We Were Here Forever from Publisher and Developer Total Mayhem Games
Possibly the hardest co-op puzzle game we’ve ever played. Creepy AF Jester included.
We Were Here Forever is a cooperative first-person puzzle solving adventure and is the 4th game in the We Were Here Series. When we say cooperative we mean it as there is no single player option. It is a co-op only game like the previous games in the series. You don’t need to have played the previous games before playing this one but there are some easter eggs referencing the previous games that you’ll spot if you’ve played them.
You and your partner must work together to escape the realm of Castle Rock. To escape you will need to explore several locations in the frozen realm and find the clues needed to solve the puzzles blocking your exit. It sounds pretty simple working with a partner solving puzzles, doesn’t it? But, wait! What if each of the players takes a different route seeing only what is in their area and the clues you need for your puzzle are in your partner’s area and vice versa? And what if sometimes those clues are auditory and only one of you can hear them? Not quite so simple anymore. Needless to say, a good headset for each of the partners, a healthy dose of patience, and good communication skills are mandatory if you want to be successful in this game.
The puzzles start out pretty easy, giving each of the partners the clues to each other’s puzzle. After solving a few of the simpler puzzles the game throws you into the deep end for some complicated ones which can be stressful as you will need to be working with your partner and communicating all of the time. This can be difficult if your partner does not share information and communicate effectively. Some of the puzzles were pretty straight forward for what you need to do to solve it, while others were not so much and kept us stumbling around trying everything we could just hoping to get lucky and happen upon something that worked. To say that the game does not hold your hand at all is an understatement. At times it feels like your hand gets slapped away.
This brings us to the game’s hint system that is not helpful at all as the hints are very general and more about the area that you are in and general gameplay tips instead of about the puzzle you are trying to solve and might be stuck on. We stopped even trying them after a few levels because they were useless. We would have loved to see the hints be more specific to the puzzle or current objective.
With communication being so key to just playing the game we found ourselves getting a little frustrated at each other. We realised that part of that was due to a lack of communication between us as partners while others had to do with the puzzles straight up not giving enough information or not giving clear enough information to solve them.
In a few of the later puzzles you needed to explain to your partner what you are seeing and hearing as well. This added to the challenge and frustration of the puzzle solving as trying to explain what a sound effect sounds like is not easy. Since some of the puzzles are timed you will need to clearly agree on the language you’ll be using to describe objects and positions/orientation/direction to let you communicate the information faster.
Overall we did enjoy the game but really wish the hints would have been helpful and that the direction/clues would’ve been a little clearer in some parts.
We Were Here Forever is available on Xbox, Playstation, Epic Game Store, and Steam. A digital copy of this game was provided to SimpleGameReviews for the purposes of reviewing the game.
MY LITTLE PONY: A Maretime Bay Adventure from Publisher Outright Games and Developer Melbot Studios
A fun game for kids of any age (even grown up kids) with great mechanics and in game guidance so you never get lost.
MY LITTLE PONY: A Maretime Bay Adventure is a third person Pony adventure game. You play as Earth Pony Sunny who wants to make the world a better place by hosting Maretime Bay Day, a forgotten celebration of friendship and magic. But some pony is out to spoil the celebration – and they’re stealing cakes, letting bunnies loose, and even spoiling Pipp’s paintings!
On your adventure you will meet up with other ponies from the My Little Pony universe and a very helpful butterfly. The ponies that you meet need your help with tasks and crime solving. Some of the tasks are as simple as finding items and using your magic powers to “uni”-cycle (fixing up or painting an object) or herding bunnies. The helpful butterfly will appear if you’re ever lost or “off course” for too long and will lead you to the objective that you should be working on. This was very helpful and great to see as the game is geared for a younger audience who may need the extra guidance. I would love to see something like this added to more games as it was very well executed.
The story and gameplay are pretty linear but you do have the ability to revisit places that you’ve previously been should you want to return and explore them further. While playing you will come across 5 different mini-games to play that will give you a star rating after completing them (up to 3 crowns). There is a timed bunny herding game, a timed obstacle course, roller-blading chase, flight academy (which is a flying obstacle course), and a rhythm based dance game. The mini-games are pretty short, enjoyable, and replayable in case you want to get a higher score or just replay them for fun. After completing the mini-games you will be rewarded with Star Magic according to how many stars you earn.
There are customization options that let you dress up Sunny with a variety of accessories when you visit the Magic Mirror. These are unlocked automatically as you collect the required amount of Star Magic. This is earned from completing mini-games and also collected on your travels (they are the pinkish-purple stars you’ll see all over the place). The changes you make to Sunny’s outfit are visible at all times, even in the mini-games and in cut scenes. We loved this attention to detail. It adds that little extra to your enjoyment of the game and makes the customizations feel more worth doing.
