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Vasilis

Vasilis from Publisher Sometimes You and Developer Marginal Act

Kind of a weird story. If you’re looking for a slow paced game this is probably right up your alley. If you’re not a fan of walking simulators it may not be a good fit.

Hand drawn in black and white side scrolling adventure.

The story is based on political events in Ukraine during 2014. You play an elderly lady named Vasilis who is trying to locate her husband. While searching for him you’ll have to make your way through the troubled city. There are riots happening throughout the city as it starts to burn.    

You have several locations to visit while exploring the town. The locations start to become weirder the further into the story you progress. 

You’ll pick up items around the town to trade with the townspeople for other items necessary to continue the story and access new areas. There were a few times during the earlier “days”  where we were unsure what to trade to whom in order to progress. We traded every item we had until finally finding the right thing. This was only confusing during the earlier parts of the game as it became clearer what you needed to trade with whom during the later days. 

Most of the actual game play is walking back and forth around the town locating items to trade and going from location to location. It starts to feel like a walking simulator.

The controls are pretty simple but a little loose. We found the in game map to be pretty useless since you will be going to the same locations over and over again. You will also pick up a to-do list which will help you figure out what to do and where to go.

There were a few times we got stuck on invisible walls which became a little frustrating. Moving Vasilis around with the thumbstick seemed loose and it was very easy to drift up or down while trying to walk a straight line. We had better results using the D-pad to ensure there was no vertical drift when trying to walk horizontally across the screen.

The artstyle is hand drawn in black and white. Most of the animations are very simple with only a few frames that repeat over and over again. 

The audio is very minimalistic. There’s not so much a “soundtrack” as there is different background or ambient noises for different locations. There’s no voice acting either. Just a “scratching” sound to represent speech while dialog boxes are on the screen.  

The game is a little short and can be completed in just a few hours depending on how familiar you become with the best paths to traverse the town. After about an hour of walking back and forth you’ll wish there was the option to allow Vasilis to run.  

Vasilis is available on Xbox One, PS4, PSP and Nintendo Switch. A digital copy of this game was provided to SimpleGameReviews for the purposes of reviewing the game.

7th Sector

7th Sector from Publisher Sometimes You and Developer Носков Сергей

A really good and challenging puzzle game.

A side scrolling dystopian cyberpunk puzzle game.

This is a visually dark game with a correspondingly dark narrative. The lighting and color palette really sell the dystopian cyberpunk future. You’ll want to pay attention to what’s happening in the background of the levels as that’s where you’ll see the majority of the narrative taking place.

The story is elegantly told without saying a single word. It unfolds organically while playing the game, scanning HDD’s, and watching the background to see what is happening.   

The sound track and graphics are very well done. They really capture the feel of a dystopian future. The soundtrack is never overwhelming. It subtly enhances the feeling of the environment and transitions from level to level. 

You start out as a little spark of energy traversing your way around the levels using power cables strung along the floor, walls, and ceilings. You will need to jump between these to gain access to other areas in the levels. As you move through the levels you’ll take over different objects from a remote control car, a robot ball that rolls around the floor, a mech with a gun, and more. Each new form will introduce new unique mechanics that will be needed to solve the different puzzles. 

The puzzles are typically math, logic, and physics based. Some of the puzzles or obstacles have an element of timing or luck involved which can be a little annoying after multiple restarts.You can brute force some of the puzzles while others require a little more time and effort as a wrong answer results in death and a restart from checkpoint. We found a few of them to be harder than they should be due to the “answer key” or clues being too small and hard to see due to the lighting or issue with the controls or physics. Most of the puzzles will have different solutions when reloading which will either keep you thinking or frustrate you depending on how you feel. 

One thing is for sure, the developer does not believe in holding your hand. They give only the bare minimum of instruction at the beginning of the game. The rest is up to you to learn through trial and error. As a result, some of the puzzles will take a few deaths to figure out what you need to do. 

The game has 4 different endings that are determined by the extra puzzles you solve or not while playing through the levels. It has 48 different levels and can be completed in a few hours. 

7th Sector is available now on Xbox One, PS4, Nintendo Switch, Windows and Steam. A digital copy of this game was provided to SimpleGameReviews for the purposes of reviewing the game.

Niffelheim

Niffelheim from Ellada Games

Norse Mythology 2D side scrolling action survival game. 

You choose one of four different locations/tribes and one of four different classes for your character. Each choice has its own strengths and weaknesses. 

While in the character selection screen you will see all four of the characters classes.
  • The Viking has a bonus resistance to Bleeding and Stun. He does decent damage and has a slow metabolism which causes your satiety to deplete at a slower rate. Once all of your satiety has been depleted you will start to lose health.
  • The Valkyrie has decent defense, low damage output, and a very slow metabolism so your satiety depletes at an even slower rate. 
  • The Berserker does great damage, has bonus resistance to Bleeding and Poison, but has a fast metabolism which will require you to consume more plants to keep your satiety in check.
  • The Shaman is resistance to all damage types, has great defense, but deals the lowest damage of all of the characters, and has the fastest metabolism and will deplete satiety faster than the others.

The starting location does not seem to matter as each location has the same resources you will need to collect as well as the same enemy types to fight. It’s only the appearance of the backgrounds that’s really different.

The premise of the story is that your character died a true and glorious viking death in combat. But instead of the promised reward of ascending to Valhallen, you have instead wrongfully fallen to Niffelheim, the viking version of Hell. Your goal is to make your way out of Niffelheim and ascend to Asgard where you belong.

