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.
Woodle Tree 2 Deluxe Plus from Publisher Chubby Pixel and Developer Fabio Ferrara
A cute platformer unfortunately plagued with glitches. Some can be worked around, some can be game breaking.
An open world 3d platformer.
You play as Woodle whose world has been taken over by a dark slime. The slime has taken the Water Tears from the Sage Protector trees turning them to stone and is stealing color from the world. Woodle has been sent to recover the Water Tears and save everyone.
As with most open world games, each of the levels (8 in total) are accessible at any time but the later ones are easier to access after purchasing Power Ups, Items, and higher tier Leaves.
The game has 2 forms of currency; Red and Blue Berries. You collect these while moving around the game and exploring. Red Berries respawn but Blue Berries do not. Some of them are hiding behind destructible objects like leaf blocks. You’ll use the currency to purchase upgrades for your character and weapon as well as on customization options. There are shops in the main plaza for upgrades and for the customizations. You can buy hats that give bonuses and make moving around the levels a little easier while the masks are just cosmetic.
Your only weapon in the game is a leaf that you carry with you. It is your weapon and is also used to transport droplets of water. The droplets can be placed on seedlings to make them grow which makes them climbable and gives access to higher areas. We encountered a lot of issues climbing up the “beanstalks”. We would often clip through them and fall back to the ground again. This made them into a barely usable mechanic. More often than not, we would have to do a jump/glide/climb combination to get up to the higher area.
There are different strengths for your leaf. These are color coded for Power and Damage. You start out with a Green Leaf and end up with a Blue Leaf. All of the leaves are able to do a charged shot by holding the attack button. The upgraded leaves do more damage and have a larger charged shot. Combat is very simple and ends up basically a button masher. There are some enemies that cannot be destroyed and will need to be avoided. As we got further into the game we started avoiding most enemies just to save time.
In addition to the different colored leaves dealing more damage and having larger charged shots, you also need different colored leaves to break different colored leaf blocks. The higher level leaves will break leaf blocks of the same color and all the lower tier colors. Many of these higher tier leaf blocks are covering entrances to hidden areas. Most of these areas will have Blue Berries for you to collect. We ran into occasional issues with leaf blocks “breaking” but not actually being removed which prevented us from accessing some areas. Sometimes reloading the area would allow the block to be broken and actually removed.
The controls are basic and responsive which is always nice to see. The basic mechanics of the game (jump, double/triple jump, glide, and attack) all work well and can be combined to give you a lot of mobility.
The music is upbeat and relaxing and the background atmosphere sounds capture the feel of the location you are in. They also have fun musical sound effects for collecting Berries but the amount of sound effects for every action you take can start to get a little overwhelming. This can be adjusted to some extent by adjusting your audio settings.
While playing you will come across musicians locked up in cells made of slime. If you choose to free them you will be rewarded which is good and makes the extra time spent finding and carrying a droplet of water over to the cell worth the hassle.
The game also has drop in and out local co-op for up to 4 players. The second player gets to play as an adorable fox. Player 3 and 4 get to be a beaver and strange green thing that we’re not quite sure what it is. The fox is by far the cutest. He was so cute we wished we could’ve used it as our main character instead of Woodle.
There are also challenge areas located all over the world that you can complete to save the Sacred Flowers. You’ll step on a teleporter and be sent to a new world to complete the challenge area. The areas are more challenging than any other part of the game. The checkpoints are far apart and the platforming is quite difficult. If you want to attempt these we recommend waiting until you’re fully upgraded. The Sacred Flowers don’t appear to have any in game purpose which makes these more difficult areas entirely optional.
The artstyle is cartoonish with bright colors for the environment, characters, and enemies. It looks very much like a kid friendly game.
Each area is a different setting with its own theme and feel. The themes are done well, some are better than others. The ice area has ice physics which causes your character to slide around and adds a twist to the platforming. Sadly you only see this mechanic used in the one ice/snow area.
There are a few camera issues where the camera clips into the wall obscuring your view. Fortunately, you can move the camera manually to get it out of the wall and see what you’re doing again. Though this issue can make some of the platforming more difficult.
