Buildings Have Feelings Too! from Publisher Merge Games and Developer Blackstaff Games
A cute but complicated time based strategy/puzzle game. If you like complex variables this could be a great game for you.
Buildings Have Feelings Too! is marketed as a “city management” game. Watching the trailer it looked like it was going to be an intro to world building type of game play experience. However, this was not quite what was delivered.
You play as a cute building called the Halfway Hotel who is in charge of building and fixing up neighbourhoods. You will need to help rebuild the city to its glory days.
There are a total of 9 neighbourhoods to unlock and rebuild. Each neighborhood has a main building/quest-giver. You will need to complete the full quest line from this building before being able to access the next neighbourhood. Most of the requirements are simple; get a specific building type to a certain level or get the neighbourhood’s total appeal to a set number. So far so good. Seems fairly straightforward, doesn’t it? Oh but, wait!
The buildings all have their own feelings, personality, likes, and dislikes. There are several different types to make and place and each type has a different set of businesses that can be put in them. Each of these businesses will have specific “appeal” requirements that must be met by having the right surrounding buildings/businesses in order to level them up. If/when a building really dislikes the others around it a Red “X” will appear over it letting you know that if you don’t move the building or change its surroundings it will be closed down when the circle around the X is full. There were times where we couldn’t figure out what was causing this or how to stop it and had no choice but to let the building close down.
After a building type has been upgraded a few times you will gain access to new businesses that can be placed in it. This introduces new challenges for getting the right buildings/businesses in proximity to each other. It took us a bunch of time to learn what all of the building’s resources did and how to correctly fill the requirements.
There is a lot of hand holding in the game which isn’t a bad thing at first as the game is very complicated with many mechanics that take a long time to understand and learn. They introduced multiple mechanics at the same time which made it difficult to grasp them properly. This made the hand holding a lot more necessary than it might’ve otherwise been. Unfortunately, this led to it feeling like we were still in the tutorial after more than an hour of playing.
There is a relaxing soundtrack that is mixed with different sound effects making each neighborhood sound a little different while still maintaining a sense of continuity throughout the levels. The building animation was good and seeing your character running around was cute.
Overall the game was far more complicated than it needed to be. It seems to us to be more of a time based strategy/puzzle game than the world building type game we thought we were going to be playing. If we could make any recommendations for improvement, it would be to K.I.S.S. (Keep It Simple Sweetie).
Buildings Have Feelings Too! is available on Xbox, Playstation, Nintendo Switch, and Steam. A digital copy of this game was provided to SimpleGameReviews for the purposes of reviewing the game.
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.
Pretty basic trivia party game. Could be more polished in a few areas but is still enjoyable for those that like quiz show party games.
Papa’s Quiz is a party/trivia game for up to 8 players. Players can either use a controller, phone, tablet, or any web browser to play the game. Much like the Jackbox games, you will go to a website and use the game code on the game screen to enter the game or you can scan the QR code instead. The “controls” appear on the screen of your chosen device for players using a mobile device or web browser. They are simply four colored buttons that resemble controller face buttons.
There are 2 hosts for the game, Mr. Papa and Sir Monty, who provide instructions and a little color commentary during the game. The host characters’ voice overs are done in a stilted robotic style and could have been better as they are a little distracting at times.
You are able to customize your avatar in several different ways to make it feel unique and more like your own style which is always nice to see. They have a variety of stock hats, eyes, mouths, outfits, and names for you to mix and match.
When the round starts you are shown 4 categories to pick from. Choosing the category is a minigame all on its own as everyone is able to fight for the category they want by spamming the buttons on their screens to move the pointer to their desired category. They have a “junior” category in the lower corner with questions for younger gamers. This is nice to have so gamers of all ages can enjoy the game.
After you fight over the category, the questions begin and the first person to answer it correctly gets the higher number of points, second gets less and so on. When you press the button to select your answer a clock will appear beside your character to let you know how long it took to pick your answer. There is a round where the first correct responder is able to steal points from another player of their choice. In this round that is the only way to earn points. After each round the player with the most points earned in that round is able to show off their dance skills or skip it if you want.
One of the issues we found when playing was that when attempting to stream the game the questions/answers were only present on screen and not on the devices putting anyone not playing locally at a huge disadvantage since the time delay would hurt their score. This puts them at a major disadvantage in the final round where your points get converted to time and the last player standing wins.
While the game is said to have 3000 questions and 185 categories in our experience a few categories seemed to come up repeatedly making it seem like there were a lot less options. It is still an enjoyable party/trivia game for those like this genre especially if you have a fun group of friends to play it with.
Papa’s Quiz is available on Xbox, Playstation, Apple TV, 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.
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.
Risk System from Publisher and Developer Newt Industries
Photosensitivity warning. Challenging but enjoyable retro style shmup with a couple of interesting mechanics.
In the distant future of A.D. 2149, a race of energy parasites have taken over mankind’s technology and are using it against them. The main character is Alys. She is piloting an experimental ship, the RSK9, and is on her way to prevent the extinction of mankind.
This is a challenging, side scrolling, shoot ’em up (shmup) with a twist. Like most shmups you need to kill the enemies, build up your meter for a special attack, and avoid enemy fire. The twist is the risk reward system they’ve introduced. Narrowly avoiding enemy fire allows you to absorb energy from their attacks. This supercharges your normal weapon and will fill your special attack meter much faster. There is an autofire option that is turned on by default. It will only fire when an enemy is in front of you which lets you focus on controlling the ship and avoiding attacks. We recommend leaving this turned on though there is an option to turn it off if you really want to.
Your special attack, “Barrier Breaker,” does a lot of damage to all of the enemies on screen and gives you temporary invulnerability. Powering it up as fast as you can will help a lot, especially on the more challenging levels.
The ship’s movement feels sluggish compared to some other shmup’s. Fortunately, they have a Barrel Roll maneuver for quick vertical movements. This helps to compensate for the otherwise reduced mobility. One button will have you barrel roll up and another to barrel roll down. It takes a little bit of time to get used to it, but once you do you’ll use it all the time.
Each of the levels ends with a boss fight that is very challenging as each attack from the boss does a lot of damage. These attacks are difficult to avoid but not impossible. You can also time your special just right to be invulnerable and avoid damage that way. Each boss has a different pattern that you will need to learn if you want to defeat them. Luckily, there is a good checkpoint system. When you die you are seamlessly respawned at the boss so you don’t have to replay any of the level. This rapid restart helps you learn their patterns.
After completing a level you are given a letter rank and the choice to retry for a higher rank or to continue to the next mission. To get maximum rank you essentially need to complete the level without taking any damage. It looks like there is an alternate ending if you achieve S rank on every level but we were unable to achieve this during our time playing the game.
The game has a retro pixel art style. The sound effects and music help capture that old school feel of playing hard shoot-em ups in the arcade or on the original consoles. We also really enjoyed the nod to the Metal Gear series that happens pre and post boss fight.
The game has a photosensitivity and seizure warning that is well deserved. It does have an option to turn off screen shake which helps a little. While our reviewer doesn’t have issues with photosensitivity they did find that there were a few times that it was hard to stare at the screen.
Overall it’s an enjoyable but challenging shoot em up.
Risk System is available on Xbox and Steam. A digital copy of this game was provided to SimpleGameReviews for the purposes of reviewing the game.