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.
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.
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, Steam and Windows. A digital copy of this game was provided to SimpleGameReviews for the purposes of reviewing the game.
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.
A short enjoyable puzzle game with a couple of cool mechanics and a very bright background.
A minimalist puzzle game
You need to move your square to the yellow square somewhere on the screen. Its start is pretty simple and can be completed without thinking. After a few levels they start to add new game mechanics and the difficulty starts to ramp up.
Eventually you are introduced to the clone mechanic. Presumably this is the mechanic that inspired the title. It allows you to record your movements and clone your square. After making your clone it will play your recorded movements. This was a big surprise when we figured out that if you keep moving in one direction and clone yourself the recording will keep moving in that direction. This was one of the coolest mechanics introduced in the game. Overall, the controls and game mechanics are simple and work nicely as intended.
There is a narrative thread in the game. It is told through text on screen after completing every few levels. We didn’t feel this “story” element really added to the game in any appreciable way.
The game has a very relaxing soundtrack which helps soothe the frustration when getting stuck on a level. Some of the later levels you will probably end up restarting over and over trying to figure out the solution. Luckily, you can reset the level with the press of a button and get back to trying a different method within a second or two.
There is the option to enable a Colorblind mode. We love to see developers putting in the effort to make their games more accessible for all gamers. The one thing we do wish is that there was an option to lower the brightness of the background or play the game in “dark mode” as most of the screen is white which can be painful for those with photosensitivity.
As for replayability options, they added a “Best Time” under each level which gives you the option to replay each level trying to beat your best time. We would have loved to see an online leaderboard to compare your times against friends and strangers. There is also a Player Statistics area that you can see at the end of the level selection area which shows your Total Time and Total Deaths. The total time does not calculate the total amount of time played it just adds the total best time for each of the levels. The game is fairly short and can be completed within an hour depending on player skill.
Déjà Vu is available on Xbox One and Windows. A digital copy of this game was provided to SimpleGameReviews for the purposes of reviewing the game.