Once you’ve made your world creation choices (class and tribe/location) you are unable to make any changes to them. Each tribe has a designated starting location so choosing one dictates the other. 

The artstyle is hand drawn and looks greats. The sound track is pleasant too. However, the audio is plagued with technical issues and does not live up to the quality that the art work deserves. While playing we found several issues where the audio cracks, pops, stutters, and cuts out. The beginning cutscene that sets up the whole story is a perfect example of some of the audio issues. These were consistent across every load of the game and across multiple consoles.

The game only allows you to have one game save file per gamertag. This is a little odd, very frustrating, and inconvenient. Having to delete your only save to try another class or clan seems ridiculous and makes you very unlikely to try different things once you’ve started playing the game and grinding to collect items and resources.

You will spend most of your time grinding for and managing resources. You be running around cutting down trees for wood, collecting plants, and killing animals. These resources are needed both to recover your health and for crafting. You’ll also use them for upgrading your castle inside and out. Outside renovations include adding walls, towers with archers, and even a Citadel. On the inside you are able to build a Kitchen, Alchemy Lab, Sawmill, and Forge. 

You’ll also need to keep track of your resources to replace your tools and weapons as they wear out. They have a health bar to let you know when they’re nearing the end of their life. As you upgrade your base, you’ll be able to craft better quality items.

As you explore the map you will find new locations, crypts, mines, dungeons, and a town. The town is in the middle of the map and contains the only merchant. He will let you buy and sell items and potions.

You will come across a few different types of enemies including armored skeletons, wolves, and spiders. Most of the variations in enemies seem to just be a color swap as they are otherwise identical in appearance, take the same amount of damage to kill, and don’t have any differences in their attacks. You’ll also encounter some of the larger almost boss type monsters like Stone Trolls, Giant Wolves, and Giant Spiders while exploring the mines you come across in your explorations.

The combat is very simple. You use one button to attack and one to block. The animations for your attack are based on how far away from the enemy you are. Depending on the distance you might do a sword swing or a kick on the smaller enemies. They do have both ranged and melee combat options but you can only have one equipped at a time. The attack button will attack with whichever weapon is currently equipped. 

Since you are already dead, when you die from starvation or combat you will return as a spirit until you reconnect with your body. While in spirit form you are unable to attack, be attacked, or collect/harvest anything. Death also carries a penalty in the form of a decrease to the cap on your max health. Every death further decreases your max health. This is a semi-permanent penalty as the only way to restore the original cap is by consuming a very expensive potion. 

To recover health you can eat meats, vegetables, or drink potions. Eating the meats and vegetables will also increase your satiety meter. They also provide another interesting way to recover health besides consuming things. Near your camp and in other areas around the map you will see thrones. Sitting on one of these will also cause your health to regenerate for as long as you remain seated.  

One of the more confusing mechanics in the game revolves around the tutorial. There isn’t one. Except there is. Much of the time you’ll just be pressing buttons because they’re on the screen and just sort of figuring out what things do as you see the effect of pressing the indicated button. There is no on screen prompt or dialog to help guide you and introduce mechanics as you encounter them for the first time. We only found the actual in game tutorial when searching for the menu that was hidden in the back.

The game also gives you quests that you can complete for rewards like weapons, gold, or potions. Most of the quests are pretty simple and have basic requirements like collecting a certain amount of eggs or toadstools. You’ll end up completing some of the quests without ever even knowing they were there. Once you find the tutorial, if you browse around there is also a page where your quests are tracked. 

Grindy 2D dungeon crawler-esque game. One part dungeon crawler, one part resource management grind-fest. Great art. Audio issues. No co-op or multiplayer on consoles. Single save file limits options for trying different things.

Niffelheim is available on Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, Playstation 4 and Steam. A digital copy of this game was provided to SimpleGameReviews for the purposes of reviewing the game.

Daggerhood

Daggerhood from Ratalaika Games S.L.

A Pixel art, side-scrolling, platformer. During the level you will be collecting treasures and fairies before they disappear, killing enemies and trying to complete the level under the levels par time. The faster you complete the level the higher chance you have to earn a 3 star rating.
You traverse the levels by jumping, double jumping, wall jumping, and by throwing a magic dagger to teleport to the location the dagger was thrown. During the later stages temporary power ups are required to complete the levels; from a hammer to break blocks to a feather that gives you a floating ability for a few seconds, shields to keep you from taking damage, and gravity reversing magic bean.
The game has little to no story outside of the intro cinematic.
The audio is simple and fits the art style but has issues where is cuts outs at times.
Daggerhood is fun to play and becomes challenging during the later stages due to adding more difficult traps, more enemies, and narrower areas to platform and maneuver between.
Each of the 5 worlds has a unique boss challenge. Replaying the levels trying to get all 5 treasures, the fairy, and earn 3 stars can become addicting.

Metagal

Metagal from Retro Revolution

16-bit sidescrolling platformer with a Megaman feel. You make your way thru the levels as a female cyborg traversing platforms, hitting a sporadic check point or 2, defeating enemies, and end up in a boss battle. Once you defeat the boss you gain their powers/weapons and use them against the other enemies and bosses.
The controls and mechanics are simple and they work as intended, the soundtrack fits nicely and adds to the enjoyment of the game. The story/campaign is a little short but has level time and letter rank which adds replayability to the levels as you can compete with yourself to beat your best score. The levels have their own unique environments and are nicely designed.
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