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.
Destroy All Humans! from Publisher THQ Nordic and Developer Black Forest Games
Remake of the first game with some additional gameplay features. Some of the dialog is a little dated.
A remaster of the Original Destroy All Humans.
The game takes place in the United States of America in an alternate history circa 1959. An alien named Cryptosporidium-136 was sent to earth to prepare for the invasion and disappeared. You play as Crypto-137 sent to earth to figure out what happened to Crypto-136. Crypto’s mission is to infiltrate and sabotage secret government facilities and defeat Majestic (the secret shadow government organization in charge of everything), find out what happened to Crypto-136, and finish his mission.
While invading earth you will travel to different locales around the USA, and have to deal with townsfolk, police, the military (tanks, trucks, soldiers and robots), and Majestic. Everyone is scared of you. If they spot you, they’ll try to stop and kill you before you can take over the world.
Luckily you have a lot of alien tech at your disposal to aid you on your mission; like various weapons, a jetpack, a flying saucer, and several awesome abilities. Your abilities are Holoclone, which lets you disguise yourself as a holographic clone of anyone, Cortex Scan, which lets you read people’s minds to get intel and provides a little back story, Psychokinesis, lets you pick up and throw things or even people, and Brain Extraction, to pull the brains out of humans.
The Voice Over work for the main characters is great but the townsfolk are a little off and tend to be repetitive. We noticed that the repetition in the NPC dialog isn’t limited to their conversations. There’s also a limited amount of variety in what you hear when scanning their brains. The thoughts start to repeat after just a few minutes of scanning people. Some of the thoughts also just seemed dated and kinda wrong by today’s standards. While playing you will occasionally hear Crypto cracking jokes about the human race. Some of them are kinda funny.
The little things that have been added to the remake makes the game very enjoyable to play for fans of the series or for those who are new to it. They added a new system to this game that was not present in the previous iterations of Destroy all Humans. There are optional bonus objectives to complete for each mission. You can still complete the missions without completing the bonus objectives. Mission replay is available at any time to give you the chance to go back and try them again. Completing all of the bonus objectives in select missions will unlock skins for Crypto. We liked the replayability this adds to the game.
Once you finish the mission for each town, you’ll unlock a free roam option for the location. This lets you access all areas of the town so you can find the collectibles and easily access the 4 challenge areas for each location. The challenges are Armageddon, Abduction, Race, and Rampage. You will receive a star rating for the challenges. They can be a bit of a struggle at first since Crypto only has stock weapons and not all of his powers are unlocked. They become a lot easier and more fun if you go back with a maxed out Crypto with all of his powers and weapons unlocked and upgraded.
The game has a good check point system that makes saves pretty often. This comes in handy at times but can be your bane at other times. We ran into an issue on a mission where we needed to protect a truck from taking too much damage. The truck had 1 hit left when we hit a checkpoint triggering a save and had to finish the rest of the mission making sure it did not get hit at all. We ended up having to restart the mission and protect it better at the beginning as it was easier and less frustrating than the alternative.
There are a good variety of mission types. Some will have you destroying or sabotaging things (buildings, Tesla coils, military equipment), others require stealth. Some are follow or escort missions for both people and vehicles. The stealth missions can be a challenge if you are not patient as you will spend a good amount of time in Holobob form. While in Holobob form you are unable to use your powers as this would compromise the illusion and get you spotted.
Destroy All Humans! is available on Xbox One, PS4 and Windows. A digital copy of this game was provided to SimpleGameReviews for the purposes of reviewing the game.
Bunny Memory from Publisher and Developer DillyFrame
A bunny-fied digital version of the classic memory card game. Couch co-op and single player options.
A card matching memory game
A bunny twist on the classic memory card game. Instead of being limited to images like the card game used you’ll also have the option of numbers or letters. The game board can be between 2×2 to 10×10. The number and letter options are very easy to read and see the differences between them but the bunny images game type option is a little harder to see the difference. They do show a larger version of the image in the bottom left corner of the screen when you flip over the cards which makes it easier to see what they are but it’s still more difficult than the numbers and letters.
The game is pretty simple. The concept is basic and it has very simple controls. This makes it easy to pick up and play for gamers of all ages. The smaller sized boards would be especially good for younger gamers. When you successfully match a pair of cards you earn a MP credit. These are used to unlock Memories which are screenshots from previous DillyFrame games.
Once you find all of the pairs the game ends and you are provided with a choice to start a new game or go back to the main menu. Starting a new game means you have to pick the size of your game board and what’s on the cards again. We wish there was a way to play again without having to pick the game options all over again.
The game uses the same characters and artstyle that are present in the other DillyFrame games. They do have a split screen couch co-op option which is a nice addition.
Bunny Memory is available on Xbox One and Windows. A digital copy of this game was provided to SimpleGameReviews for the purposes of reviewing the game.