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Castle of No Escape Review

Castle of No Escape from Publisher Xitilon and Developer D. E. X. Team

Minimalistic but fun retro styled rouge-lite dungeon crawler. Pretty standard fare but enjoyable nonetheless.

A Rogue-lite Dungeon Crawler

You start on the first floor of a mysterious castle. It has a top down view of a 6×6 grid. You move around the grid trying to find stairs to access the next floor. There are a total of 6 floors you can explore. All of the rooms on the floor are covered with questions marks making it a surprise for what could be hidden under it. You discover what is in them when your character moves over the room. While exploring you will come across monsters, books (some of which can curse you), chests, artifacts, and a shopkeeper. Each of the artifacts you collect will give you a buff that will help you explore the castle (warning: if you die, you will lose all of your buffs and have to start over from the beginning).  

When you run into an enemy you have a few choices, you can fight the enemy using your weapons and magic, or flee. This adds a little bit of risk vs reward element since killing the enemy can reward you with coins but the risk of dying carries a steep penalty. Some of the enemies will attack you as soon as they see you. This can be a little frustrating in the beginning since running into a few enemies in a row can end your game fast.

Like most Rogue-lite games once you die you will start over at the beginning with everything in new random places and none of the upgrades you had previously acquired. The loading time between each of the games is very fast and after you die you will be back to playing in seconds.

There are 3 characters to choose from. Each has their own attributes. These are easy to read and understand by pressing the listed trigger or bumper button. There is a bonus 4th character that you can select by pressing the other unlisted trigger/bumper. However, since the 4th character is hidden you are unable to see their attributes before selecting it. Sadly all of the characters play the same way. They are just a skin and attribute change with identical attacks and spells.

You can purchase potions to refill your Strength, Intelligence, or Dexterity from the shopkeeper using the coins you find. We suggest using your coins on the strength potions as they will keep you alive longer.

They also introduce a light mechanic to reveal some of the rooms around you. This helps you avoid enemies or find valuables on the floor. The primary method for this mechanic comes in the form of flares. Keep in mind you have a limited amount of flares and can easily run out of them. Luckily, you can find replacement flares in some of the rooms. If you are really lucky you will find the lantern which does the same thing as the flares but without having to consume them.

Sadly there is little to no story in the game. You need to collect the elements before the Demon Nikolai finds them and destroys the world. It’s a little reminiscent of Thanos’ Infinity Gauntlet since the boss has a large gauntlet on and is trying to collect 5 stones.

Castle of No Escape is available on Xbox, Nintendo Switch and Steam. A digital copy of this game was provided to SimpleGameReviews for the purposes of reviewing the game.

My Aunt is a Witch Review

My Aunt is a Witch from Publisher Sometimes You and Developer Graven Visual Novels

An interesting expansion on the typical visual novel genre. A little slow to start out but it picks up.

A Visual Novel with some Point and Click elements.

The story is told from the perspective of a boy named Thomas. He was sent to live with his Aunt by his dad and stepmom. Shortly after getting to his aunt’s house, he discovers that she is a real witch who has a talking cat and a bunch of magical things laying around the house. Thomas takes on some of the household chores learning about magical items and making potions. This is where the story starts. 

After spending some time in the house, Thomas starts to see and experience the magic and plans on becoming a master potion maker as well as an apprentice to his aunt. During his journey you will meet several interesting characters and have to complete quests and a few puzzles. You will also have a few locations that you will visit and get to explore.  

After a while, the visual novel adds some point and click game elements allowing you to take control of Thomas and explore the house. You will be provided with check lists that Thomas will need to complete with items located all over the house. This house might not be the safest place for a child to be left alone to explore. There are interesting ways that Thomas can die while looking around the house. We recommend saving often as there is no auto save and if you die without a save you will need to start the story over. Since there is no way to skip the text, dying without having a save is a time consuming mistake. We would have liked to have some form of checkpoint auto-save feature in the game.

During the visual novel parts of the game they did a great job letting you easily know who is talking by having a nice easy to read graphic above the text box. Each of the characters have their own text colors with a cute little graphic on them making it easy to tell them apart.

