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Active Neurons

Active Neurons from Publisher Sometimes You and Developer Nikolai Usachev

Relaxing music, challenging puzzles, excellent accessibility options

A logic puzzle

Each puzzle is contained within a single screen. You’ll need to move an energy block to the flashing goal located elsewhere on the screen. Once you press the direction you want the block to move it will move until it hits an obstacle. To solve the puzzles you will need to use these obstacles or the walls around the edge of the screen to help you maneuver through the level. 

There are 120 puzzles to enjoy and several unique game mechanics that are introduced as you progress through the levels. The idea of neurons and the neurological pathways through the brain and body are represented through the menus and level selection format. Completing puzzles fills a neuron and when the neuron is full you get to progress to the next set of puzzles. 

The Brain levels are where you start and are a good introduction to the game’s mechanics. After the first section they start to introduce various obstacles, some of which can kill you. This gives the player the opportunity to get familiar with how to move around and solve the puzzles.

Once you’ve progressed far enough and are making your way through the Body, the levels start to become very challenging and can be failed from your first move. That may sound odd but for most of these levels your block begins from a location in the middle somewhere that can never be returned to since your block will always travel as far as it can until it runs into something. Luckily you can restart any level if you find yourself stuck or put yourself into an unsolvable position. The level reloads in seconds which is great and keeps you playing.

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 is a nice option to have and is conveniently located right beside the restart button. 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. 

The soundtrack is great and relaxing with mellow tunes. This was a good choice for helping players stay cool when the harder levels lead to frustration from repeated failure.

There is a color blind option as well which was great to see and really well done. It adds icons to all of the interactive blocks letting you know what each of them does. It makes it very easy to know what will happen when you hit the blocks. We actually preferred playing with this feature turned on just to make it easier to see what effect all of the blocks would have. 

There is also a monochrome mode if you want to use it. This makes all the blocks shades of grey instead of different colors. You can pair monochrome mode with color blind mode so the icons will still appear.

The majority of the game can also easily be played with just the left thumbstick with occasional presses of the A button. This and the above mentioned colorblind mode make it very friendly for anyone with accessibility needs.

The game is very enjoyable. It scratches the puzzle itch and makes you feel good when you figure out a difficult puzzle. Once you have completed the puzzles there is little to no replayability as there are no leaderboards, challenges, or time trials. Some would consider this a good thing while others may find they miss having a reason to replay levels. 

Active Neurons 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.

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.

Music Racer

Music Racer From AbstractArt and Sometimes You

A futuristic driving rhythm game and light show.

You select your vehicle, the music track, the game mode, and the level. Your objective is to collect the notes by driving over them while avoiding red obstacles. At the end of the level you’ll see how many notes you hit, your combo, your score, and how many stars you earned out of 3. 

The controls are simple. You only use the d-pad or the left thumb stick to move left or right on the road while driving. There is no acceleration or braking. You could play this game one handed if you wanted to. 

It has retrowave style graphics with a lot of neon. The levels are extremely colorful and the game has a photosensitivity warning before you start the game. This warning is well deserved. If you have any issues with bright or flashing lights you should stay away. While our reviewer doesn’t have any issues with photosensitivity they did find that they could only play for a maximum of an hour at a time due to the eye strain from the light.

The audio is good and the soundtrack is enjoyable. The game has a large track list with 23 songs you can pick from. 

There are 14 different levels you can choose from and you can choose any song to play on the level. You can also choose from any of 25 different vehicles; one of which is a giant bird.

Most of the cars will look familiar. They feature the Delorean from Back to the Future, KITT from Knight Rider, the TRON bike as well as a bunch of other well known vehicles. You can customize the color of the car and rims which adds to the enjoyment of the game.

The game has 4 different modes to fit your mood. 

  • Standard: You drive over the notes and try to avoid the red obstacles. Hitting obstacles breaks your combo, reduces notes collected, and slows you down.
  • Hard: Same premise as Standard but with a greater penalty for hitting an obstacle. Instead of just breaking your combo it ends your run.
  • Zen: A more relaxed game mode without any obstacles to worry about. You can freely “zen-out” collecting notes and enjoying the music.
  • Cinematic: Puts you in the passenger seat instead of the driver’s seat allowing you to move the camera around and enjoy the scenery. There are no notes to collect. Just a relaxed audiovisual experience. It reminded us a little of the experience of watching the visualizations on media player or winamp in full screen.

We did wish that there was an option to create a playlist for the Cinematic mode as it would be a great addition to have playing in the background of a party. It would also be nice to be able to upload your own music and extend your playtime.

Sadly there is no leader board or any sort of internal tracking that shows what songs you have or haven’t played or what your current high score/star count is. Score is only used as ingame currency to unlock some of the cars and levels. Fortunately, you can replay the same levels and songs over and over and continue earning more currency.

A very bright audiovisual experience. Good music selections to choose from. You might need sunglasses.

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

A Winter’s Daydream

A Winter’s Daydream from Sometimes You and ebi-hime

A text based visual novel story by ebi-hime

The story is told by our narrator, 19 year old Yuu, who is a University student returning home to spend some time with his family over the holiday’s (New Years).

You start out with Yuu returning home and learn about his family relationships, mostly the relationship with his spoiled sister Otoko. As you guessed it Yuu can not stand his sister and how lazy, rude and spoiled she is and she can’t stand Yuu. While back for the holiday Yuu decides to go visit his Grandmother who lives in a distant isolated village. Due to a snow storm Yuu is forced to stay at his Grandmother’s overnight. This is where the story takes a weird change when Yuu wakes up and his Grandmother is young again. 

The music is very relaxing and fits the atmosphere nicely.

They recycle the same backgrounds here or there with a character appearing, disappearing, and reappearing with a different expression or animation. This is common with most visual novels.

The game also has an auto-scroll mode in the options if you just want to just relax and enjoy the story without having to press anything on your controller. 

It is a rather short story and can be completed in a few hours depending on how fast you read/scroll the text.

A visual novel with an interesting story. Auto-play mode is nice if you want to experience it more like a movie than a game.

A Winter’s Daydream is available on Xbox, PS4,Nintendo Switch and PSVita. A digital copy of this game was provided to SimpleGameReviews for the purposes of reviewing the game.