They also built a photo mode and gave it more options than we expected. You are able to take the camera anywhere on the level and even go through walls and buildings. There are some issues with clipping when you move the camera through a building like some of the walls disappear for a second and come back. You can also spin the camera in 360 degrees and adjust the focus if you’re trying to take an artsy shot. You might even be able to spot an easter egg or two while in photo mode since you’ll be able to see things you can’t normally see. 

After you complete the level by winning or when your car gets destroyed you are provided with a results screen. This will show your score, the amount of cars you killed, the time left in the round, your car battery percentage, and a breakdown of the damage your car took. It was nice to see the breakdown of how much damage each part of the car took while you fought for victory in the cardboard death match. 

Overall the game does a really great job presenting information visually. Not just on the results screen either. When selecting your car, they clearly display the stats so you can see how the cars compare to each other. They also clearly show where and how much damage you’re taking during the derby so you can effectively protect your weak areas while trying to maximize the damage you’re dealing to your opponents.

There are 8 levels in the game, each with a different theme. They range from a fancy plaza complete with fountain, stonehenge, a really cool football stadium, and a forest among others. Some of the levels reminded us of the Micro Machines games for those of you that remember them. 

Concept Destruction is available on Xbox One, PS4, Nintendo Switch and Steam. A digital copy of this game was provided to SimpleGameReviews for the purposes of reviewing the game.

Active Neurons Review

Active Neurons from Publisher Sometimes You and Developer Nikolai Usachev

Relaxing music, challenging puzzles, excellent accessibility options

A logic puzzle

Each puzzle is contained within a single screen. You’ll need to move an energy block to the flashing goal located elsewhere on the screen. Once you press the direction you want the block to move it will move until it hits an obstacle. To solve the puzzles you will need to use these obstacles or the walls around the edge of the screen to help you maneuver through the level. 

There are 120 puzzles to enjoy and several unique game mechanics that are introduced as you progress through the levels. The idea of neurons and the neurological pathways through the brain and body are represented through the menus and level selection format. Completing puzzles fills a neuron and when the neuron is full you get to progress to the next set of puzzles. 

The Brain levels are where you start and are a good introduction to the game’s mechanics. After the first section they start to introduce various obstacles, some of which can kill you. This gives the player the opportunity to get familiar with how to move around and solve the puzzles.

Once you’ve progressed far enough and are making your way through the Body, the levels start to become very challenging and can be failed from your first move. That may sound odd but for most of these levels your block begins from a location in the middle somewhere that can never be returned to since your block will always travel as far as it can until it runs into something. Luckily you can restart any level if you find yourself stuck or put yourself into an unsolvable position. The level reloads in seconds which is great and keeps you playing.

If you get really stuck on a puzzle there is the option to see the solution for the puzzle at the press of a button. That is a nice option to have and is conveniently located right beside the restart button. If you like the challenge of actually figuring things out for yourself, be careful when restarting levels as it is easy to accidentally select the solution button instead. 

The soundtrack is great and relaxing with mellow tunes. This was a good choice for helping players stay cool when the harder levels lead to frustration from repeated failure.

There is a color blind option as well which was great to see and really well done. It adds icons to all of the interactive blocks letting you know what each of them does. It makes it very easy to know what will happen when you hit the blocks. We actually preferred playing with this feature turned on just to make it easier to see what effect all of the blocks would have. 

There is also a monochrome mode if you want to use it. This makes all the blocks shades of grey instead of different colors. You can pair monochrome mode with color blind mode so the icons will still appear.

The majority of the game can also easily be played with just the left thumbstick with occasional presses of the A button. This and the above mentioned colorblind mode make it very friendly for anyone with accessibility needs.

The game is very enjoyable. It scratches the puzzle itch and makes you feel good when you figure out a difficult puzzle. Once you have completed the puzzles there is little to no replayability as there are no leaderboards, challenges, or time trials. Some would consider this a good thing while others may find they miss having a reason to replay levels. 

Active Neurons is available on Xbox One, PS4, PSVita and Nintendo Switch. A digital copy of this game was provided to SimpleGameReviews for the purposes of reviewing the game.

