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.
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.
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.
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.
Clash Force from Publisher Ratalaika Games and Developer Spicy Gyro Games
Feels like a mix of Megaman and Contra on the NES.
A side scroller platformer
Clash force is a fairly standard side scrolling platform. There are 3 different members of the Clash Force that you can play as, the only difference between them is cosmetic. The game has 3 difficulty levels; Normal, Hard and Expert. Hard appears to have more enemies while Expert has the same amount of enemies as Hard but you have 1 less health bar and the option to recover health has been removed.
As in any standard platformer you’ll progress to the right and shoot the enemies that appear on screen, most enemies only take 1 or 2 shots. While playing you will come across items to change your weapon, find hearts to heal your health, and a shield item that looks like a crest with an S in the middle that protects you from one hit before breaking. Fortunately, you have unlimited lives which can be helpful during the difficult areas of the levels or for less skilled gamers.
Your life bar has 3 hearts. Unlike most games, getting hit doesn’t just take away some health. You’ll lose any upgraded weapon you picked up as well as 1 heart. Luckily hearts and weapons upgrade items spawn a few times per level so you can restore what you lost. To avoid taking damage when the enemies shoot at you you will need to time your jumps since there is no way to duck or block the attacks.
The game and levels are pretty short as the levels can be completed within 2-3 minutes or less and the game can be completed in under 1 hour. There are 3 levels in each area before a boss fight. There are a total of 21 levels in the game. The boss fights remind us a lot of Megaman vs Dr. Wily fighting someone in a robot. Each of the bosses have a pattern of attacks that are easy to figure out and which is good since you’ll have to figure out the pattern in order to beat the boss.
After completing each level you are rewarded with a bonus area and a chance to pick your weapon upgrade or get a shield. If you are happy with what you have you can run through without picking up anything. This was nice to see as it gave us the option to leave without having to risk losing our weapon of choice.
The levels start becoming a little more challenging with new types of enemies. The platforming becomes harder too with the addition of moving platforms.
There are 5 different weapon items that you come across and you will be able to find your favorite after a few minutes. One weapon in particular really reminded us of the Spread shot from Contra which was our favorite weapon.
The game has the same background music on each level as well as the same sound effect for shooting no matter which weapon you are using. Since you will spend most of your time holding the shoot button you will get tired of the sound effect.
Clash Force 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.