In the latter parts of the game new mechanics and new areas are introduced keeping the gameplay fun. You get roller skates which lets you move faster but they do take a little practice to get used to as Sunny slides around a bit. Luckily you do not have to use them and you can put them on or take them off with a push of a button. We used them most of the time but took them off for some of the area’s that needed more control of our movement.
Overall it’s a fun short adventure game for gamers of all ages and you don’t need to be a fan of My Little Pony to enjoy it.
MY LITTLE PONY: A Maretime Bay Adventure 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.
Paper Flight – Speed Rush from Publisher and Developer EpiXR Games
A simple and potentially relaxing game for those that actually want to play it. Very quick and easy achievements for the gamerscore hunters who don’t.
Paper Flight – Speed Rush is a slow paced relaxing game. You pilot your paper airplane around different levels popping balloons by flying into them. The goal is to pop all of the “evil balloons” which requires popping the other balloons to build up your speed meter. How do you know which ones are the evil balloons? It’s easy, they have faces and horns. The evil balloons are scattered around the levels and will respawn in different locations once they have been popped. This is where the challenge comes in. You will need to complete an increasing number of waves of popping the evil balloons before you can access the next level.
Sounds pretty simple, right? Well it is, and that isn’t a bad thing as that’s what makes the game accessible for gamers of all skill levels. There are a total of 12 levels you get to fly around and explore from Childhood Room, Supermarket, a Space Station, and so much more. As expected the levels become larger and a little more challenging to hunt down the evil balloons as you progress but still pretty easy and relaxing. They even show you the flight path of where you’ve already flown previously in the level.
We did run into a few graphic issues but nothing game breaking.
Overall the game is relaxing, great for picking up and playing for 10-15 minutes at a time to complete a level and putting it down and coming back later. There is even a cheat code to let you skip levels which comes in handy for the achievement hunters that really just want the gamerscore.
Paper Flight – Speed Rush is available on Xbox, Playstation and Steam. A digital copy of this game was provided to SimpleGameReviews for the purposes of reviewing the game.
Flat Heroes from Publisher and Developer Parallel Circles
Not for the faint of heart or easily frustrated. Fast paced platforming with high degree of difficulty.
Flat Heroes is a fast-paced, minimalistic, intense, action platformer. You control a square just trying to stay alive. To do that, you need to jump from platform to platform, landing and jumping off walls to avoid being killed by the enemies and traps that appear.
There are 3 modes to play: Campaign, Survival, and Versus. Campaign is divided into two parts. Normal, which is the standard mode, and Heroes, which is pretty much equivalent to Hard mode. We suggest leaving Heroes until you have completed Normal mode. Most of the levels consist of avoiding the different types of enemies/traps and staying alive.
The game does provide a lot of challenges with 300 levels broken up into 20 worlds between normal and hero mode with boss battles at the end of each world (and we do mean battles). Some of the boss battles take a little bit of time (and many deaths) just trying to figure out what you need to do to beat the boss.
New mechanics are introduced every few worlds and new enemies/traps are introduced every few levels which keeps the gameplay interesting and keeps upping the challenge. If the levels become too challenging we suggest getting a friend to join as you only need 1 player to survive to the end in order to finish the level. Sadly, the game only offers local (couch) co-op. But, it does have drop-in and drop-out 4 player co-op which made it easier for a friend to drop in to help for a couple of levels and then drop out and we could keep going on our own. If you don’t have a local co-op player who is willing to join you there is an option to skip the level but it looks like you can’t skip back to back levels so be aware of that when choosing to skip or not. You are unable to skip the second to last level in the world (the level before the boss battle).
Survival mode, as you might have guessed, is a timed mode seeing how long you can stay alive. There are a bunch of modes to play but sadly most of the modes are locked behind SP, the game’s point system. You “earn” SP by climbing the leaderboards. There is a daily challenge that you can play once for free. If you would like to retry it to try and get a better time it will cost you some of your SP which turns it a little into a currency system. It does have online global leaderboards which is great to see as that adds to the replayability. We did notice that the top scores are all Dev accounts which should probably be removed or not included in the leaderboards.
Versus mode is a battle mode. Much like Survival mode, most of the versus modes are locked but can be unlocked after playing a few games. There is couch co-op for all of the modes and the option to add AI for the versus modes. We would have loved to see different options for the AI as it is no joke; they play to win.