Woodle Tree 2 Deluxe Plus Review

Woodle Tree 2 Deluxe Plus from Publisher Chubby Pixel and Developer Fabio Ferrara

A cute platformer unfortunately plagued with glitches. Some can be worked around, some can be game breaking.

An open world 3d platformer.

You play as Woodle whose world has been taken over by a dark slime. The slime has taken the Water Tears from the Sage Protector trees turning them to stone and is stealing color from the world. Woodle has been sent to recover the Water Tears and save everyone.

As with most open world games, each of the levels (8 in total) are accessible at any time but the later ones are easier to access after purchasing Power Ups, Items, and higher tier Leaves. 

The game has 2 forms of currency; Red and Blue Berries. You collect these while moving around the game and exploring. Red Berries respawn but Blue Berries do not. Some of them are hiding behind destructible objects like leaf blocks. You’ll use the currency to purchase upgrades for your character and weapon as well as on customization options. There are shops in the main plaza for upgrades and for the customizations. You can buy hats that give bonuses and make moving around the levels a little easier while the masks are just cosmetic. 

Your only weapon in the game is a leaf that you carry with you. It is your weapon and is also used to transport droplets of water. The droplets can be placed on seedlings to make them grow which makes them climbable and gives access to higher areas. We encountered a lot of issues climbing up the “beanstalks”. We would often clip through them and fall back to the ground again. This made them into a barely usable mechanic. More often than not, we would have to do a jump/glide/climb combination to get up to the higher area. 

There are different strengths for your leaf. These are color coded for Power and Damage. You start out with a Green Leaf and end up with a Blue Leaf. All of the leaves are able to do a charged shot by holding the attack button. The upgraded leaves do more damage and have a larger charged shot. Combat is very simple and ends up basically a button masher. There are some enemies that cannot be destroyed and will need to be avoided. As we got further into the game we started avoiding most enemies just to save time.

In addition to the different colored leaves dealing more damage and having larger charged shots, you also need different colored leaves to break different colored leaf blocks. The higher level leaves will break leaf blocks of the same color and all the lower tier colors. Many of these higher tier leaf blocks are covering entrances to hidden areas. Most of these areas will have Blue Berries for you to collect. We ran into occasional issues with leaf blocks “breaking” but not actually being removed which prevented us from accessing some areas. Sometimes reloading the area would allow the block to be broken and actually removed. 

The controls are basic and responsive which is always nice to see. The basic mechanics of the game (jump, double/triple jump, glide, and attack) all work well and can be combined to give you a lot of mobility. 

The music is upbeat and relaxing and the background atmosphere sounds capture the feel of the location you are in. They also have fun musical sound effects for collecting Berries but the amount of sound effects for every action you take can start to get a little overwhelming. This can be adjusted to some extent by adjusting your audio settings. 

While playing you will come across musicians locked up in cells made of slime. If you choose to free them you will be rewarded which is good and makes the extra time spent finding and carrying a droplet of water over to the cell worth the hassle. 

The game also has drop in and out local co-op for up to 4 players. The second player gets to play as an adorable fox. Player 3 and 4 get to be a beaver and strange green thing that we’re not quite sure what it is. The fox is by far the cutest. He was so cute we wished we could’ve used it as our main character instead of Woodle. 

There are also challenge areas located all over the world that you can complete to save the Sacred Flowers. You’ll step on a teleporter and be sent to a new world to complete the challenge area. The areas are more challenging than any other part of the game. The checkpoints are far apart and the platforming is quite difficult. If you want to attempt these we recommend waiting until you’re fully upgraded. The Sacred Flowers don’t appear to have any in game purpose which makes these more difficult areas entirely optional. 

The artstyle is cartoonish with bright colors for the environment, characters, and enemies. It looks very much like a kid friendly game.

Each area is a different setting with its own theme and feel. The themes are done well, some are better than others. The ice area has ice physics which causes your character to slide around and adds a twist to the platforming. Sadly you only see this mechanic used in the one ice/snow area.

