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.
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.
Aircraft Evolution from Publisher Sometimes You and Developer Satur Entertainment
Overall a pretty enjoyable game, decent graphics but a little short as it can be completed in about 3 hours.
A shoot ‘em up like, action, side scroller with a hint of RPG elements.
Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to fight your way through 4 time periods, starting from early WWI all the way to a futuristic war. You’ll be attacking the enemy and reducing their bases to smoldering ruins. You need to utilize all of the weapons in your arsenal to accomplish this objective.
There are a total of 40 levels to play through. As you move through the levels and through time from WWI and into the future, both your available aircraft and the enemy equipment will evolve. The enemies start out as simple tanks and soldiers before evolving into plasma cannons on tanks, airships, and turrets.
While your enemies evolve automatically you do not. You will unlock different aircraft after collecting experience and leveling up. You can upgrade your aircraft using the in game currency. The upgrade system is done very well as it is easy and clear what your upgrade will do for your aircraft.
There are random resource drops in the form of crates floating down with a parachute. These contain fuel, repair kits, and different types of bombs (which are your primary weapon) all of which you can use as soon as you pick them up. The repair kits and cluster bombs come in very handy.
You are also able to purchase these same items from the store between levels. We found that each of the bombs are useful for different strategies or play styles. We ended up finding our favorite and sticking with it most of the time as it seemed to work better for our play style.
At the end of each of the era’s you will come across a boss type battle which helps break up the repetitiveness of the levels as it adds a bit of a challenge and serves as a landmark and transition to the next time period.
Aircraft Evolution 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.
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.
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.