The game carries its minimalist theme throughout from the controls and enemies, to the art style and music. All of this adds to that pick up and play feeling where we can play it for 15-30 minutes here or there, put it down, and come back another time.
Overall we enjoyed the game in spurts, some of the levels were very challenging and a little frustrating as we didn’t know what we were supposed to do during the boss battles. It is satisfying finally completing a level that you died a bunch on and that included the boss battles. The game does not hold your hand, you learn by dying over and over until you learn the pattern or figure out the objective. We would have loved to have been able to play more of the modes without having to grind points or battle the AI.
Flat Heroes is on Xbox, Playstation, Nintendo Switch, Steam, and Epic Games. A digital copy of this game was provided to SimpleGameReviews for the purposes of reviewing the game.
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 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.
Bunny Factory from Publisher and Developer DillyFrameGames
More bunny puzzles, now with a mech suit. Play it for the achievements not the game play.
In the great tradition of the Bunny games this 3rd person puzzle game puts you in control of a Bunny as you work to solve the puzzles. This time you have a fancy mech suit and you’re working in a dead factory trying to bring it back to life. Each puzzle you solve provides a power core to restart part of the factory. Sounds pretty easy right? Well it starts out that way but it doesn’t last.
After you solve each puzzle located in the engineering room, you are presented with a power core, each of which needs to be taken to a different specific location in the factory. This process slows down the progression and pacing of the puzzle solving as you have to run around to plug in the core and run back to the main room before you can start the next puzzle. When you plug in the core there is a short cutscene animation of the machine being powered up and starting production.
There are a total of 100 levels to complete but only the first 50 have these different locations and animations. The remaining 50 are all located in a small room off to the side and there is no animation like the previous ones had. It almost seems like the developers ran out of time or just gave up on the concept they had introduced for the first 50 levels.
The puzzles are electrical schemes that require you to place colored blocks to power the floor and complete the circuit. The interesting part is that the blocks will only send power in certain directions. There are triangles located on the side of the blocks letting you know which directions it will let the power flow. There are also yellow arrows that appear on the floor when you’re holding a block and are standing on a square that it can be placed on. This helps you remember which directions that block will activate.
Like most puzzle games it starts out pretty easy with the blocks already being powered (colored in) and the puzzle sizes are small. Depending on placement some of the earlier puzzles can be completed without using all of the blocks. As you progress through the levels new challenges are added. Sometimes the blocks need to be powered/colored in the right charging station (Red, Blue, Yellow, Green). They also add more colours to the same puzzle, limit the effective range of the blocks, and the puzzles become increasingly larger both in size as well as the amount of blocks needed to complete the puzzle.
The game is lacking any real story at all. A few lines of text on screen telling us what happened to the factory and why we were there trying to reactivate it could have fixed that. The amount of time spent running around dropping off the power cores really hinders the pacing of the game and the enjoyment of solving the puzzles. This issue could’ve been improved if we could have picked up the core and dropped it off in the same room after solving the puzzle. The cutscene showing the machines powering up would still explain what the power core was used for but you would save a lot of time not having to run around and it would allow greater flow in the game play since the player would be able to start the next puzzle faster.
There are collectibles that you can find scattered around the factory. They are parts to a mech but they did not seem to do anything as the only customization option you have is to change the colour of your mech. We would have loved to have seen the collectables as equipable upgrades to the mech. They could’ve provided a performance boost like increasing your speed or jump height or they could’ve been some sort of cosmetic change. As is, they seem pointless.
There is online co-op which can help on the larger puzzles but it is invite only. There is also level select to allow you to replay previous puzzles. There is no challenge or leaderboard type thing so there’s not really any point in replaying the levels solo. However, we did find that a co-op partner can join you and the host can level select to just the levels with achievements attached and the co-op partner will get the achievements. The collectibles are also all present for the co-op partner so they can collect all of those as well.
Overall we feel like there were hints at a higher concept or story that just didn’t quite make it to execution. With a few tweaks this could’ve been a better game. But most of you are probably playing it for the achievements and not the game play and it does deliver on the relatively easy achievements.
Bunny Factory is available on Xbox, Playstation and Steam. A digital copy of this game was provided to SimpleGameReviews for the purposes of reviewing the game.
KungFu Kickball from Publisher Blowfish Studios and Developer WhaleFood Games
Street Fighter meets FIFA in this 2D sports ball combat game. If you like 2D fighting games you’ll probably really enjoy this cute combat version of soccer/football.
Sports Ball Combat, that’s right. KungFu Kickball is a 2D mix of soccer and old school kung fu movies.