We ran into a large issue where the controller would stop responding in game forcing us to close the game and restart it. When this happened we lost all of our checkpoints in the area that we had previously discovered and saved costing us 2 hours of gameplay. We also had a number of issues with falling through floors and walking through walls. These all made it very challenging to access certain levels or parts of the game. We also had an issue with the final Water Tear needed to complete the game glitching which necessitates a whole new playthrough. We contacted the developer about these issues and they have confirmed that they are working on an update/patch to resolve some of the issues we experienced.
Woodle Tree 2 Deluxe Plus 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.
Duck Souls+ from Publisher Ratalaika Games and Developer Green Dinosaur Games
Enjoyable platformer. Hard mode is not for the faint of heart or impatient. Novices should definitely stick to casual.
A fast-paced platformer
You play as a yellow duck who has been sent by a group of ghost ducks (the Duck Souls) to find the duck eggs and keep them safe. Each level has one egg and is contained on a single screen. You’ll need to navigate from one side of the screen to the other to collect the duck egg. That’s all the narrative or story that’s present in the game.
You can jump off of the walls and dash to get to the higher areas on the levels. You can also use dash to jump over spikes, avoid other hazards, and break through walls.
There are 100 levels in the game. Some of the levels are very simple and can be completed in 1 life while others are more challenging and are likely to require multiple attempts. The game has a great respawn system which puts you back in control the second after you die. It also has a death counter that you can see both when you die and once you complete the level.
While playing through the 100 levels you will come across new challenges, themes, and mechanics. We enjoyed the variety provided by these. They kept the game fresh and enjoyable so it didn’t feel overly repetitive.
You are able to customize the look of your duck by changing the hat your character is wearing. You will unlock and collect hats while completing the levels. The hats are only cosmetic and provide no alteration to your character’s abilities. It would have been nice if the hats actually did something other than just change the look of the character. Some players will really enjoy the customization options these provide while others will find them pointless.
You are able to pick between 2 different modes. Casual mode has checkpoints placed throughout the levels while Hard has no checkpoints so if you die you have to start that level over from the beginning.
The controls are easy to pick up and play as you can use the thumbstick or D-pad to navigate with depending on what is most comfortable for you or provides you with the best control. You can also aim your dash by using the same thumbstick or d-pad you use to move. Being able to aim dash is a requirement for successfully completing some of the more difficult levels. This was an interesting variation to the dash feature typically seen in platformers.
The pixel artstyle is colorful in the early stages. The themes in the game become darker in the later levels as you go deeper into the ground to recover the eggs. These changes in the theme from level to level correlated directly with the increasing difficulty. The early easy ones were bright and colorful and as the levels became more and more challenging the colors became darker and darker. It was fitting of both the narrative of being further underground and the intensity felt by the concentration required to complete the harder levels.
The audio is enjoyable. They have a relaxing soundtrack that helps keep you calm with simple sound effects for your movements.
Each of the levels have their own interesting names based on video games and movies. Some are easy to get the reference while others are a little more obscure. A little Googling will help if you don’t quite get the reference. You might find something really cool.
The game is single player only with no leaderboards. Once you complete all 100 levels and unlock all of the hats there isn’t a reason to go back and replay the levels unless you want the challenge of Hard mode.
Duck Souls + is available on Xbox One, PS4, PSVita and Nintendo Switch. A digital copy of this game was provided to SimpleGameReviews for the purposes of reviewing the game.
The Adventures of Elena Temple: Definitive Edition From GrimTalin
A monochromatic 8-bit retro platformer.
In typical platformer fashion, your objective is to explore and move around the level by jumping from platform to platform, collecting coins, gems, and chests, placing crystals on pedestals, and shooting jars for a chance to find hidden coins. You will also need to evade the traps (spikes, saws, and arrows that come from everywhere) and of course there are enemies to evade or kill (scorpions, snakes, and bats). There are a couple of special enemy types that cannot be killed and must simply be avoided; spiders and ghosts. The spiders have an interesting mechanic associated with them that makes them more of an obstacle than an enemy.
