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.
There is an option that will pull up a book of all the previous text in case you missed something that was said. This is a helpful feature in a visual novel as it is easy to click the next text button a few to many times and miss something.
We really enjoyed the point and click parts of the game and would have liked to see more of this. There are some minor spelling and grammar issues that pop up in the story but they can be overlooked as it does not happen often.
My Aunt is a Witch is available on Xbox, Playstation, Nintendo Switch and PSVita. A digital copy of this game was provided to SimpleGameReviews for the purposes of reviewing the game.
Smart Moves from Publisher Xitilon and Developer grin robot
It’s a fun retro looking puzzle game with a good amount of puzzles and can be played one handed.
A turn-based puzzle game
You move around the level opening the chests scattered throughout attacking or avoiding enemies and traps. Once you open all of the chests the level ends whether you defeated all of the enemies or not.
All of the levels are contained on one screen and laid out in a grid. Your character can move left, right, up or down one square at a time. Once an enemy has been alerted to your presence on the level they will attempt to hunt you down. There is an exclamation mark animation that appears over the enemies heads to let you know they have been alerted. It reminded us of the old Metal Gear games. The enemies can only move when you move, with every move you make the enemies that are on the hunt will close in on you. You can consume a turn by using an object on the level (the chests, barrels and others) instead of moving to skip a turn and force the enemies into attack range. You or the enemies can attack each other when standing on a neighboring square. If you get attacked by an enemy or hit a trap, it’s a 1 hit kill; game over.
After completing the first few worlds you will need to start planning your moves ahead of time. You’ll need to count out the turns to either avoid the traps or lure enemies to trigger them, and determine when is the best time to use the objects to consume a turn without moving.
There are 8 worlds with 8 levels per world. You have the option to take a break from the world and levels you are playing and unlock another area at any time. You do this with the keys you get after completing a level. It is always nice to see that option as some levels will frustrate you and make you want to stop playing. Having the option to take a break from that one and play another was a good choice. We found that if we got stuck on a level for a while taking a break to clear our head and coming back later helped us beat the level that stumped us.
Like most puzzle games it starts out with easy simple puzzles letting you get the hang of the controls and mechanics. After the first few levels the difficulty starts to ramp up. Checkpoints are added on the levels and other mechanics get introduced. We ran into an issue with the checkpoint system. The checkpoints are in static locations on the levels and can be picked up at any time, if you get yourself into a bad spot (having enemies around you) and collect a checkpoint it can put you into a no win situation which will require you to restart the level losing your progress. After dying you do have the option to load from checkpoint or restart the level. Both reloading checkpoint and restarting the level are tied to single buttons. These can be triggered without the prompt even showing up on screen. This has pros and cons. On the plus side, if you realize you’re stuck in an unwinnable situation you can quickly reset with the press of a single button. The bad part is you can easily hit the wrong button accidently and lose progress. The reloading and respawning times are very fast. This comes in handy since you’ll be using it a lot on the later levels.
The game has a retro look and feel with easy controls as the movement of the character is done with the d-pad or a thumb stick. It is possible to play the game one handed which is great to see as it allows the game to be more accessible for all gamers.
Smart Moves is available on Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, and Windows. A digital copy of this game was provided to SimpleGameReviews for the purposes of reviewing the game.
The Touryst from Publisher and Developer Shin’en Games
A fun voxel art style, Island Vacation themed, puzzle game.
You play as a bespectacled mustachioed tourist on vacation. You will be visiting islands, relaxing, taking photos, scuba diving, and other things you would expect to do while on vacation. While on the islands you will discover and explore monuments and complete tasks (To-do lists) that people offer you.
You travel between islands with the assistance of the friendly boat captain who chauffeurs you around. As the game progresses you’ll gain access to new islands. To gain access you have to first discover the islands from travel guides. Some of these are received from characters but most are purchased from a store.