What do we mean by old school kung fu movies, well you can jump into the sky, bounce off bamboo trees, punch and kick your opponent all while trying to ring a bell in the opponents goal using a ball. Sounds pretty fun doesn’t it?
It has a bunch of modes to hone your skills as well as four different AI difficulty levels. Three of these are accessible right off the top but the fourth is only unlockable by beating the “Master” difficulty first.
The difficulty level naming follows the Kung Fu theme with Apprentice, Teacher, Master, and Grand Master. The AI is no joke as the teacher, master and grand master difficulty levels are very challenging. Luckily, you have unlimited continues. The only catch is you need to complete the mode in one sitting because if you stop you’ll have to start over when you come back. We would have loved to see the option to continue where you left off as the harder difficulties are very challenging which can be very time consuming.
The different modes are Practice, Training (the tutorial and target practice), Custom (these matches have a decent amount of options you can change), Tournament, and both Local and Online Multiplayer (versus and co-op). The online multiplayer lets you do Quick Play 1v1, 2v2, and host or join private games including letting you run custom matches. There is an interesting option in the Custom mode that lets you change the ball. “Why does this matter?” you might ask. Well each of the different balls behaves a little differently. There is even a ball shaped like the Publisher’s (Blowfish Studios) mascot which sticks to your character as a blowfish might.
To keep the wait time between online games short they have added Cross Platform Play which can be turned on or off in the options (they have it labeled “crossplay”). Being able to do this in game rather than having to change the setting on a system level is really convenient.
There is something cool we’ve never seen in a game before. While searching for a quick match you are able to practice against the computer without any bells to keep score. After a while of practicing a message pops up on screen with a QR Code. “Can’t find a match? Hop on the discord and challenge someone!” We really liked this feature as a tool for community development and a way of connecting with other fans of the game to get a match going.
The controls are very simple. You can either use the right thumb stick or 3 buttons to control your character’s attacks. This keeps the game easy to learn, very accessible and yet hard to master as you are able to do many different combinations of button presses or directions to do some other moves.
There are a total of six different characters (a few need to be unlocked before being able to use them), each with their own positives and negatives. There are also six different locations to play on. Each of the arenas comes with different environmental challenges that make each stage feel different and fun to play. Since there are only six it won’t take long for you to find your favorite arena.
It has a pixel art style for the backgrounds and characters. There is a nice cartoon intro that reminded us of the Power Puff Girls/Dexter’s Laboratory art style. Like any good sports game it has an announcer who chimes in when certain things happen. He reminded us a little of the announcer from NBA Jam with lines like “From Downtown”. There is also a Slow-mo replay that shows up when you do something cool to score a point.
Overall the game is enjoyable, addictive, and pretty challenging on the harder difficulties.
KungFu Kickball is available on Xbox, Nintendo Swtich, Playstation and Steam. A digital copy of this game was provided to SimpleGameReviews for the purposes of reviewing the game.
One Hand Clapping from Publisher HandyGames and Developer Bad Dream Games
Find your voice (or other musical instrument) and play a fun game with 2D platforming and time manipulation.
One Hand Clapping is a 2D puzzle platformer that requires a microphone to play. Why a microphone?? I’m glad you asked! It is because your voice is the main tool you’ll be using to interact with the world and solve puzzles.
During your musical journey you will visit 6 vibrant biomes and will come across 3 adorable characters that will assist you. Each one is more adorable than the last. There are hidden glyphs and other secrets located somewhere on the levels. Some of which are very challenging to find. They are not mandatory but having them hiding there does add to the game’s replayability as the search to find adds additional challenge and things to explore after you’ve mastered the puzzles.
One of the interesting parts is you don’t have to be able to sing. It doesn’t hurt if you can but you can also hum, whistle, or make weird noises/sounds (we did that a bunch). Because of the game’s sensitivity to mic input we suggest warning the people around you that you are gonna be playing this as extraneous noise will make it difficult to impossible to complete the challenges. Or, they might come to check on you because “it sounds like a cat being strangled” and they were concerned.
As expected the puzzles in the earlier levels are pretty easy which lets you learn the game at a decent pace. The difficulty comes with new mechanics including time manipulation in the later levels. Some of the later puzzles were quite challenging and we ran into issues with not knowing what was needed to solve a puzzle.
