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.
Clumsy Rush from Publisher RedDeerGames and Developer NerfGame
Couch co-op game of reverse-tag with cartoon hippos racing to a finish line. Variety of different physics mechanics and obstacles. Good for young gamers.
A competitive couch co-op party game for up to 4 players. You play as a Hippo. Your goal is to grab the crown and race to the finish line while wearing it. Sounds easy right? Well, not so fast, buddy. There is only one crown and everyone is trying to get it. Opponents can charge each other and knock the crown off to steal it. But you can’t charge while you’re wearing the crown or it will fall off on its own. This makes it a little bit of a challenge to avoid the attacks of the other players.
There are also a lot of different obstacles on the path. And they change every time you start a new race. Some of these will slow you down or speed you up or push you around. They can be used to your advantage to speed up or slow down your opponents or to help you dodge an incoming attack.
There are 27 different Hippo outfits present in the game for each player to customize their character. This helps distinguish one player from another on the screen. It looks like more skins might be added to the game in the future as the outfit screen has a “…” at the end of the list hinting at more to come.
The standard controls for movement took a while to get used to as the triggers are maps to your character’s feet. Moving requires you to have some rhythm when attempting to move in a straight line. Luckily, the game has another control option using the left thumbstick to move your Hippo which allows you to easily control your movements. With the original controls we found ourselves spinning instead of going straight when we tried to go fast until really getting the proper rhythm.
There are several different game modes to choose from. These are more like modifiers then truly different modes. They add ice, reverse your controls, or make you bounce off anything you bump into just to name a few variations. New game modes are unlocked by completing races. This helps keep interest levels up and build excitement for what the next unlock will be. There are a couple of game modes that are unavailable if you are using the thumbstick control scheme instead of the default one.
Most of the games are kinda short and can be completed within 1-2 minutes depending on your choice of controls and how aggressive your opponents are.
The graphics are bright and colorful in a cartoon style that will appeal to young gamers.
Clumsy Rush 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.
Johnny Rocket from Publisher Restless Corp and Developer HEDE
Decent 2D platformer. Minor issues with hit detection. Great hand drawn art style. Very short completion.
Side Scroller Shooter Platformer
You play as Johnny Rocket, who has been tasked with defeating the “Evil Forces” aka Nazi’s. There are a total of 3 levels that you will make your way through. Each of the levels ends with a boss fight. The boss fights can be challenging at first as each of the bosses have a special attack that can kill you in a few seconds. Once you are able to figure out their attack patterns you can easily avoid their attacks.
New enemy types are introduced pretty often. There are soldiers wielding pistols, machine guns, and heavy machine guns on a turret, as well as attack animals, aircraft, and even UFOs. The new enemies add a little more challenge to the levels as they each have their own attacks you will need to counter or avoid.
Most of the levels are pretty standard; kill the enemies, avoid the traps, and get to the other side. There is a small section in the second level where Johnny jumps into a plane and you get to show off your 2D-aerobatics skills. This was great to see as it was a new mechanic being added to the game but it was way too short clocking in at only about 2 minutes of game play. We would have loved more time in the plane or other vehicles.
The game leans into toilet humor as each level starts and ends with your character on a toilet. Your health is measured in toilet paper rolls and picking up a roll will refill your health.
The game does have some difficulty spikes. Enemies are able to see and shoot you as soon as they appear on screen. Most of them have machine guns and will damage you several times before you are able to shoot them. Hit detection could be better as we ran into a few issues where Johnny would get hit before seeing the shot or enemies taking more hits to kill than they normally would. You will die often due to these issues. Luckily each level has several checkpoints and they are spaced out pretty often. This helps with the frustration of dying as you will only need to replay a small amount of the level.
There are 2 difficulty levels to choose from, Normal or Hardcore. Hardcore is no joke as it is a 1 hit kill. Add that with the other issues and hardcore feels unplayable at times.
The artstyle is a 2D comic, hand drawn, black and white and is by far the best part of the game. It is very animated in a cartoony style. They also added a fun little “character idle” animation that gave us a chuckle.