Most of the islands will have a monument for you to explore. You have to solve a puzzle just to open the monument so you can enter. Once inside there are more obstacles leading to a boss fight to obtain the orb inside. Most of the obstacles are pretty straightforward, while others are a bit tricky and will require you to move the camera around to try to figure out the solution.
You are able to purchase new “upgrades” for your character at a store once they are unlocked by story progression. The introduction of the new upgrade abilities is paced well. They’re also necessary to reach some areas that are otherwise inaccessible. Between those areas being temporarily inaccessible and To-Do’s that will be picked up on later islands, you’ll end up going back and forth to each of the islands several times.
There is a surprisingly large number of mini games as well as to-do lists. Most of the to-do’s are not required for story progression. They are easy to understand and figure out what is needed, and have good mechanics. Many games suffer with poor mechanics in their mini games when they have a lot of them. For the most part The Touryst managed to maintain good mechanics in their minigames. The only exceptions to this were in the retro arcade games found on one of the islands. There’s a To-Do list task related to beating the high score on all 3 of these. They can be a bit frustrating due to issues with the minigame mechanics/physics.
Each of the islands has its own look, feel, and theme. This makes it a lot easier to remember what is on which island when you have to go back to finish future To-Dos.
Overall, we enjoyed playing this game. The puzzles and little games were enjoyable. Other than a couple of issues with game mechanics in one or two places it plays really well and can be completed in 6-8 hours. You can complete the story missions in less time if you skip the side missions (To-Do lists).
The Touryst is available on Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, and Windows.
Sweet Witches from Publisher Drageus Games and Developer LumenSection
A challenging platformer that is a little repetitive with a cutesy cartoony art style
You play as a witch. Your objective is to plant flowers on all of the designated plots while avoiding enemies. To plant the flowers you’ll need to walk or run over the plots scattered all over the levels. There are enemies that will get in your way and try to stop you from completing your task. Bunnies are the only enemy that will eat the flowers you plant making you replant the flowers. You will need to climb ladders to get to the different platforms and reach all of the plots. The enemies can climb the ladders too and as you progress through the game you’ll encounter some enemies that can move between the platforms without using a ladder.
But, never fear, you can fight back! Some of the enemies you will be able to defeat with your magic hat, but others can only be defeated by using an item. On these bigger baddies your hat will only stun them. These items come from magic boxes that look like presents. You can only open one present at a time so you’ll have to use that item before you can pick up another one. Eventually, enemies won’t be the only danger you have to contend with in your quest to beautify the world with flower gardens. They also introduce environmental hazards that must be dodged while still dealing with the other enemies.
There are 50+ levels and 5 unique world’s to make your way through. There is also a bonus level at the end of each of the worlds that gives you a chance to regain some lost lives/hearts.
There are 3 game modes in the Campaign; Arcade, Adventure and Custom. Arcade mode is the hardest by far. You start with only 5 lives and no continues. Adventure is the recommended mode for new players since it lets you continue when you lose all of your lives. Custom lets you change the speed of the enemies, add more starting lives, and turn on or off Friendly Fire. When starting the campaign you are able to pick one of two different good witches. Each has unique hat attacks and special spells.
After completing the campaign you are able to replay it with your choice of two bad witches. It’s not just a simple skin change, they have their own attacks and spells and instead of planting flowers, you’re pulling them out. Some of the enemies will be different (most notably, the bunnies that eat flowers are replaced by baby chickens that plant them) while others stay the same.
On some of the levels it can be difficult to see where you need to plant the flowers as the block representing the plot looks similar to the platforms (the platforms themselves often have multiple different kinds of blocks for decoration). This can result in having to search for the missing plot to plant the last flower. The second version of the campaign is a lot easier in this respect since the flowers are much more obvious than a simple change in block color. We found a more methodical approach to completing the levels was helpful for avoiding a lot of repeat and searching. Killing all of the bunnies or chicks straight away is also a must.
