Active Neurons 2 (Xbox One) Review

Sometimes You released Active Neurons about half a year ago and I praised this puzzle game for being simple, approachable, and providing a casual experience that offers rewarding gameplay. To my surprise, a sequel has become available so soon after the release of the original. In summary, Active Neurons 2 is the exact same game as the original only with a slightly flasher coat of paint, which is definitely not a bad thing.

Active Neurons has to be one of the simplest puzzle games made this generation.  Using only the four directions on the d-pad, the player must push a block into the stage-ending white box. There is no timer and no limit on the number of moves the player can take. This makes the experience totally laid back and casual. The later stages turn up the difficulty but everything remains calm and easy going thanks to the included hint system. Can’t figure out a puzzle? Just press one button and a YouTube-like tutorial video gives you the answer. One button also instantly restarts to keep gameplay intuitive to the player.

Gameplay is exactly the same as the first title, hazards and obstacles in all, but the visual presentation has changed slightly.  Since the soundtrack is such a key component to the overall presentation, composed of relaxing spa-like tracks, the developers included a wave meter at the bottom of the play field so the player can see the music too.  It is totally unnecessary but couldn’t help and enjoy this mindless feature. Each puzzle and background are also filled with sparkly particle effects that create a dream-like visual presentation. My only complaint visually is the bright fade to white when a puzzle is solved. When playing late at night in a dark room, it can be a bit much.

In the original game, the player was figuratively activating parts of the brain when each puzzle was completed. Here in this sequel, the player gets a history lesson on key inventions man discovered throughout history. For example, the player will learn about the wheel, gun powder, and even the importance of a windmill.  These history lesson actually reminded me more of the science upgrades in Civilization. Like the audio wave meter, this bonus history lesson is unnecessary but adds that tiny bit of charm to subtly entice the player.

If you are looking for a casual single player puzzle game with a hypnotic presentation, Active Neurons and its sequel fit the bill.  It would have been nice to see some totally new ideas presented here in the sequel but it still provides that casual experience best played before going to bed after a long, stressful day. This is also a great game for Achievement hunters.

SCORE: 8/10

On Par With: the original  
Better Than: those dumb block puzzles in the Uncharted games
Also Try: that block puzzle found in your favorite game

By: Zachary Gasiorowski, Editor in Chief
Twitter: @ZackGaz

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