I’ve had time to play more demos on Steam Next Fest. In addition to my picks from yesterday, here are a few more that I really liked!
I’ve seen this one recommended from numerous sources, but for some reason I kept putting it off, and yet it was amazing when I finally played it. Signalis is a top-down game that plays out like (the original) Resident Evil – limited ammunition, slow lumbering monsters, progress gated by item puzzles, little story bits laying around in discarded documents. The graphics are what I can only term as “lo-fi”, in that they’re evocative of pixelated retro games, but in a style that’s not really comparable to any game that I personally know from back in the day. The game takes place on a crashed spacecraft, and what I initially thought was straightforward scifi horror (like The Thing) took an unexpected twist toward the end. I highly recommend checking out this demo for fans of horror games.
This game has one very clear inspiration, and that’s Sonic the Hedgehog. It has everything from a mad scientist who entraps the local wildlife in robotic eggs to a character that rolls up in a ball to gain momentum. That said the game felt very technique-driven when compared to Sonic. The player must really become skilled in using the character’s speed and momentum to clear each stage. So, it’s sort of like how Sonic should work in theory at least. I didn’t expect much out of such a blatant Sonic wannabe, but I was impressed by how fun this game turned out being.
Another horror game with pixelated graphics. Unlike Signalis, this game is actually a graphic adventure that plays out mostly through text. It is very well written from what I experienced, creating nuanced characters as well as some really creepy situations. By the end, I definitely wanted to see where the story was going. This one releases in July, and I will definitely check it out later.
Yesterday, I wrote about Selaco, an FPS that appears to be inspired by the likes of System Shock and Doom. Exophobia takes it even farther back, clearly evoking the look and feel of Wolfenstein 3D – a run and gun shooter set in simplistic 3D environments. You can’t even look up or down in this game! Yet despite its primitiveness, I had fun exploring the large maze-like level in the demo. The game also has a slide move that helps the player dodge enemy fire and can be used to stun enemies if you knock into them, which adds a fun twist to gameplay.
I vacillated a bit on recommending this game. It is a horror game set in the new creepy internet fad of liminal spaces – mundane settings that make a deeply unnerving impression. The game seemed cool to me, but I got nauseous while playing it and couldn’t finish the demo, so take that for what it is.
Last year I had a ton of fun with Steam Next Fest, a summer showcase event featuring a huge number of playable demos from indie developers. Unfortunately, the event only lasted a week, and not being prepared, I didn’t have time to try out everything I wanted to see. Now that Next Fest has come around again, I’ve had a little more free time this week, so I’ve been able to check out a lot more demos from this new crop of indie games. Below are my recommendations.
This game was the highlight of all of the demos I played so far, and I was happy to find out it’s slated to come out in July, so there won’t be much of a wait. The game is basically a series of escape rooms set against the story that you’ve been inducted as a student into a secretive school that trains master escape room escapists. Why such a school exists is not really explained in the demo, but even if the story ends up being nonsensical, I think I’ll enjoy solving these puzzle rooms enough that it won’t really matter.
My only issue was that the game didn’t really run that well on my decently-powered PC. The frame rate was quite choppy while playing. Normally, I wouldn’t be so concerned with a game’s performance from a demo, but with it releasing so soon, it does make me slightly uneasy.
And as a heads up, there is another game with a similar title in the event called Escape Room Academy. Don’t get this confused with that!
I actually played this one last year and thought it was merely “okay”. I almost didn’t try it again this year, but I’m glad I did. This new demo shows that the game has made considerable leaps since last summer. Rog and Roll is a sidescrolling platformer that combines sprite-based characters with simplistic polygonal environments. The way it looks sort of reminds me of Kirby.
What I like about Rog and Roll is that it is a fairly straightforward platformer. Most platformers made by indie developers try to have something “extra”, like it has a heavy focus on puzzles, or it tries to tell a heartbreaking story, or it cranks the difficulty way up. Rog and Roll really just has a focus on platforming – running and jumping – which is not to say that it’s easy or lacking in intrigue. It has a difficulty level that is reasonably challenging, but nothing extremely tough, and the levels have enough branching paths and secret areas to make them interesting to explore.
Along with Escape Academy, this game was the highlight of the event. Can’t wait.
At first, I didn’t really think much of this game – it’s another game wanting to be Super Metroid – there’s like ten of those released on a weekly basis. But it really grew on me. The combat is a mixture of melee and ranged shooting, and there is an interesting mechanism through which the game encourages you to mix it up between those two types of attacks. While it didn’t immediately feel particularly special, I think the lonesome atmosphere of the game eventually grew on me. It’s very very much like Super Metroid – a sci-fi warrior exploring a hostile, lonely plant – but with elements of Dark Souls and anime cyberpunk shaded in. I’m definitely intrigued.
An indie first person shooter(/kicker). There are a lot of indie first person shooters coming out right now, but most of them are inspired by games like Doom or Quake and use graphics that strongly resemble those inspirations. Anger Foot looks quite a bit more modern. Playing the game reminds me of Hotline Miami in how the player is expected to just bust through the levels, making their way through using a combination of speedy aggression and trial and error. Enemies can do a lot of damage very quickly, so it often takes some experimentation with how to tackle the level before you can complete it. That said, the game is so fast paced that dying a few (or several) times doesn’t really become aggravating.
In contrast to Anger Foot, there is Selaco, which is totally one of those Doom-inspired games I was talking about. It’s even built in the GZDoom engine (yet it still looks really cool despite the vintage software). That said, it was a cool run-and-gun game with a setting that reminded me of System Shock 2. Very interested to see how this one will turn out in the end.
This game bills itself as a 3D platformer in the style of those that were on the N64 and PSX. Certainly, it looks a lot like a PSX game, but when I think about comparable games on the N64 and PSX, I think about stuff like Banjo-Kazooie and Spryo the Dragon, and this game is very “flat” when compared to those games. The “frogun” concept is that the character has a little gun that shoots out a frog tongue that can be used like the grappling hook in Zelda – it can pull the character to distant surfaces or be used to pull enemies and objects toward the character. It was kind of fun, although I worry that the gameplay might not have enough depth to sustain my interest through a full game. Still, I’m definitely interested to see how it turns.
I’ve played quite a few more Next Fest demos than what I’ve mentioned above, but these were the ones that I specifically wishlisted on Steam so that I could check them out when they release. The Next Fest event ends on Monday (6/20). I think it’s really unfortunate that they only let this event last for one week and not longer. There are just too many demos to try and one week doesn’t give me enough time in my busy schedule to check out everything. I’m squeezing in time whenever I can to try more of these, though.