The challenge increases the further you progress with the addition of new enemies that move faster, have ranged attacks, or can change platforms without using a ladder. They also add some new level mechanics like mud slides that slow you down, ice blocks that speed you up and can cause you to slide right into enemies, and darkness that lowers visibility and field of view.
The only co-op option available at the time of this review is couch co-op. We would have loved an online option for both co-op and versus mode. In Versus Mode you can play against each other with up to 4 players. Unfortunately, since this game is couch co-op only, this mode won’t be available unless you actually have a 2nd player. There are two game types in Versus mode (Timed and Deathmatch). There are a few options to turn on or off the enemies.
It’s worth noting that there is a game breaking glitch that also happens to be tied to an achievement. If you try to use your special magic spell and attack the Momma/Queen cat that is spawning kittens your game will freeze and crash causing you to lose your progress and have to start the world over again.
Overall the game is fun and they did a good job with the pacing of new enemies and mechanics to steadily increase the difficulty but some may still find it repetitive as you are still doing the same thing over and over again.
Sweet Witches is available on Xbox One, PS4, Nintendo Switch, and Steam. A digital copy of this game was provided to SimpleGameReviews for the purposes of reviewing the game.
Neighbours back From Hell from Publisher HandyGames and Developer THQ Nordic
A little like Home Alone meets Punk’d in claymation style cartoon graphics. Overall it’s enjoyable but can become repetitive.
The opening starts out with your horrible neighbours making your life a living hell and when they finally go too far, it’s time for payback. You play as Woody, the star of a prank show aimed at pranking your Neighbour. You break and enter into your neighbours house and go through their stuff to locate items to use or combine to prank and torture him.
Each episode will have a minimum number of pranks that must be successfully completed in order to finish the level. There is also a maximum number of pranks possible in each episode so you can choose which ones to do to meet the minimum requirement or the extra mischievous player can complete them all. The pranks are tracked at the top of the screen. There’s a slot for each completed prank and a checkered flag over the minimum requirement to finish the episode. The slots are filled with a gold medal when your neighbor discovers each prank.
All of the items you will need to execute your dastardly deeds are located somewhere in the house. You’ll need to explore and search different objects to find items to use and discover what you can potentially interact with to use the items on.
Some of our favorite pranks were putting a fake shark fin on a remote control submarine and having it scare the hell out of him, replacing a ping pong ball with an egg so he hits the egg into his wifes face making her beat him up for it, and adding miracle grow to a watering can making the plant grow and bite him.
There are several episodes to play through. In the beginning you’ll only be able to access two floors in his house. As the season progresses this expands to four floors. The additional floors add to the level of difficulty as you will sometimes need to pick up items located on the top floor and bring them to the basement to lay the trap all while trying to avoid the neighbor. If he finds you he attacks you and beats you up and then you reset but you don’t lose your previous progress. If he finds you three times, he beats you to death and you’ll have to replay the episode from the beginning.
As you progress through the seasons the locale will change from his house to various locations as he travels on vacation. Talk about holding a grudge, you’re stalking this guy around the world as he travels on vacation with his family just to get back at him for being an asshole neighbor and score some ratings for your prank show.
Some items will have a “mini-game” that you have to successfully complete in order to interact with them. If you fail the mini-game it alerts your neighbor and he’ll come investigate. If he catches you he’ll beat you up so you need to run away fast or hide in one of the hiding spots provided on the map to avoid getting caught. If you manage to avoid getting caught, you can pay attention to his alert meter to know when he’s given up the chase and returned to his normal routine making it safe to come out again.
Some levels require a little more stealth than others. They’ve provided a stealth mechanic that you will need in order to avoid waking sleeping animals or family members. It’s easy to use and only requires you to hold a button to tiptoe around the room. If you wake an animal it will alert the neighbor just like failing a mini-game but waking a person will result in you getting an ass whooping from the sleeper.