They have a couple of great accessibility options for the less musically skilled gamers, Educational Mode and Voice Visualizer. Educational mode shows you the notes you are hitting vs the notes you need to hit using a small musical scale displayed on the screen. This would be a fantastic tool for music teachers to help their students with ear training and pitch control. The voice visualizer overlays the waveform of the mic input on the left side of the screen which partially obscures the view. We don’t recommend using it as it seems to get in the way more than it helps. They also built in an “easy button” that you can use to solve the current puzzle if you are stuck or are unable to complete it due to lack of musical ability. This provides a solution to the current puzzle but that is often only part of what’s needed to progress as you will still need to complete the platforming part as well.
The range calibration and sensitivity calibration options are very easy to use. We highly suggest using them before starting and potentially recalibrating mid-session if you find your voice starting to wear out after playing it for a while.
The art style is very colourful (after the first level) with a beautifully hand drawn cartoonish feel and is one of the best parts of the game. At times we found ourselves just looking around the level enjoying the world. The background art is very well done as well and adds a little extra to the game’s atmosphere making it feel whole.
The game/story can be completed in around 5 hours or less depending on musical talent. Sadly, there’s not much of a narrative (or it was somewhat lost on us). The gist seems to be that you need to battle the silence (darkness) and bring back the music (light).
Overall we enjoyed the game and got to make a lot of funweird sounds to solve some puzzles. We just wished there was more to the story and that the characters were a little more fleshed out.
One Hand Clapping is on Xbox One, PS4, Nintendo Switch, Steam, iOS and Android. A digital copy of this game was provided to SimpleGameReviews for the purposes of reviewing the game.
Sleepin’ Guy Deluxe Edition from Publisher Chubby Pixel and Developer Fabio Ferrara
Fun but occasionally frustrating first person platformer where you win by killing yourself.
Sleepin’ Guy Deluxe Edition is a first person action-puzzler platformer. You play as Sleepin’ Guy, who falls asleep, drops his beer, and needs to wake up before it hits the ground.
Waking up should be easy right? The trick is that the only way to wake up is to DIIIIE! Each of the 31 levels will have you trying to find different ways to kill yourself so you can wake up. Some of the levels have references to pop culture, classic movies, and games including Jurassic Park, Portal, and Super Mario Brothers. All of the levels have a little twist to fit the game’s atmosphere and art style. The levels are physics based which can be kind of a pain since the game is a first person platformer.
There is a collectible statue located somewhere on each of the main levels. Most of these can be found with a minimum of exploration. The statues are of Sleepin’ Guy in a variety of different poses, some a little more comedic than others. The game makes it easy to see which levels you have found or are missing the statue for, by placing all of the found statues on a plate on the table.
The main “hub” is a diner that you work at. The levels are located on top of the tables with a little numbered placard on them. We thought this was a perfect fit for the diner theme they were going with. Level select is available in case you need to go back and replay a level to obtain a missed collectible. However, the levels must first be completed before they can be selected and they must be played in order.
While some of the levels are pretty straight forward and can be completed in just a few minutes, others took us a while to figure out what needed to be done in order to gain access to the next part of the level so we could die.
The game’s tutorial leaves a little to be desired. It does cover the basic controls at the beginning but later when new level specific mechanics are introduced we were left hanging trying to figure out what to do or how to use them. This could make it a little more challenging than expected for people who are not already familiar with the mechanic from the game or movie being referenced on that level.
Overall it was an enjoyable but occasionally frustrating game. We enjoyed the pop culture/gaming references but found the first person platforming to occasionally be difficult and frustrating.
Sleepin’ Guy Deluxe Edition is available on Xbox One and Xbox Series Consoles. A digital copy of this game was provided to SimpleGameReviews for the purposes of reviewing the game.
Teacup from Publisher Whitethorn Digital LLC and Developer Smarto Club
Short but enjoyable side-scrolling adventure game. Geared toward a younger audience but relaxing even for older players.
Teacup is a side-scrolling adventure game that follows a shy young frog named Teacup as she tries to locate the ingredients needed so she can throw a tea party.
On your adventure you will meet and engage with the other towns folk, some nice and friendly while others not so much, all of whom are some form of animal. A few of the towns folk will give you tasks to complete. Finishing them will reward you with one of the ingredients you are looking for. Some of the tasks are mini games, like slide puzzles or acting in play. They are pretty easy and enjoyable. All of the mini games fit the story and the narrative of the tasks well. They are a little on the easy side depending on your skill level and it is impossible to fail the games as they can be tried over and over again. This makes the game more accessible and hopefully more enjoyable for younger or less skilled gamers.
The game is just under 2 hours, so it can easily be completed in a single sitting but it’s relaxing the whole time. The soundtrack and art style add to the relaxing gameplay. The game feels like it’s geared towards younger gamers which is not a bad thing if you want to relax and enjoy some tea.
