We Were Here Forever from Publisher and Developer Total Mayhem Games
Possibly the hardest co-op puzzle game we’ve ever played. Creepy AF Jester included.
We Were Here Forever is a cooperative first-person puzzle solving adventure and is the 4th game in the We Were Here Series. When we say cooperative we mean it as there is no single player option. It is a co-op only game like the previous games in the series. You don’t need to have played the previous games before playing this one but there are some easter eggs referencing the previous games that you’ll spot if you’ve played them.
You and your partner must work together to escape the realm of Castle Rock. To escape you will need to explore several locations in the frozen realm and find the clues needed to solve the puzzles blocking your exit. It sounds pretty simple working with a partner solving puzzles, doesn’t it? But, wait! What if each of the players takes a different route seeing only what is in their area and the clues you need for your puzzle are in your partner’s area and vice versa? And what if sometimes those clues are auditory and only one of you can hear them? Not quite so simple anymore. Needless to say, a good headset for each of the partners, a healthy dose of patience, and good communication skills are mandatory if you want to be successful in this game.
The puzzles start out pretty easy, giving each of the partners the clues to each other’s puzzle. After solving a few of the simpler puzzles the game throws you into the deep end for some complicated ones which can be stressful as you will need to be working with your partner and communicating all of the time. This can be difficult if your partner does not share information and communicate effectively. Some of the puzzles were pretty straight forward for what you need to do to solve it, while others were not so much and kept us stumbling around trying everything we could just hoping to get lucky and happen upon something that worked. To say that the game does not hold your hand at all is an understatement. At times it feels like your hand gets slapped away.
This brings us to the game’s hint system that is not helpful at all as the hints are very general and more about the area that you are in and general gameplay tips instead of about the puzzle you are trying to solve and might be stuck on. We stopped even trying them after a few levels because they were useless. We would have loved to see the hints be more specific to the puzzle or current objective.
With communication being so key to just playing the game we found ourselves getting a little frustrated at each other. We realised that part of that was due to a lack of communication between us as partners while others had to do with the puzzles straight up not giving enough information or not giving clear enough information to solve them.
In a few of the later puzzles you needed to explain to your partner what you are seeing and hearing as well. This added to the challenge and frustration of the puzzle solving as trying to explain what a sound effect sounds like is not easy. Since some of the puzzles are timed you will need to clearly agree on the language you’ll be using to describe objects and positions/orientation/direction to let you communicate the information faster.
Overall we did enjoy the game but really wish the hints would have been helpful and that the direction/clues would’ve been a little clearer in some parts.
We Were Here Forever is available on Xbox, Playstation, Epic Game Store, and Steam. A digital copy of this game was provided to SimpleGameReviews for the purposes of reviewing the game.
Bunny Factory from Publisher and Developer DillyFrameGames
More bunny puzzles, now with a mech suit. Play it for the achievements not the game play.
In the great tradition of the Bunny games this 3rd person puzzle game puts you in control of a Bunny as you work to solve the puzzles. This time you have a fancy mech suit and you’re working in a dead factory trying to bring it back to life. Each puzzle you solve provides a power core to restart part of the factory. Sounds pretty easy right? Well it starts out that way but it doesn’t last.
After you solve each puzzle located in the engineering room, you are presented with a power core, each of which needs to be taken to a different specific location in the factory. This process slows down the progression and pacing of the puzzle solving as you have to run around to plug in the core and run back to the main room before you can start the next puzzle. When you plug in the core there is a short cutscene animation of the machine being powered up and starting production.
There are a total of 100 levels to complete but only the first 50 have these different locations and animations. The remaining 50 are all located in a small room off to the side and there is no animation like the previous ones had. It almost seems like the developers ran out of time or just gave up on the concept they had introduced for the first 50 levels.
The puzzles are electrical schemes that require you to place colored blocks to power the floor and complete the circuit. The interesting part is that the blocks will only send power in certain directions. There are triangles located on the side of the blocks letting you know which directions it will let the power flow. There are also yellow arrows that appear on the floor when you’re holding a block and are standing on a square that it can be placed on. This helps you remember which directions that block will activate.
Like most puzzle games it starts out pretty easy with the blocks already being powered (colored in) and the puzzle sizes are small. Depending on placement some of the earlier puzzles can be completed without using all of the blocks. As you progress through the levels new challenges are added. Sometimes the blocks need to be powered/colored in the right charging station (Red, Blue, Yellow, Green). They also add more colours to the same puzzle, limit the effective range of the blocks, and the puzzles become increasingly larger both in size as well as the amount of blocks needed to complete the puzzle.
The game is lacking any real story at all. A few lines of text on screen telling us what happened to the factory and why we were there trying to reactivate it could have fixed that. The amount of time spent running around dropping off the power cores really hinders the pacing of the game and the enjoyment of solving the puzzles. This issue could’ve been improved if we could have picked up the core and dropped it off in the same room after solving the puzzle. The cutscene showing the machines powering up would still explain what the power core was used for but you would save a lot of time not having to run around and it would allow greater flow in the game play since the player would be able to start the next puzzle faster.
There are collectibles that you can find scattered around the factory. They are parts to a mech but they did not seem to do anything as the only customization option you have is to change the colour of your mech. We would have loved to have seen the collectables as equipable upgrades to the mech. They could’ve provided a performance boost like increasing your speed or jump height or they could’ve been some sort of cosmetic change. As is, they seem pointless.
There is online co-op which can help on the larger puzzles but it is invite only. There is also level select to allow you to replay previous puzzles. There is no challenge or leaderboard type thing so there’s not really any point in replaying the levels solo. However, we did find that a co-op partner can join you and the host can level select to just the levels with achievements attached and the co-op partner will get the achievements. The collectibles are also all present for the co-op partner so they can collect all of those as well.
Overall we feel like there were hints at a higher concept or story that just didn’t quite make it to execution. With a few tweaks this could’ve been a better game. But most of you are probably playing it for the achievements and not the game play and it does deliver on the relatively easy achievements.
Bunny Factory is available on Xbox, Playstation and Steam. A digital copy of this game was provided to SimpleGameReviews for the purposes of reviewing the game.
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.
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.
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.