There are a few camera issues where the camera clips into the wall obscuring your view. Fortunately, you can move the camera manually to get it out of the wall and see what you’re doing again. Though this issue can make some of the platforming more difficult.

We ran into a large issue where the controller would stop responding in game forcing us to close the game and restart it. When this happened we lost all of our checkpoints in the area that we had previously discovered and saved costing us 2 hours of gameplay. We also had a number of issues with falling through floors and walking through walls. These all made it very challenging to access certain levels or parts of the game. We also had an issue with the final Water Tear needed to complete the game glitching which necessitates a whole new playthrough. We contacted the developer about these issues and they have confirmed that they are working on an update/patch to resolve some of the issues we experienced. 

Woodle Tree 2 Deluxe Plus is available on Xbox One, PS4 and Nintendo Switch. A digital copy of this game was provided to SimpleGameReviews for the purposes of reviewing the game.

Duck Souls + Review

Duck Souls+ from Publisher Ratalaika Games and Developer Green Dinosaur Games

Enjoyable platformer. Hard mode is not for the faint of heart or impatient. Novices should definitely stick to casual.

A fast-paced platformer

You play as a yellow duck who has been sent by a group of ghost ducks (the Duck Souls) to find the duck eggs and keep them safe. Each level has one egg and is contained on a single screen. You’ll need to navigate from one side of the screen to the other to collect the duck egg. That’s all the narrative or story that’s present in the game.

You can jump off of the walls and dash to get to the higher areas on the levels. You can also use dash to jump over spikes, avoid other hazards, and break through walls. 

There are 100 levels in the game. Some of the levels are very simple and can be completed in 1 life while others are more challenging and are likely to require multiple attempts. The game has a great respawn system which puts you back in control the second after you die. It also has a death counter that you can see both when you die and once you complete the level. 

While playing through the 100 levels you will come across new challenges, themes, and  mechanics. We enjoyed the variety provided by these. They kept the game fresh and enjoyable so it didn’t feel overly repetitive. 

You are able to customize the look of your duck by changing the hat your character is wearing. You will unlock and collect hats while completing the levels. The hats are only cosmetic and provide no alteration to your character’s abilities. It would have been nice if the hats actually did something other than just change the look of the character. Some players will really enjoy the customization options these provide while others will find them pointless. 

You are able to pick between 2 different modes. Casual mode has checkpoints placed throughout the levels while Hard has no checkpoints so if you die you have to start that level over from the beginning.

The controls are easy to pick up and play as you can use the thumbstick or D-pad to navigate with depending on what is most comfortable for you or provides you with the best control. You can also aim your dash by using the same thumbstick or d-pad you use to move. Being able to aim dash is a requirement for successfully completing some of the more difficult levels. This was an interesting variation to the dash feature typically seen in platformers.

The pixel artstyle is colorful in the early stages. The themes in the game become darker in the later levels as you go deeper into the ground to recover the eggs. These changes in the theme from level to level correlated directly with the increasing difficulty. The early easy ones were bright and colorful and as the levels became more and more challenging the colors became darker and darker. It was fitting of both the narrative of being further underground and the intensity felt by the concentration required to complete the harder levels.

The audio is enjoyable. They have a relaxing soundtrack that helps keep you calm with simple sound effects for your movements. 

Each of the levels have their own interesting names based on video games and movies. Some are easy to get the reference while others are a little more obscure. A little Googling will help if you don’t quite get the reference. You might find something really cool.

The game is single player only with no leaderboards. Once you complete all 100 levels and unlock all of the hats there isn’t a reason to go back and replay the levels unless you want the challenge of Hard mode. 

Duck Souls + is available on Xbox One, PS4, PSVita and Nintendo Switch. A digital copy of this game was provided to SimpleGameReviews for the purposes of reviewing the game.

Red Death Review

Red Death from Publisher Eastasiasoft and Developer Panda Indie Studio

Classic retro feeling shmup.

A Retro shoot’em up 

You are the pilot of a small ship called Red 001 who is protecting the earth from invading aliens and an Egyptian god.