The game is rather short and can be completed in under an hour depending on player platforming skill. Overall it’s a decent platformer with an interesting hand drawn art style but really short.
Johnny Rocket 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.
Road to Guangdong from Publisher Excalibur Games and Developer Just Add Oil Games
Driving Simulator + Visual Novel Mashup. Decent story but would have been more enjoyable without the poor driving sim.
A Visual Novel and Driving Simulator
The main character is Sunny. After her parents passed away, she was given the family‘s cherished restaurant by her Aunt (Guu Ma). Before she takes over the restaurant she needs to visit other family members and ask for their guidance and maybe their secret recipes too so she can attempt to revive the once thriving restaurant. To accomplish this you will set out on a driving adventure across the province of Guangdong in the 90’s with her aunt in Sandy which is the family’s old run down car. It needs a lot of maintenance and TLC just to keep it on the road which is going to be one of your primary tasks.
While driving with your aunt you can have a conversation with her. This makes the time spent in the car a little more realistic and enjoyable. You can do a few things in the car like turning on the headlights at night, turning the key to start the car, and even changing the radio station. If there is a song playing that your Aunt doesn’t like she will let you know and even change the station herself if you don’t do it first. The music is good and fits the time and place and is relaxing during the frustrating driving sections. Some trips seem to drag on and require several stops to fill the car’s gas and oil. We would have loved more stations on the radio as there were only a few songs being played on each and with the amount of time you spend in the car you will hear them over and over again.
The driving mechanics could use some work. Getting from one location to another takes more time than it should. You’ll spend more than half of the game in the car just getting to the locations. While in the car you will need to keep the car in working order. To do this, you will have to make stops at scrap piles and garages to pick up and replace parts when they start to wear out and you’ll have to keep refilling the gas and oil. They did a good job capturing the experience of driving a POS car that has to be kept under a certain speed or it will overheat and has to stop often to repair parts and top off the oil just to keep it running. The amount of time you will have to spend dealing with the car gets in the way of enjoying the game unless you’re a sadistic weirdo that enjoys that sort of thing.
There is an element of in-game economy introduced with the scrap piles and garages. You can pick up parts from the scrap piles and sell them at the garages to make some money. You will need this to afford the cost of the car’s maintenance. Unfortunately, participating in this economy is both required and subject to additional load times and inconvenience. Each time you stop at the garage each area (fill up gas/oil or buy/sell a part) requires separate load time. This really slows down the gameplay as you will need to do this a lot.
You will be visiting 6 locations during your adventure, there is a map that pops up and lets you pick your next destination. The driving is very linear as you will be driving in a straight line during your time on the way to your destination. The only deviations are pulling into a garage or scrap pile or stopping on the side of the road because you ran out of gas or oil (hopefully you packed some extra last time you were at a garage).
The writing is the best part of the game. Once you get to your destination the game switches from driving sim to visual novel. The conversations that happen in this portion feel natural and at a few times hit you in the feels as you start to feel for Sunny and the situation she has been put in. When speaking with people and family members you will have several responses to choose from. At times you will need to change areas to speak with someone else to unlock another choice. Keep in mind that your choices and decisions matter as once the conversation is over it’s over. If you leave a location and attempt to return some of the areas are no longer available to access. The conversation controls felt a little odd as you would use one button to select your choice but a different button to continue the conversation.
The worst part of the game was all of the driving. The time involved with maintaining the car was excessive and the load times required for interacting at the garages really killed the momentum. The driving controls are simple as you only have gas, reverse, and a thumbstick to steer yet somehow the mechanics were still kinda bad. The only positive here is that your car doesn’t seem to take damage when you inevitably run into something.
The artstyle is colorful with low poly characters and backgrounds. The simple graphics work fine since you will be more focused on the story.
Road to Guangdong is available on Xbox, Nintendo Switch, Playstation and Steam. A digital copy of this game was provided to SimpleGameReviews for the purposes of reviewing the game.