The artstyle is a fun cartoony look that reminds us of claymation a la “Wallace and Grommet”. They do a good job clearly showing which objects are interactable and what you can do with them through the on screen graphics.
All in all the game is enjoyable. They do a good job introducing complexity and challenge with the larger maps and different locales but the basic objectives remain pretty much the same so it still tends toward repetition.
Neighbours back From Hell is available on Xbox One, PS4, Nintendo Switch, and Steam. A digital copy of this game was provided to SimpleGameReviews for the purposes of reviewing the game.
She Sees Red from Publisher and Developer Rhinotales
A “choose your own adventure” style movie/game. Good production value and an interesting story. Parental warning for graphic violence and brief partial female nudity.
An Interactive FMV Movie
It all starts out in the back room of a nightclub. Someone has killed several people at the club and that is where the story begins. A detective is on the scene, following the clues and uncovering the story.
It’s more of a choose your own adventure movie than a game. Periodically, you will be provided with 2 options that will appear on the screen. There is a time limit to make your choice. If you don’t pick something, the game will automatically choose an option for you. Once you select your choice the next scene begins and you get to find out what happens. This is done well as it can be completed with just a simple move of the d-pad or left stick to highlight your choice (on PC it would be a mouse click on the respective button).
Moving to the next scene is done well with no loading time in between. This helps make it feel more like watching a movie. There is a lot of action, graphic violence, and strong language (swearing). All of which fits the narrative and story they created. Depending on the choices you make, you may also see a scene with brief partial female nudity. The nudity seemed unnecessary to the scene and didn’t really add anything.
There are four possible endings that you can get depending on the choices you make. “Every choice matters” is the game’s mantra. The 4 different endings add to the replayability of the game as does the scene counter that lets you know how many of the available scenes you’ve seen. They added the option to “skip scene” after your second playthrough if you have already experienced it.This lets you get to the choices a lot faster so you can make a different choice and possibly get a different ending. We really appreciated the option to skip a scene so we didn’t have to rewatch the same material over and over again and could get to the new alternate scenes faster.
The game/movie is a little on the short side with a single playthrough/viewing only taking around 30-40 minutes depending on your choices; less if you choose to skip scenes.
The film production is well done with professional actors, editing, lighting, and sound design. It has an indie film look. We noticed the dubbed voice sync felt off in a few places but overall it was pretty good. The game is both dubbed and subbed and you have the option to change the audio track back to the original Russian with english subtitles. The original Russian audio seemed to fit better than the English VO but this may be subject to personal preferences.
They also added a Galley where you can view the behind the scenes of the movie that was filmed. Overall, the quality of the FMV is good and the story was interesting enough to make us want to find all of the scenes and endings.
She Sees Red is available on Xbox One, PS4, Nintendo Switch, Steam, Andriod and Apple. A digital copy of this game was provided to SimpleGameReviews for the purposes of reviewing the game.
Active Neurons 2 from Publishers Sometimes You, Usanik STD and Developer Nikolai Usachev
A great sequel with fun new mechanics, nice soundtrack, and challenging puzzles.
A Logic Puzzle
This is the sequel to Active Neurons (Review Here ). There are more puzzles, new mechanics added to the game, and a great new soundtrack.
We noticed several changes/improvements from the original Active Neurons. Previously, all of the puzzles were single screen. Now, some puzzles will require you to move to a second screen which adds a bunch of new challenges. Solving the puzzles now comes with a bigger animated explosion that provides a very satisfying feeling. We also noticed that some of the options available in the first game are not present in this game; namely, Color Blind mode and Monochrome mode. This is a let down for those that use these accessibility features. Hopefully they’ll be added in a future update.
The soundtrack is great with lofi beats to keep you relaxed when struggling with a puzzle. They’ve also added an RGB sound graph across the bottom of the screen that visualizes the soundtrack. During our game play the background music cut out at one point for several minutes. Quitting and reloading seemed to fix it.