The backgrounds and environments are well done with a colorful anime art style that works well, looks good, and fits the story. Some of the conversations will have a small amount of animation in the background. It has a relaxing original soundtrack with well done sound effects that help the immersion and keep you interested in the story during some of the longer conversations.

The story is pretty straightforward with a few interesting parts. There are some pacing issues in the first half with some of the conversations dragging on and needlessly describing in detail things that are pictured on screen. In the later half of the story several characters are introduced at a pretty fast rate. This is where the story starts to come alive and pick up speed.

When you enter the point and click part of the game and take control of Thomas the controls become very important. It wasn’t always clear what button needed to be pressed so it took some time to get used to the controls. Holding a button on the controller will show you which items you are able to interact with. A glowing star displays over the items making it easy to see what you can and cannot interact with. There are times that the on screen user interface will be blocking an item you need to interact with and you will not be able to see it unless you hold the show active objects button.

There is an option that will pull up a book of all the previous text in case you missed something that was said. This is a helpful feature in a visual novel as it is easy to click the next text button a few to many times and miss something. 

We really enjoyed the point and click parts of the game and would have liked to see more of this. There are some minor spelling and grammar issues that pop up in the story but they can be overlooked as it does not happen often.

My Aunt is a Witch is available on Xbox, Playstation, Nintendo Switch and PSVita. A digital copy of this game was provided to SimpleGameReviews for the purposes of reviewing the game.

Smart Moves Review

Smart Moves from Publisher Xitilon and Developer grin robot

It’s a fun retro looking puzzle game with a good amount of puzzles and can be played one handed.

A turn-based puzzle game

You move around the level opening the chests scattered throughout attacking or avoiding enemies and traps. Once you open all of the chests the level ends whether you defeated all of the enemies or not. 

All of the levels are contained on one screen and laid out in a grid. Your character can move left, right, up or down one square at a time. Once an enemy has been alerted to your presence on the level they will attempt to hunt you down. There is an exclamation mark animation that appears over the enemies heads to let you know they have been alerted. It reminded us of the old Metal Gear games. The enemies can only move when you move, with every move you make the enemies that are on the hunt will close in on you. You can consume a turn by using an object on the level (the chests, barrels and others) instead of moving to skip a turn and force the enemies into attack range. You or the enemies can attack each other when standing on a neighboring square. If you get attacked by an enemy or hit a trap, it’s a 1 hit kill; game over. 

After completing the first few worlds you will need to start planning your moves ahead of time. You’ll need to count out the turns to either avoid the traps or lure enemies to trigger them, and determine when is the best time to use the objects to consume a turn without moving.

There are 8 worlds with 8 levels per world. You have the option to take a break from the world and levels you are playing and unlock another area at any time. You do this with the keys you get after completing a level. It is always nice to see that option as some levels will frustrate you and make you want to stop playing. Having the option to take a break from that one and play another was a good choice. We found that if we got stuck on a level for a while taking a break to clear our head and coming back later helped us beat the level that stumped us. 

Like most puzzle games it starts out with easy simple puzzles letting you get the hang of the controls and mechanics. After the first few levels the difficulty starts to ramp up. Checkpoints are added on the levels and other mechanics get introduced. We ran into an issue with the checkpoint system. The checkpoints are in static locations on the levels and can be picked up at any time, if you get yourself into a bad spot (having enemies around you) and collect a checkpoint it can put you into a no win situation which will require you to restart the level losing your progress. After dying you do have the option to load from checkpoint or restart the level. Both reloading checkpoint and restarting the level are tied to single buttons. These can be triggered without the prompt even showing up on screen. This has pros and cons. On the plus side, if you realize you’re stuck in an unwinnable situation you can quickly reset with the press of a single button. The bad part is you can easily hit the wrong button accidently and lose progress. The reloading and respawning times are very fast. This comes in handy since you’ll be using it a lot on the later levels.

The game has a retro look and feel with easy controls as the movement of the character is done with the d-pad or a thumb stick. It is possible to play the game one handed which is great to see as it allows the game to be more accessible for all gamers.

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

The Touryst Review

The Touryst from Publisher and Developer Shin’en Games

A fun voxel art style, Island Vacation themed, puzzle game.

You play as a bespectacled mustachioed tourist on vacation. You will be visiting islands, relaxing, taking photos, scuba diving, and other things you would expect to do while on vacation. While on the islands you will discover and explore monuments and complete tasks (To-do lists) that people offer you.

