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Active Neurons 2 Review

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 Review

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.

Déjà Vu Review

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.

Liquid Sunshine Review

Liquid Sunshine from Publisher and Developer God As A Cucumber

Fun puzzles. Great story and soundtrack. You might want to wear sunglasses because it’s really bright.

A Graphic Novel and Puzzle game in 1 package

It is a side scroller puzzle with 3 characters that you control; a Monkey, a Horse, and a Rhino. Each character has its own mechanics, strengths, and weaknesses that you will discover throughout the game. Some of the puzzles you will come across require the use of 1, 2, or all 3 of the characters to find the solution. All 3 of the characters need to make it to the right side of the screen before proceeding to the next puzzle or chapter. 

Like most puzzle games, it starts out pretty easy with basic puzzles teaching you the mechanics which it does nicely. The real challenge comes in the later puzzles, which require more and more steps to complete, making you move characters back and forth over the screen and replacing one character location for another when finding out that you need that for a later part of the puzzle. 

The story is told to you in the form of a graphic novel between levels. You start to learn and understand the relationship between the characters all while enjoying the Graphic Novel. This was an interesting choice and done very well. The Graphic Novel really earns the graphic part of its name as it has mature themes including violence, drug use, and crime. The visuals are great and are done in a black and white minimalistic design. They are able to get a surprising amount of detail only using black and white images both in the novel and with the level design. We experienced some eye fatigue caused by staring at the screen with the bright white areas contrasting with the black areas. There’s just so much stark white on the screen it’s like staring at a very bright bulb.

There are hidden diamonds on each of the levels for you to locate. Sadly there’s not much to do after completing the rather short game which can be completed in 1-2 hours depending on skill. Locating missed diamonds or rereading the graphic novel between the levels are the only reasons to replay the levels. We would have loved to see an option to read the graphic novel on its own without having to recomplete the levels.  

There is no voice over work in the game at all, just a really good soundtrack (almost retro feel) and sound effects. The game does a really good job between the soundtrack and effects you almost forget and don’t notice that there was not a single word spoken.   

Overall its an enjoyable puzzler, with a good soundtrack and interesting choice of artstyle. 

Liquid Sunshine is available on Xbox One and Steam. A digital copy of this game was provided to SimpleGameReviews for the purposes of reviewing the game.

The Great Perhaps Review

The Great Perhaps from Publisher Drageus Games and Developer Caligari Games

Unexpectedly good story for a cool puzzles game.

2D Side Scroller Time Travel Puzzler

You play as an astronaut named Kosmos. While working on a space station something happens; the Earth as you know it is destroyed by natural cataclysms. You choose to go into cryo sleep hoping to be woken up once it is safe to return home. After 36,524 days (otherwise known as 100 years), you are finally woken up to find out there is no communication with Earth and you have no idea what happened. You decide to make your way back to earth to discover what happened and what is left. 

You travel back to earth with L9, an AI that accompanies you on your journey trying to discover what happened to the earth. While back on earth L9 is able to find one human signature left on the planet. While trying to locate the one human left on the planet you find an old lantern that allows you to travel between the current timeline and the past from before the cataclysms. This is the main mechanic for the game. 

You will come across puzzles and mini-games that will require you to get items that are only accessible in one or the other timelines. Your AI companion will give you hints if you get lost or are having issues finding the solution to the puzzles. It’s easy to spot the items you can interact with as they have an effect that makes them glimmer. At first you might be a little unsure what to do with the item but after a few minutes of doing the wrong thing with it L9 will step in with a hint. Each of the timelines has enemies and objects you will need to avoid. This is often accomplished by switching between them.

The alternate timelines game mechanic is done very well and is enjoyable. This is used throughout the game for everything including solving puzzles, bypassing obstacles, storytelling, and progression. 

The artstyle is hand drawn which is great to see and is done nicely. It reminded us of Valiant Hearts. The soundtrack is great and is a little different depending on which timeline you are in. They did a good job making the music fit the state of the world in the different timelines.

The story is good and takes you to several places in Russia. You get to interact with a few other characters in the past and have real conversations with them. You start to see the relationship develop between Kosmos and L9 throughout the later parts of the story. L9 becomes more than just an AI, she starts to become a real character. 

The game does a good job at making you empathetic toward the characters. Both the writing and voice acting are great and make the conversations and people feel real.

Sadly it is rather short and can be completed in around 2 hours. After completing the story there is very little reason to replay the game.

The Great Perhaps is available on Xbox One, Nintendo Switch and Steam. A digital copy of this game was provided to SimpleGameReviews for the purposes of reviewing the game.