Much like the first game solving the puzzle requires moving an energy block to the goal(s) 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.
There are over 150 puzzles to enjoy and several unique game mechanics are introduced as you progress through the levels. As you make your way along this journey you will discover the 12 greatest inventions of humanity and reflect on the power of human thought. Once you complete the 10 levels for each invention you are provided with information about the invention. We really liked these nuggets of knowledge gained along the way.
If you get really stuck on a puzzle there is the option to see the solution for the puzzle at the press of a button. That was present in the original game and returns for the second game. It’s really nice for those that are impatient or just really stuck to be able to keep moving through the game. There is also a convenient reset button which restarts the puzzle in a second or 2. This got a lot of use for us especially in the later levels where mistakes cannot be recovered from. If you like the challenge of actually figuring things out for yourself, be careful when restarting levels as it is easy to accidentally select the solution button instead of the reset button. Fortunately, you can stop the solution from completing even if you accidentally click it.
It is a very enjoyable gameplay experience. The puzzles start out pretty easy and increase the difficulty at a nice pace while steadily introducing new mechanics to keep the game fresh.
Much like the original game there is little to no replayability after completing the game. If there is a 3rd game we would love to see leaderboards, challenges, or time trials added. Some would consider it a good thing that these additions aren’t present while others may find they miss having a reason to replay levels and the ability to compete with friends and strangers.
Active Neurons 2 is available on Xbox One, PS4, and Nintendo Switch. A digital copy of this game was provided to SimpleGameReviews for the purposes of reviewing the game.
Mask of Mists from Publishers Sometimes You, Stately Snail and Developer 9 Eyes Game Studio
Minimal combat challenges, some relatively easy puzzles, not a lot of story. Enjoyable but short game.
First-person Adventure Puzzler
You are a mercenary who has been sent to locate a missing person, the Archmage. This is where the story starts and stays until the end of the game. There is very little story development in the middle of the game. The majority of it is revealed by finding and reading things found through exploration. You will need to find clues, collect items, loot chests, find stone masks, solve puzzles, and explore the colorful magical world all in search of the Archmage.
The combat is pretty simple and can be rather repetitive. You only have a single sword and pistol for your melee and ranged attacks. There are only 3 different types of enemies in the game and a single boss fight. With so little variety in your enemies it is easy to figure out how to avoid their attacks. Given that the game is set in such a magical world we would have loved to see the option to use magic in one way or another.
There is a crafting mechanic for potions. Before you can craft the potions you will need to locate recipes and the ingredients for them. Some of these are hidden in chests while others are out on a table waiting to be picked up. They did a good job making sure you never felt like you needed to hunt down the items. You could just pick them up while on your way to the next location and there were extra in case you missed a few.
The artstyle is a pleasant Disney-esque fantasy cartoon-scape. They did a great job capturing the look and feel of the indoor, outdoor, and underground areas with changes in lighting and color.
One of the nice touches they added was the Navigation Crystal mechanic. These allow you to leave a ruin after reaching the end of it without having to make your way all the way back through the level. Activating these is also a requirement for moving the story forward and unlocking the final area.
Most of the puzzles are easy to solve. They can often be solved with minimal trial and error. However, the game also provides an answer key nearby, sometimes in the next room. There are a few puzzles that require platforming. These can be a little difficult due to the inherent challenges of platforming from a first person perspective.
All in all, the game can be completed in just a few hours and was an enjoyable way to spend an afternoon.
Mask of Mists is available on Xbox One, PS4, Nintendo Switch and Steam. A digital copy of this game was provided to SimpleGameReviews for the purposes of reviewing the game.
Party Panic from Publisher and Developer Everglow Interactive Inc.
A party game probably most enjoyable when using the “drinking game” mode. Lots of mini-games, some with challenging physics.