You travel between islands with the assistance of the friendly boat captain who chauffeurs you around. As the game progresses you’ll gain access to new islands. To gain access you have to first discover the islands from travel guides. Some of these are received from characters but most are purchased from a store. 

Most of the islands will have a monument for you to explore. You have to solve a puzzle just to open the monument so you can enter. Once inside there are more obstacles leading to a boss fight to obtain the orb inside. Most of the obstacles are pretty straightforward, while others are a bit tricky and will require you to move the camera around to try to figure out the solution. 

You are able to purchase new “upgrades” for your character at a store once they are unlocked by story progression. The introduction of the new upgrade abilities is paced well. They’re also necessary to reach some areas that are otherwise inaccessible. Between those areas being temporarily inaccessible and To-Do’s that will be picked up on later islands, you’ll end up going back and forth to each of the islands several times. 

There is a surprisingly large number of mini games as well as to-do lists. Most of the to-do’s are not required for story progression. They are easy to understand and figure out what is needed, and have good mechanics. Many games suffer with poor mechanics in their mini games when they have a lot of them. For the most part The Touryst managed to maintain good mechanics in their minigames. The only exceptions to this were in the retro arcade games found on one of the islands. There’s a To-Do list task related to beating the high score on all 3 of these. They can be a bit frustrating due to issues with the minigame mechanics/physics. 

Each of the islands has its own look, feel, and theme. This makes it a lot easier to remember what is on which island when you have to go back to finish future To-Dos.

Overall, we enjoyed playing this game. The puzzles and little games were enjoyable. Other than a couple of issues with game mechanics in one or two places it plays really well and can be completed in 6-8 hours. You can complete the story missions in less time if you skip the side missions (To-Do lists).

The Touryst is available on Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, and Windows.

Sweet Witches Review

Sweet Witches from Publisher Drageus Games and Developer LumenSection

A challenging platformer that is a little repetitive with a cutesy cartoony art style

You play as a witch. Your objective is to plant flowers on all of the designated plots while avoiding enemies. To plant the flowers you’ll need to walk or run over the plots scattered all over the levels. There are enemies that will get in your way and try to stop you from completing your task. Bunnies are the only enemy that will eat the flowers you plant making you replant the flowers. You will need to climb ladders to get to the different platforms and reach all of the plots. The enemies can climb the ladders too and as you progress through the game you’ll encounter some enemies that can move between the platforms without using a ladder. 

But, never fear, you can fight back! Some of the enemies you will be able to defeat with your magic hat, but others can only be defeated by using an item. On these bigger baddies your hat will only stun them. These items come from magic boxes that look like presents. You can only open one present at a time so you’ll have to use that item before you can pick up another one. Eventually, enemies won’t be the only danger you have to contend with in your quest to beautify the world with flower gardens. They also introduce environmental hazards that must be dodged while still dealing with the other enemies.

There are 50+ levels and 5 unique world’s to make your way through. There is also a bonus level at the end of each of the worlds that gives you a chance to regain some lost lives/hearts.

There are 3 game modes in the Campaign; Arcade, Adventure and Custom. Arcade mode is the hardest by far. You start with only 5 lives and no continues. Adventure is the recommended mode for new players since it lets you continue when you lose all of your lives. Custom lets you change the speed of the enemies, add more starting lives, and turn on or off Friendly Fire. When starting the campaign you are able to pick one of two different good witches. Each has unique hat attacks and special spells. 

After completing the campaign you are able to replay it with your choice of two bad witches. It’s not just a simple skin change, they have their own attacks and spells and instead of planting flowers, you’re pulling them out. Some of the enemies will be different (most notably, the bunnies that eat flowers are replaced by baby chickens that plant them) while others stay the same.

 

On some of the levels it can be difficult to see where you need to plant the flowers as the block representing the plot looks similar to the platforms (the platforms themselves often have multiple different kinds of blocks for decoration). This can result in having to search for the missing plot to plant the last flower. The second version of the campaign is a lot easier in this respect since the flowers are much more obvious than a simple change in block color. We found a more methodical approach to completing the levels was helpful for avoiding a lot of repeat and searching. Killing all of the bunnies or chicks straight away is also a must.