We ran into an issue by the pond where we hit an invisible wall that stopped us from accessing the icon to travel to the next area. We were eventually able to move around and come at it a different way and travel. This was the only technical issue we encountered.
Overall the game was a relaxing experience with fun mini games.
Teacup is available on Xbox, Nintendo Swtich, Playstation and Steam. A digital copy of this game was provided to SimpleGameReviews for the purposes of reviewing the game.
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.
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.
Papa’s Quiz from Publisher and Developer Old Apes
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 Developer Noskov 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.
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 previous games 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.
Kick it, Bunny from Publisher and Developer DillyFrameGames
More bunny kicking things around and trying to solve block puzzles. Bunny redesign potentially the stuff of nightmares.
This is the next game in the Kicking Bunny Series of games from DillyFrame. They’ve made a change to the character design of the titular bunny and this time around you will be kicking around tetris-esqu puzzle pieces to rotate and place them on a puzzle board in the specified shape.
All of the puzzles are stone figures that have been destroyed. Your job is to rebuild the 50 figures by kicking the pieces back together and rotating them into the correct shape. Most of the puzzles/figures are animal themed. You will have to travel all over the large open world as the puzzles are scattered all over the map. As you complete each puzzle a large green check mark will be placed on it when you view the map. This is very helpful for knowing which ones are still left to be completed. While traveling around you can take a break from the puzzles to play a game of soccer or sit in a chair and relax for a bit.
There are several other animals in the world that you can interact with. Some of the animals are friendly while others are not. The not-so-friendly animals can be a bit of a pain as they will come after you and kick you randomly. When you are kicked you are pushed back and stunned making you unable to move for a few seconds. This can be annoying when you are trying to complete a puzzle and get attacked by an alligator, or a hippo comes and kicks a puzzle piece out of its way.
For some reason they’ve redesigned the main character. The bunny has less comical proportions now and is a more “natural” color. But its face is a bit scary like something from a childhood nightmare. Fortunately, when you’re playing the actual game you don’t see your character’s face much since you’re primarily behind him looking at where you’re kicking the puzzle pieces.
Some of the puzzles can be completed in about 5-10 minutes depending on the player. While others can take upwards of 10-15 minutes, again depending on the player. Luckily there is the option to “restart level” which comes in handy if you overthink the puzzle and just want to reset it.
The kicking mechanic can be a little tedious at times at it doesn’t always do what you want it to or expect it to. For puzzles like this, we would prefer a top down view and directly selecting and manipulating the puzzle pieces instead of navigating a character around them and kicking them around.
Overall the game is enjoyable for what it is as the puzzles can be challenging but still accessible for gamers of all ages.
Kick It, Bunny is available on Xbox and Steam. A digital copy of this game was provided to SimpleGameReviews for the purposes of reviewing the game.
Butterfly from Publisher Xitilon and Developer Grin Robot
Very basic platformer. Issues with the controls and a few other things. At least it’s short.
A puzzle platformer where you play as a caterpillar on their journey to become a butterfly. You will make your way through 40 levels on your journey collecting the many flowers scattered around the levels while avoiding hazards.
Unlike most platformers, this game does not have a jump mechanic. Instead, you can fall and bounce off other objects like bees, selectively marked blocks, and blocks floating in the water. You can only bounce off each object one time. They disappear after being bounced on. You will also use tubes to move around the screen. New mechanics are introduced as you progress to keep a sense of challenge and interest.
Most of the puzzles are very simple to figure out. The “puzzle” is really all about planning your moves before getting too far into the level. Path selection is vital to successful completion. Fortunately, resetting the levels is quick and easy since it’s highly likely you’ll need more than one attempt to get the order right on your path selection and on later levels to get the timing and control right on some of the more difficult platforming parts.
The controls made the game harder than it needed to be. There is no option to use the D-pad which means you have to use a thumbstick for all movements. There is also an issue that causes your character to stutter at times when moving. This became a big problem on some of the later levels that required precise platforming.
The gameplay area has a 4:3 aspect ratio which leaves a large amount of screen real estate empty on modern displays. Between the aspect ratio and the graphics, we were reminded of gaming back on Windows 3.1.
We ran into an issue on a later level that was game breaking making it impossible to complete the level. Since there is no level numbering or level select we’re not really sure which level this was. We have reported it to the publisher who advised that they will be releasing an update that should make the level completable shortly after release if not on day 1.
Update 01-30-2021: The game breaking issue we ran into on the later level has been patched and the game is now able to be completed.