A very colorful group of Mini Games (Party Game)
There are over 30 minigames to play, enjoy, or get frustrated with. It has online or local split screen co-op both with the option to add bots which is always nice to see in a party game.
There are multiple options for customizing your character to make it fit your personality. You can change the color and add a little bit of flair with various hats, glasses, capes, and some other items. As you complete the different game types you get to win loot boxes. These can be opened from the main lobby and each will give you the choice between two clothing items. We really liked having the option to pick which of the items we wanted.
There are a few games modes to pick from and play. The two “Party” game types have the option of turning them into a drinking game.
- Minigame Party – Which randomly cycles through the list of minigames.
- Custom Party – Same as Minigame Party but you can remove games from the list of possible games to play or to practice. We liked having the option of removing the games that we didn’t like or had played too frequently.
- Gauntlet – Make your way through a procedurally generated obstacle course. This keeps the gauntlet interesting as you never know what obstacles you might run into. They also let you choose how many obstacles to add so you can make the course longer or shorter.
- Board Game – This is a “Mario Party” type board game with two different boards to choose from. You will need to roll a dice and move around the board. After everyone completes their moves it loads into a random minigame. They made the choice of having you manually move your character around the board. This lets you explore the board and figure out where your character will stop or which path you will choose to take. You can also choose to punch or kick your opponents when you’re passing them. We would have liked to see the option to have the character move by themselves to help expedite the game play.
- Trophy Island – You get to free roam and explore Gooberland trying to locate and collect trophies. There are some areas that are blocked off initially and get unlocked by exploring and interacting with the environment. While in Gooberland you will have to complete challenges in order to collect some of the trophies. Some of the challenges are enjoyable while others are very challenging due to issues with the game mechanics/physics. These issues stand out the most while driving the car and during some of the precise platforming.
We ran into an issue where our character did not spawn into a minigame forcing us to sit out on that game. While playing the Board Game mode we noticed that it picks the games in a truly random way. Some games appeared more often in the rotation than others so that we had played the same mini-games a few times before seeing new ones. We also had issues with the camera clipping through walls while exploring Trophy Island.
The art style is a little cartoonish with the characters having very long arms and large heads. While playing you will notice the characters making random weird facial expressions to other characters or just at random times. These can be rather amusing.
Party Panic is available on Xbox One, PS4 and Steam. A digital copy of this game was provided to SimpleGameReviews for the purposes of reviewing the game.
Déjà Vu from Publisher and Developer Eric Freeman
A short enjoyable puzzle game with a couple of cool mechanics and a very bright background.
A minimalist puzzle game
You need to move your square to the yellow square somewhere on the screen. Its start is pretty simple and can be completed without thinking. After a few levels they start to add new game mechanics and the difficulty starts to ramp up.
Eventually you are introduced to the clone mechanic. Presumably this is the mechanic that inspired the title. It allows you to record your movements and clone your square. After making your clone it will play your recorded movements. This was a big surprise when we figured out that if you keep moving in one direction and clone yourself the recording will keep moving in that direction. This was one of the coolest mechanics introduced in the game. Overall, the controls and game mechanics are simple and work nicely as intended.
There is a narrative thread in the game. It is told through text on screen after completing every few levels. We didn’t feel this “story” element really added to the game in any appreciable way.
The game has a very relaxing soundtrack which helps soothe the frustration when getting stuck on a level. Some of the later levels you will probably end up restarting over and over trying to figure out the solution. Luckily, you can reset the level with the press of a button and get back to trying a different method within a second or two.
There is the option to enable a Colorblind mode. We love to see developers putting in the effort to make their games more accessible for all gamers. The one thing we do wish is that there was an option to lower the brightness of the background or play the game in “dark mode” as most of the screen is white which can be painful for those with photosensitivity.