The game mostly follows the classic old school shoot ’em up formula. It has minimal story, getting hit once results in insta-death, and the game employs basic control mechanics for movement and action.

While playing you will be controlling your ship the whole time shooting enemies and flying through obstacles. Killing enemies will drop extra lives, weapons, and stars to power the overload meter. Once the overload meter is full you are able to use a special attack which does a massive amount of damage and will kill any of the bosses within seconds. It is a little OP but is needed to defeat the later bosses. Keep in mind if you get hit you lose everything. Not only do you lose a life, your weapon reverts to the starting weapons, and the overload meter starts over.

The game has an interesting choice for artstyle and display. It has a 4-tone color palette with pixel art graphics and splits the screen into 3 equal parts. On the left side you see your character and your score. The middle area displays the vertically-scrolling gameplay and the right side shows your remaining lives and the Overload meter. We feel that the choice for screen real estate would have been better if the gameplay area were larger and the other 2 sides were  half their current size. 

The gameplay can become challenging fast. The enemies will spawn in the same locations each time which helps you to learn the patterns and destroy the enemies shortly after they spawn on screen. The really challenging part comes from the sheer number of projectiles you have to avoid while trying to find a path that lets you actually hit the enemy. There is no “continue” option so once you run out of lives it’s game over and you have to start over. During the later levels you really get punished when you die as losing your weapons and overload meter might end your run. Without a full overload meter it’s near impossible to beat the bosses.

The game is pretty short with only 4 levels but will take a lot of patience, skill and luck to complete. Once you complete the game you are able to unlock the Arcade Mode which has randomized challenges.

Red Death is available on Xbox One, PS4 and Nintendo Switch. A digital copy of this game was provided to SimpleGameReviews for the purposes of reviewing the game.

Super Destronaut: Land Wars Review

Super Destronaut: Land Wars from Publisher Ratalaika Games and Developer Petite Games

Repetitive but enjoyable retro FPS

A Neon First Person Shooter

The game is a First Person Shooter where you shoot enemies and pick up the coins they drop to buy upgrades for weapons and health. It has two game types: challenge, and arcade mode.

Challenge Mode has 30 stages to play and provides you with a specific challenge you need to complete before receiving your Gold, Silver, or Bronze rating. The ratings are based on how quickly you complete the challenge but there’s nothing to indicate what the requirements are for each rating until you complete the stage and see what your time was.

The first 15 levels or so, we didn’t find the challenges to be particularly challenging. Most of these stages were able to be completed in under 1-2 minutes. At times, the most challenging part is just finding the enemies. 

Arcade Mode has 5 game types
  • Classic Mode – Normal Classic mode
  • Hardcore Mode – More Enemies with more HP
  • Combo Breaker – You need to keep a combo going if it runs out its game over.
  • Maximum Strength – You start out using a Rocket Launcher.
  • Snail Mode – You move slowly and can’t jump.
We enjoyed classic mode and maximum strength mode the most.

The artstyle is a neon voxel and has a retro mid 80’s feel. Enemies look like they could’ve been taken right out of arcade classics like Space Invaders or Centipede. The level design and sound effects fit the game’s aesthetic and are in keeping with that retro feel. They chose dubstep for the music. While this is not exactly in keeping with 80’s retro it still feels like a good fit for the gameplay. While the controls are very simple they work nicely and are pretty responsive. 

Sadly, there is only one map that is used for every stage both in challenge mode and in arcade mode. After about 15 minutes you’ll figure out the fastest way to make it around the map and where to take cover during combat. While this does help make the challenges a little easier since you’re familiar with the terrain, it also makes it more boring. 

There is no story or narrative and the challenge mode (30 Stages) can be completed in under 1 hour. With no online leaderboards, once you complete the challenges you are unlikely to replay them unless you want to try to get a higher rating for personal reasons. The arcade modes were more enjoyable as the stages last until you die (or lose your combo in Combo Breaker). That at least kept things going longer than a couple of minutes. 

Super Destronaut: Land Wars is available on Xbox One, PS4, PSVita and Nintendo Switch. A digital copy of this game was provided to SimpleGameReviews for the purposes of reviewing the game.