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Endling – Extinction is Forever Review

Endling – Extinction is Forever from Publisher Hearobeat Studios and Developer HandyGames

Don’t mess with momma fox. Emotional journey of a momma getting her stolen cub back. Beautiful art and well told story.

Endling is a 3D side-scrolling survival eco-conscious journey in a beautiful yet polluted world. You play as the last mother fox on Earth with 4 newborn cubs. A hunter traps one of the cubs and you will need to track down the hunter to rescue your cub while keeping your other 3 cubs safe, fed, and alive. Mankind is slowly destroying the world with trash and junk everywhere. The forests are being cut down and rivers are polluted. As the game goes on you will see the world getting worse and worse. 

For the first little bit, when the cubs are very young, they will stay in the shelter and you will need to go out and bring back some food. Sometimes, you will have to hunt other animals or dig through garbage looking for food. Most of the expeditions take place at night while the humans are sleeping. The game does recommend you return to the shelter before morning. This is not mandatory although it does make it easier to move around because if the humans see you they will attack. When returning to the shelter to sleep you will see an adorable image of you, the momma, and your cubs sleeping. Every once in a while you will see an animation of a cub yawning or moving around. 

After a few nights of solo foraging for food, the cubs will venture from the shelter and join you. This adds another component to the game as you will need to make sure they are safe and keep them within range. They start off not being able to do much, just following you around waiting for food. There are certain areas of the game that will teach your cubs new skills. With some of the new skills they learn they will be able to get their own food and escape when being hunted. The cubs can get scared with everything happening in the environment or when you have been attacked. You can pet your cubs to reassure them everything is ok. This little extra touch adds something special to the game and really makes you feel connected with your character.     

With all that said, not all interactions with humans are bad. Yes, most of them will be trying to hunt you with traps and if they do get too close to you they will attack you but, some of them will ignore you and a few will give you some food and try to pet you. For the ones that are hostile, you are able to fight them off but it does take a toll on your character as you are unable to run and will have to walk away. 

If you die you are provided with a message letting you know that your cubs couldn’t survive without you as well as the image of your character being killed sometimes a little graphically. If you don’t take care of your cubs, they will die so it’s important to not neglect them if you want to keep them alive. This adds to the message about how serious survival is. 

From time to time you will come across other animals; some you will hunt for food and others will attempt to hunt you. You can also befriend a few who will give you food and maybe even show you some short cut (fast travel) locations around the world. 

The game provides you with a sniff mechanic, showing you a “scent trail” for food (prey and garbage) as well as the hunter who took your cub. Everytime you find a clue, which is something the hunter has interacted with, you get a little flashback image. This is used to help progress the story and also unlocks new areas. We really liked the way this was used as it felt like the hunter’s tracks came every few days normally after you had finished exploring your current area. The more clues you find the more you learn about the hunter. 

As you play the world keeps changing, seasons change and so does the environment. While following your goal of keeping the cubs safe and getting the taken one back, new paths and escape ways to use and explore open up. There are events that happen on certain days in specific areas that you can completely miss out on. Luckily, this doesn’t impact the story but it does add another little something extra if you happen to experience them and gives players the opportunity for unique experiences in their playthroughs.   

Overall we really enjoyed the game, the story, the world, and with all of the little extras it made it feel more like an experience than a game.

Endling – Extinction is forever is on Xbox, Playstation, Nintendo Switch, Steam, GOG and Epic Games. A digital copy of this game was provided to SimpleGameReviews for the purposes of reviewing the game.

PowerWash Simulator Review

PowerWash Simulator from Publisher Square Enix Collective and Developer Futurlab

Excellent power washing sim with a delightful story. Great for zen-ing out and relaxing after a long day.

There is something very relaxing about cleaning a dirty object and this game does a great job capturing that feeling. You might think it’s a simple simulator for power washing and it might be a little boring but, you couldn’t be more wrong. Yes, it is a simulator for power washing, that much is true. But this deceptively simple concept masks a really fun little story with some interesting characters.