Butterfly will be available on Xbox. A digital copy of this game was provided to SimpleGameReviews for the purposes of reviewing the game.
ReactorX from Publisher Xitilon and Developer Lovixsama
Short and easy but enjoyable 2D puzzle game.
This is a top down 2D puzzle game. The narrative premise for the puzzles is repairing your spaceship by rerouting power. This is done by pushing or pulling the reactors located on the floor to power the corresponding colored floor.
There are a couple of key mechanics to successfully solve the puzzles. One of these is that the reactors are directional. The top of the reactor block indicates which of the 4 possible directions it sends power. It also shows you what color floor it works with. The other key mechanic is that you can change the color of the reactors by charging them with a different colored laser. Caution: Lasers are fine for reactors but deadly to players. Fortunately, the game provides a magnet function that allows you to pull blocks out from in front of the lasers so you can avoid walking into them while pushing the blocks out of the way.
There are a total of 30 puzzles to complete. Most of them are very easy to solve and provide little challenge. That said, it’s totally possible to overthink them and make it harder on yourself. The new mechanics and additional levels of challenge were well paced throughout the game. The only real difficulty spike was with the final level.
The game has a relaxing soundtrack that we found enjoyable. It is easy to pick up and play with simple but well done controls and a pixel art style. Overall the game is enjoyable but a little short as there are only 30 levels and depending on the player it can be completed in under 30-60 minutes.
ReactorX is available on Xbox. 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.
I, AI from Publisher Sometimes You and Developer Satur Entertainment
A grindy shmup
A vertical shmup
You play as an AI that gains self-awareness and escapes the lab that created it. During the escape you possess a spaceship and take off. Using this spaceship, you need to make your way through an enemy army to reach a stargate.
There are a total of 20 missions you will play through on your way to the stargate. Most of the missions will end with a boss battle where you have to defeat a large heavily armed battleship. The other levels will end with your ship flying into space and onto the next mission.
After killing the enemy ships they will drop blue energy which is the ingame currency. You can use it to upgrade your ship in several different ways and to purchase superweapons for the ship. The superweapons do a lot of damage but have limited ammo. You can refill your superweapons’ ammo by finding pickups after killing enemies or destroying asteroids. You can also find repair kits for your ship’s armor the same way. The asteroids can be shot to be destroyed but they don’t cause any damage to your ship if you fly into them. So, you can literally just push them around if they’re blocking your line of fire to the enemies.
Since you will be traveling through space, most of the levels have the same background (space with parts of large machinery or ships added here or there). Sadly, when upgrading your ship it doesn’t change the appearance at all. We would have loved to see it change when adding rockets or upgrading the weapons or armor. It’s nice to be able to see your ship look badass when you’ve upgraded it to be badass.
After completing a mission you are ranked on a three point scale. If you are able to kill all of the enemies and collect all of the energy you get a 50% bonus to the energy collected. If you die in the level you will lose half of the energy/currency you collected before dying. This added a little bit of risk/reward to missions.
You are able to replay missions at any time to try to increase your rank or just to grind some more currency to upgrade your ship. Sadly, you will need to do some grinding to upgrade your ship’s main weapons and rockets just to keep up with the challenge.
New enemies are added every few levels to keep the difficulty up. Some of the enemies look similar to others but with a different attack pattern. You will need to upgrade your ship’s main weapons and rockets just to survive. Depending on the upgrades you choose and how much you grind for currency it is possible to make yourself overpowered.
We would have loved the option to remap the buttons in the game since “shoot” was mapped to one of the triggers instead of the way most shmups map shooting to a face button. However, with the auto-fire feature enabled from the options menu, this was less of an issue. Auto-fire actually lets you play the game one handed at times if you don’t want to use the superweapons that are mapped to the face buttons.
In the audio department, the “AI” voiceover work could have been better. There was an effect added to try and make it sound more “computery” but we didn’t think it was as successful as they wanted it to be and the overall voice acting itself could have been better.
The sound effects are good and fit the game. They did a great job adding the option to control the volume for music, sound, and “The sound of the main gun” separately. This was a great choice as you will be hearing that sound effect constantly and we found the clicking sound of the main gun to be a bit annoying.
Overall the game was enjoyable but the grinding for currency to upgrade your ship felt mandatory just to stay alive in the later levels.
I, AI is available on Xbox, Nintendo Switch and Playstation. A digital copy of this game was provided to SimpleGameReviews for the purposes of reviewing the game.
Castle of No Escape 2 from Publisher Xitilon and Developer D. E. X. Team
A retro styled rouge-lite dungeon crawler and a solid improvement from the first game. A little short but enjoyable with a simple story.