As for replayability options, they added a “Best Time” under each level which gives you the option to replay each level trying to beat your best time. We would have loved to see an online leaderboard to compare your times against friends and strangers. There is also a Player Statistics area that you can see at the end of the level selection area which shows your Total Time and Total Deaths. The total time does not calculate the total amount of time played it just adds the total best time for each of the levels. The game is fairly short and can be completed within an hour depending on player skill.
Déjà Vu is available on Xbox One and Windows. A digital copy of this game was provided to SimpleGameReviews for the purposes of reviewing the game.
Destroy All Humans! from Publisher THQ Nordic and Developer Black Forest Games
Remake of the first game with some additional gameplay features. Some of the dialog is a little dated.
A remaster of the Original Destroy All Humans.
The game takes place in the United States of America in an alternate history circa 1959. An alien named Cryptosporidium-136 was sent to earth to prepare for the invasion and disappeared. You play as Crypto-137 sent to earth to figure out what happened to Crypto-136. Crypto’s mission is to infiltrate and sabotage secret government facilities and defeat Majestic (the secret shadow government organization in charge of everything), find out what happened to Crypto-136, and finish his mission.
While invading earth you will travel to different locales around the USA, and have to deal with townsfolk, police, the military (tanks, trucks, soldiers and robots), and Majestic. Everyone is scared of you. If they spot you, they’ll try to stop and kill you before you can take over the world.
Luckily you have a lot of alien tech at your disposal to aid you on your mission; like various weapons, a jetpack, a flying saucer, and several awesome abilities. Your abilities are Holoclone, which lets you disguise yourself as a holographic clone of anyone, Cortex Scan, which lets you read people’s minds to get intel and provides a little back story, Psychokinesis, lets you pick up and throw things or even people, and Brain Extraction, to pull the brains out of humans.
The Voice Over work for the main characters is great but the townsfolk are a little off and tend to be repetitive. We noticed that the repetition in the NPC dialog isn’t limited to their conversations. There’s also a limited amount of variety in what you hear when scanning their brains. The thoughts start to repeat after just a few minutes of scanning people. Some of the thoughts also just seemed dated and kinda wrong by today’s standards. While playing you will occasionally hear Crypto cracking jokes about the human race. Some of them are kinda funny.
The little things that have been added to the remake makes the game very enjoyable to play for fans of the series or for those who are new to it. They added a new system to this game that was not present in the previous iterations of Destroy all Humans. There are optional bonus objectives to complete for each mission. You can still complete the missions without completing the bonus objectives. Mission replay is available at any time to give you the chance to go back and try them again. Completing all of the bonus objectives in select missions will unlock skins for Crypto. We liked the replayability this adds to the game.
Once you finish the mission for each town, you’ll unlock a free roam option for the location. This lets you access all areas of the town so you can find the collectibles and easily access the 4 challenge areas for each location. The challenges are Armageddon, Abduction, Race, and Rampage. You will receive a star rating for the challenges. They can be a bit of a struggle at first since Crypto only has stock weapons and not all of his powers are unlocked. They become a lot easier and more fun if you go back with a maxed out Crypto with all of his powers and weapons unlocked and upgraded.
The game has a good check point system that makes saves pretty often. This comes in handy at times but can be your bane at other times. We ran into an issue on a mission where we needed to protect a truck from taking too much damage. The truck had 1 hit left when we hit a checkpoint triggering a save and had to finish the rest of the mission making sure it did not get hit at all. We ended up having to restart the mission and protect it better at the beginning as it was easier and less frustrating than the alternative.
There are a good variety of mission types. Some will have you destroying or sabotaging things (buildings, Tesla coils, military equipment), others require stealth. Some are follow or escort missions for both people and vehicles. The stealth missions can be a challenge if you are not patient as you will spend a good amount of time in Holobob form. While in Holobob form you are unable to use your powers as this would compromise the illusion and get you spotted.
Destroy All Humans! is available on Xbox One, PS4 and Windows. A digital copy of this game was provided to SimpleGameReviews for the purposes of reviewing the game.