You can jump, shoot, and move left and right. As you might have gathered, the controls are pretty simple and they work pretty well. Your character will generally turn and jump the way you would expect her to. Your gun can only hold two bullets at a time and shoots straight ahead in whichever direction you’re facing. You’ll want to bear this in mind when planning your ammo pickups. You’ll also need to be careful not to waste too many shots. If you find yourself out of ammo and out of pickups, fear not, you can leave the room and come back to respawn the ammo pickups. Besides enemies, you can also shoot the many vases scattered around the levels as well as a few destructible walls.
There are platforms that will move left to right or up and down once you are standing on them as well as ones that will dissolve after a second of standing on it. We ran into a few issues with the moving platforms getting in the way and stopping us from being able to access the area we wanted to access. Traveling to a different room and back again reset them and we were able to complete the objective by trying a different method or order of steps. You’ll find that you often have to travel between rooms to complete puzzles because you’ll need an object from one room to trigger something in the next. This is especially true for accessing blocked off areas found further in on each of the levels.
In the first 2 temples you have unlimited lives, which is a good thing because everything in the game will insta-kill you. Picking up an item and traveling to a new screen both function as a checkpoint so when you die you will respawn at the beginning of that screen or wherever the last item pickup was located. This allows for some strategy to come into play which becomes important and useful in some of the later rooms.
The 3rd temple is different. There are fire pits around the map that serve as checkpoints when you reach them. You also have semi-limited lives. When you die, initially you will respawn the same way you did in the earlier temples. But when you run out of hearts, you’ll be sent back to the last fire pit you reached. These fire pits that serve as checkpoints also fully refill your lives. There are also items you can pick up to increase your total number of lives. Some of these can refill your lives when picked up.
The map can be accessed by pressing the “+” on your Nintendo Switch. It is your friend and can be accessed at any time. You’ll find it very helpful for tracking where you are in relation to your objective. It is a very simplified map that really only shows the outlines of the rooms and where the doors are.
The chiptunes soundtrack and sound effects fit the retro feel perfectly and go nicely with the artstyle. They chose to do something interesting here with the visuals for the game as you’re playing the game on a system within your system. In game you can use the bumpers at any time to cycle through playing the game on a TV, a Computer Monitor, or an OG Gameboy among other options. Each game system has its own color scheme and backdrop of a different room. You can choose one based on which you prefer. You can use the triggers to zoom in or out depending on how much of the backdrop you want to see or how much of the in game screen you want filling your screen. So you’re playing on your real world gaming system and then on the virtual world gaming system inside it. It’s truly emulating the time period the retro graphics came from.
There are 3 different temples to play from and each one has its own gimmick. The first Temple “Chalice of the Gods” is relatively simple and a good beginners introduction to the game.
The second temple “The Golden Spider” builds on what you learned in the first temple. It is more challenging and becomes frustrating at times as you have to first locate orbs that need to be placed on a pedestal. If you die before placing the orb on the pedestal you’ll lose the orb and have to go back, sometimes several rooms away, to pick it up again. It also has platforms that move when you jump making you think before you jump to ensure you land on the platforms.
The third level “The Orb of Life” has an interesting twist with checkpoints discussed above and portals that allow you to teleport to other locations or rooms. We liked the additional puzzle elements introduced with the portals and checkpoints.
You are able to get different unlockables/modifiers like Double Jumps, Infinite Ammo, Rhino Armor, Campfires, and Limited Lives that can be toggled on or off at the beginning of the level and change the gameplay by making it easier or harder depending on which you have toggled on. Most of these will unlock by completing the temples. However, the Rhino Armor (which is SUPER handy and makes you unkillable) can only be obtained by taking a path that is outside the normal map.
A fun, classic platformer with a variety of obstacles and mechanics. A retro classic worth playing for a well done slice of nostalgia.
The Adventures of Elena Temple: Definitive Edition is available on Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, Steam and Itch.io. A digital copy of this game was provided to SimpleGameReviews for the purposes of reviewing the game.