This, like the previous game, is a Rogue-lite Dungeon Crawler with a 6×6 grid of rooms on each floor and 6 floors to explore.
Castle of No Escape 2 is more than just a sequel by number. It’s got a lot of great additions and improvements from the first one. The graphics have been updated adding new character models, backgrounds, and enemies while keeping the pixel art style. The chip tunes soundtrack has also been updated with new songs that add to the haunted castle atmosphere.
A story has been added to the game along with an intro explaining what is happening and why you are going into the castle. The story is a little short but does a good job setting the mood for your adventure.
The rooms are now massive compared to the first game. You can and will have to move through the rooms fighting off enemies, opening chests, and avoiding traps. The look of the rooms reminded us of the dungeons from The Legend of Zelda on NES. The enemies are able to move and will chase you around trying to kill you. There are a handful of different enemy types each with their own attack patterns and some of them have powers. After a little bit you will be able to figure out the enemies’ attacks and the best way to avoid them. Opening the chests comes with a bit of risk as enemies can hide in the chests and pop out when you open them.
There are several new additions to the game over its predecessor. You have 3 characters to pick from at the start with 3 more unlockable if you meet the secret requirements for them. Each of the characters has their own attributes like the first game but unlike the first game they play very differently as they have their own attacks. This was a great improvement to the game as it makes you want to try each of the characters to see which one will best fit your play style.
Some of the new mechanics in this game are fire pits that can damage you and ice on the floor that causes your character to slide around. They also expanded the in-game economy to include gambling. You can use your coins on a slot machine or play the shell game (like 3 card monty but with a ball under shells). There is still the same shopkeeper from the first game that you can purchase potions from and they added a second merchant who will sell them cheaper (if you can find him). You can also find a blacksmith to upgrade your armor.
It is still a rogue-lite game so dying will make you start over with nothing. The Castle is randomly generated which does make the exploration feel unique each time you enter.
They put in a lot of effort to capture that retro look and feel throughout the game. There is an old school password system that allows you to start with higher gear and some of the artifacts already collected. They also have a game manual that you can access from the options. The manual is great and for those who remember the old game manuals; it really captures that nostalgic feeling.
Castle of No Escape 2 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.
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.
My Aunt is a Witch from Publisher Sometimes You and Developer Graven Visual Novels
An interesting expansion on the typical visual novel genre. A little slow to start out but it picks up.
A Visual Novel with some Point and Click elements.
The story is told from the perspective of a boy named Thomas. He was sent to live with his Aunt by his dad and stepmom. Shortly after getting to his aunt’s house, he discovers that she is a real witch who has a talking cat and a bunch of magical things laying around the house. Thomas takes on some of the household chores learning about magical items and making potions. This is where the story starts.
After spending some time in the house, Thomas starts to see and experience the magic and plans on becoming a master potion maker as well as an apprentice to his aunt. During his journey you will meet several interesting characters and have to complete quests and a few puzzles. You will also have a few locations that you will visit and get to explore.
After a while, the visual novel adds some point and click game elements allowing you to take control of Thomas and explore the house. You will be provided with check lists that Thomas will need to complete with items located all over the house. This house might not be the safest place for a child to be left alone to explore. There are interesting ways that Thomas can die while looking around the house. We recommend saving often as there is no auto save and if you die without a save you will need to start the story over. Since there is no way to skip the text, dying without having a save is a time consuming mistake. We would have liked to have some form of checkpoint auto-save feature in the game.
During the visual novel parts of the game they did a great job letting you easily know who is talking by having a nice easy to read graphic above the text box. Each of the characters have their own text colors with a cute little graphic on them making it easy to tell them apart.
The backgrounds and environments are well done with a colorful anime art style that works well, looks good, and fits the story. Some of the conversations will have a small amount of animation in the background. It has a relaxing original soundtrack with well done sound effects that help the immersion and keep you interested in the story during some of the longer conversations.
The story is pretty straightforward with a few interesting parts. There are some pacing issues in the first half with some of the conversations dragging on and needlessly describing in detail things that are pictured on screen. In the later half of the story several characters are introduced at a pretty fast rate. This is where the story starts to come alive and pick up speed.
When you enter the point and click part of the game and take control of Thomas the controls become very important. It wasn’t always clear what button needed to be pressed so it took some time to get used to the controls. Holding a button on the controller will show you which items you are able to interact with. A glowing star displays over the items making it easy to see what you can and cannot interact with. There are times that the on screen user interface will be blocking an item you need to interact with and you will not be able to see it unless you hold the show active objects button.