You’ll start the game with a basic power washer and a text from a friend. As you continue cleaning you’ll see more messages pop up and the text messages are how you’ll be notified of new job opportunities. Most of these appear to come from referrals from your very satisfied customers. These on screen text messages are also how you experience the delightful story in the game. 

If you miss some of the on screen text messages you can pull up your in-game tablet and reread them on the messages tab of your job. Sadly, when re-reading the messages in this tab it doesn’t tell you who the message is from so if you miss that when it first pops up on the screen you won’t be able to tell who said what later.  We did notice that while playing co-op the messages only showed up on the host’s game. We would have loved to see the messages on both players’ screens and been able to tell who they were from when reviewing them from the messages tab of the job info.

There’s a solid difficulty progression introducing you to steadily larger or more complex buildings and vehicles to clean. They have different degrees of difficulty on the dirt and stains that need to be removed as well as the sheer size and shape of what needs to be cleaned. For every level you complete in Career Mode you’ll earn both stars and money. The money is used to upgrade your equipment, buy soap to make the cleaning a little easier, or buy skins for your character and equipment. 

They helped balance the difficulty curve by locking the more powerful washers behind not just a price tag but also a “stars” requirement. This ensures that you have to be at least X far into the story before you can purchase them. Each level earns you 5 stars upon completion.

While cleaning, some of the stains are easy to remove while others will take more pressure (swapping nozzles) and require you to move a little more slowly over the area. The game does give you some “forgiveness” when cleaning during the earlier levels letting you complete areas without getting every speck of the dirt/stains. As you advance into the later stages of the game there is less wiggle room and it becomes harder to ensure all of the dirt is cleaned away. There is a dirt finder button which highlights the dirt for a few seconds. This becomes a mandatory tool on many levels. We would have loved to be able to double tap the button and have the dirt stay highlighted instead of fading after a second or two but that is not currently an option. We did find a few times that even using the dirt finder we were unable to see the dirt and had to go over the area again from different angles and pay close attention to corners and “seams” to remove the missed dirt. 

The game doesn’t have a soundtrack, just ambient sounds (background noise) which is a good thing for a few reasons. 1.) If/When you’re power washing in real life, you probably have headphones in and are listening to whatever you want. 2.) With the amount of time it takes to complete some of the levels you will get tired of hearing the same songs over and over again. 

There are a few different modes to play which adds to the replayability. Career mode is the story mode for the game, Specials lets you clean unique objects, Challenge Mode where you need to complete the job within a certain amount of time or within a set amount of water being used, and of course, Free Play which lets you replay any Career Mode level you’ve already finished. All but 1 mode is playable in co-op (Challenge Mode is 1 player). Career Mode lets you play in a 2 player co-op while Specials and Free play is up to 6 players which lets you complete a job very fast. 

While playing the game in co-op we did notice a few things that seemed a little odd. Only the host was able to buy upgrades or soap from the shop. The second player could not use soap at all and only had access to the upgrades that the host had. We understand the upgrades as the second player could have already unlocked the highest tier equipment and made the job easier than intended. And as previously mentioned, the story texts only seems to show for the host. One of the benefits of playing in co-op (other than completing the job faster) was the second player got the same amount of money for completing the job as the host did. When the second player goes back to their own game they will have all of the extra money they earned while in co-op. When replaying a level in free play the amount of money you receive is pennies on the dollar compared to finishing the job in the career mode. Luckily after completing the campaign you should have more than enough money to get all of the upgrades, soap, and a few cosmetic items. 

Overall we were surprised at how much we enjoyed the game and how fast the time flew while playing it. Don’t be surprised if you start playing it and the hours just wash away all while having some good clean fun.

PowerWash Simulator is available on Xbox, Windows and Steam.

Long Ago: A Puzzle Tale Review

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 Review

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 Review

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 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, Steam and Windows. A digital copy of this game was provided to SimpleGameReviews for the purposes of reviewing the game.