Active Neurons 2 Review – Switch
+ Wildly clever yet solid variety of puzzles
+ Pleasant music
+ Simple but beautiful art style
+ Solution option for those struggling
- Learn as you go mechanics (no tutorial)
- Where did the time go?
Puzzle games are one of those genres of video games that I either hit it off immensely well with or beat my head against a wall trying to figure out and depending on the type of puzzler I often find myself falling into the former category. Puzzlers have adapted quite a bit over the years becoming synonymous with certain polished grandiose narrative titles as well more crafty but simpler fare. A puzzle game with simpler looking visuals can be deceptively addictive as I found out with the release of Active Neurons 2 for the Nintendo Switch.
Unbeknownst to me, the original title released on consoles a mere four months and some change ago across consoles everywhere including the Switch. This follow-up title once again tests a player’s ability to solve puzzles via the use of spatial logical thinking. The ultimate goal of every puzzle is to make your movable white square make contact with one or more hollowed diamonds to complete the level. While this sounds easy enough on paper you’ll soon find out that’s easier said than done as you take the designs and mechanics of each level into consideration.
Do you remember playing one of those wooden labyrinth boxes where you have to maneuver a metal ball through it? Only unlike a normal maze you had to avoid pitfalls along the way. If so then you’ll probably grasp the general mechanics that make up Active Neurons 2 fairly quickly. The kicker is that you doing it with only the four cardinal directions to choose from and at some point obstacles will start moving on you. The first main mechanic is that your square will continue to move in the direction you choose until it hits a barrier or obstacle in its way for better or worse.
One thing that I applaud Sometimes You about with on this title is the ingenious puzzle designs. As I made my way through the 120 different puzzles I found them to be just challenging enough that I had to put some thought into my next few moves especially in later levels. There were even times that I had to think outside the box a bit as some puzzles featured actions that were not openly apparent that could be done without a little trial and error. Unless you’re a puzzling god, it’s fair to say that trial and error is very much a part of this game but not in a hair pulling, nerve racking way.
You’ll find that you can easily reset each puzzle if you worked you way into a dead-end like I did more than a few times. This does sting a bit on later puzzles were you are presented with multiscreen levels though as you have to redo parts you may have stumbled through. The trick is remembering what you did to quicken repeat attempts. There is one sanity-saving feature that you can use if you still can’t figure out any given puzzle level. With a press of a single button you can see the solution to any level in its entirety. You still have to actually complete the level to progress but it is a nice feature so you aren’t left with a game you can’t finish. As things go I only used this feature less than a handful of times to progress so the puzzles are very doable.
With each completed puzzle, they add new mechanics that seemingly tie into the little history lessons they give you when you complete a whole set of puzzles. The first set is pretty straight forward but then they start adding red colored blocks that kill you on contact that you have to work around as well. Later they add a mechanic to deal with these blocks as they will be obstructing your progression. The trick is sometimes you are given multiple possible ways to deal with them but it’s not always the simplest one. This is why the reset button is essential because you are going to mess up at some point. At one point they start moving so you have to time your actions at the right time to nullify or avoid them altogether.
Things get even more interesting when they introduce mechanics like portals and rotating or redirecting switches. You also have to contend with color sequence locks and matching boxes with shapes in them as another form of lock. Sometimes You did a great job of mixing things up with several of the above mechanics being present in many of the puzzles at once. While that may sound like a mechanic overload it really wasn’t as they carefully crafted each in a way that you can solve them without feeling overwhelmed.
Also not overwhelming is the music and graphical style of Active Neurons 2. The puzzles are presented in a simple top down manner with boundaries or immobile objects like walls displayed in grey. Your movable avatar of sorts is white and each new mechanic introduces a touch of color. This is all overlaid a starry backdrop that fits the soothing melodies that play as you go from puzzle to puzzle.
This is the kind of game that puts you at ease while keeping you hooked for hours. Of course since it’s on the Switch you can take your puzzle fun on the go with ease. With its easy controls you can play this just as easily in Handheld mode (especially for Switch Lite owners) as you can on your TV at home. I really found myself absolutely hooked with the cleverly designed puzzles as soothing presentation. So if you have a Nintendo Switch (or Lite) and you love puzzles then you have to check out Active Neurons 2 today.