The challenge increases the further you progress with the addition of new enemies that move faster, have ranged attacks, or can change platforms without using a ladder. They also add some new level mechanics like mud slides that slow you down, ice blocks that speed you up and can cause you to slide right into enemies, and darkness that lowers visibility and field of view. 

The only co-op option available at the time of this review is couch co-op. We would have loved an online option for both co-op and versus mode. In Versus Mode you can play against each other with up to 4 players. Unfortunately, since this game is couch co-op only, this mode won’t be available unless you actually have a 2nd player. There are two game types in Versus mode (Timed and Deathmatch). There are a few options to turn on or off the enemies.  

It’s worth noting that there is a game breaking glitch that also happens to be tied to an achievement. If you try to use your special magic spell and attack the Momma/Queen cat that is spawning kittens your game will freeze and crash causing you to lose your progress and have to start the world over again.

Overall the game is fun and they did a good job with the pacing of new enemies and mechanics to steadily increase the difficulty but some may still find it repetitive as you are still doing the same thing over and over again.

Sweet Witches 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.

Neighbours back From Hell Review

Neighbours back From Hell from Publisher HandyGames and Developer THQ Nordic

A little like Home Alone meets Punk’d in claymation style cartoon graphics. Overall it’s enjoyable but can become repetitive.

The opening starts out with your horrible neighbours making your life a living hell and when they finally go too far, it’s time for payback. You play as Woody, the star of a prank show aimed at pranking your Neighbour. You break and enter into your neighbours house and go through their stuff to locate items to use or combine to prank and torture him. 

Each episode will have a minimum number of pranks that must be successfully completed in order to finish the level. There is also a maximum number of pranks possible in each episode so you can choose which ones to do to meet the minimum requirement or the extra mischievous player can complete them all. The pranks are tracked at the top of the screen. There’s a slot for each completed prank and a checkered flag over the minimum requirement to finish the episode. The slots are filled with a gold medal when your neighbor discovers each prank.

All of the items you will need to execute your dastardly deeds are located somewhere in the house. You’ll need to explore and search different objects to find items to use and discover what you can potentially interact with to use the items on. 

Some of our favorite pranks were putting a fake shark fin on a remote control submarine and having it scare the hell out of him, replacing a ping pong ball with an egg so he hits the egg into his wifes face making her beat him up for it, and adding miracle grow to a watering can making the plant grow and bite him. 

There are several episodes to play through. In the beginning you’ll only be able to access two floors in his house. As the season progresses this expands to four floors. The additional floors add to the level of difficulty as you will sometimes need to pick up items located on the top floor and bring them to the basement to lay the trap all while trying to avoid the neighbor. If he finds you he attacks you and beats you up and then you reset but you don’t lose your previous progress. If he finds you three times, he beats you to death and you’ll have to replay the episode from the beginning. 

As you progress through the seasons the locale will change from his house to various locations as he travels on vacation. Talk about holding a grudge, you’re stalking this guy around the world as he travels on vacation with his family just to get back at him for being an asshole neighbor and score some ratings for your prank show.

Some items will have a “mini-game” that you have to successfully complete in order to interact with them. If you fail the mini-game it alerts your neighbor and he’ll come investigate. If he catches you he’ll beat you up so you need to run away fast or hide in one of the hiding spots provided on the map to avoid getting caught. If you manage to avoid getting caught, you can pay attention to his alert meter to know when he’s given up the chase and returned to his normal routine making it safe to come out again.

Some levels require a little more stealth than others. They’ve provided a stealth mechanic that you will need in order to avoid waking sleeping animals or family members. It’s easy to use and only requires you to hold a button to tiptoe around the room. If you wake an animal it will alert the neighbor just like failing a mini-game but waking a person will result in you getting an ass whooping from the sleeper.

The artstyle is a fun cartoony look that reminds us of claymation a la “Wallace and Grommet”. They do a good job clearly showing which objects are interactable and what you can do with them through the on screen graphics. 

All in all the game is enjoyable. They do a good job introducing complexity and challenge with the larger maps and different locales but the basic objectives remain pretty much the same so it still tends toward repetition.

Neighbours back From Hell 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.