The Steam Game Festival is here and there are tons of demos for people to sample. Our brave staffers waded hip-deep and chose a handful of picks — some were great, and others maybe not so much. What did they choose out of the hundreds available, and what did they think of their selections?
Lust From Beyond
On the surface, an edgy horror game in the vein of Amnesia. While it has some stilted animations and lower resolution textures (even at max graphics) it still turned out to be surprisingly engaging in terms of story. As a new initiate into a demon-worshiping sex cult, I had to complete tasks around an old mansion that both reminded me of both Amnesia and Oblivion in all the best ways possible. Then, it had me exploring another realm that wrapped up the story of the character that (I guess?) was designed just for this prologue demo. While I can’t say if I’ll be playing the full release that forces me to play as a male character, I am still somewhat interested to see what they do with the story as a whole. Nikki Waln
A Space For the Unbound
This game pulled me in almost right away with a pleasant pixel art aesthetic and delightful characters, along with its Indonesian setting. Unlike many games that either take place in the West or Japan, this was a pleasant departure. The characters used a magic book to dive into people’s innermost thoughts and heal themselves and others. The demo was simple puzzle-solving in adventure game fashion — find X object to open Y lock. The children seem to be struggling with relatable topics of loneliness and abuse, which pulled me even more into the story. While it crashed right at the end for me, I still added it to my wishlist and I’m looking forward to seeing more of their story. Nikki Waln
A pleasant sort of fantasy game with an art style that reminds me of a Vanillaware title, Sumire feels slow and thoughtful. The entire game is cute in its use of animals, art style, and light-hearted soundtrack that all go into a play about grief, trauma, love, and friendships. Sumire seems simple — and indeed the side-scrolling gameplay is — but underneath the surface are some serious topics. I’m looking forward to exploring its world while coming to grips with these topics once it comes out. Nikki Waln
Tasomachi: Behind the Twilight
The premise of Tasomachi sounded intriguing — a girl and her airship break down, only to land and find empty ruins and deserted cities. What happened to the people? Upon actually playing, I was surprised to see the game seems to have no localization. It’s currently all in Japanese. Thankfully, I could read enough to get past the intro area. While I wasn’t that impressed by the textures, the next environment had people! Well, cat people, at least. I only got dialogue boxes from as I walked past them, but was unable to interact more. It felt more like a collect-a-thon moving from one environment to the next? Nikki Waln
Unbound: Worlds Apart
A polished but straightforward puzzle-like platformer, in Unbound, the player’s character is a little wizard creature boy? I think? There is a ritual that goes wrong as I was exploring away from the city, and this ritual opens portals which are the main gimmick in Unbound. These portals to other worlds allow for different effects like reversing gravity. It seems a simple story, but with graphics that remind me somewhat of Hollow Knight and core gameplay of finding new portal abilities and unlocking new areas, I’m curious to see how the full game pans out.
Developed by Don’t Touch Anything developer Four Quarters, Loop Hero uses a pretty simple idea to great effect. It takes the barebones gameplay mechanic of an RPG — walking around and killing monsters — and makes it automatic. The player just waits while the characters walks on a fixed path that loops, waiting for the hero to kill off enemies. Sound boring? It is, up until the first enemies begin dropping loot and new squares that are used on the map. Basically, the player acts as the “memory” of the main hero, coloring the world around the looped path with mountains, churches, ponds. Every dropped square produce new enemies or resources. Once the hero is killed or retreats, he goes back to camp where it’s possible to use the collected resources to unlock new abilities or items. The design is simple but terribly addictive — paying attention to the loot collected is essential in keeping the hero alive and it’s also key to avoid cramming too many squares that spawn enemies all together. Aesthetically, Four Quarters has employed an 8-bit look, but with personality and style that marries old DOS-style graphics with an updated anime sensibility. Damiano Gerli
Remember Grand Theft Auto? No, I don’t mean Vice City or San Andreas, but the very first two chapters of the series developed by DMA Design. It used to be a top-down action game where everything was more arcadey and immediate. Glitchpunk harkens back to those simpler times, featuring gameplay that features walking around a city in topdown view while getting missions, killing enemies and stealing cars. The plot in the demo, looks to be more personal and interesting than the usual GTA crime stories by offering a tale of the main character’s humanity being stolen and they’re forced to work as an android bounty hunter. Glitchpunk is heavy on (wait for it…) glitches at the moment, but what’s there looks to be rather intriguing and I can’t wait to get back to its violent, nostalgic world. Damiano Gerli
Fling to the Finish
Fling to the Finish takes cooperative gaming to the next level as you share a controller with a friend to race a pair of conjoined characters to the finish line. The game’s wacky atmosphere is a product of both its presentation and gameplay. The playable characters are adorably quirky, as is the catchy soundtrack. Successful gameplay requires strong communication skills with your partner as synchronized jumps and coordinated teammate throws are essential. Fling to the Finish looks to be a great couch co-op option in an age where they are becoming increasingly scarce. Alex Prakken
Children of Silentown
Children of Silentown creates an ominous and absorbing aura from its first moments. The playable prologue follows the story of Lucy, a young girl residing in a sleepy town that resembles the style of Tim Burton. While this point and click demo has the player doing everyday tasks such as cooking and dealing with your pesky cat Squinty, there is a sense that something terrifying could happen at any moment. Children of Silentown’s prologue ends on quite a cliffhanger and left me intrigued as to where Lucy’s journey could lead her. Alex Prakken
Chicory: A Colorful Tale
Chicory: A Colorful Tale is a vibrant adventure filled with humor and lots of painting. Taking place in a town filled with animals named after foods, the game sees your character (who I named Pasta) exploring an initially-colorless landscape. Your job is to return color to the town with a magical paintbrush, and it’s a delight. Even though I lack artistic skill, I loved coloring in houses, trees, and even other characters to solve puzzles and create a town-size canvas of colors. But, my favorite parts of the demo were the inhabitants of the town — they are well designed, hilarious, and even though they have little screen time, their dialogue is so strong that I felt incredibly rewarded by coloring their houses and putting a smile on their faces, the same way this game put a smile on mine. Alex Prakken
The Companion is ambitious in its world creation and storytelling, but lacking in clarity. The game sees the player take control of a wolf spirit trying to uncover what happened to a family that used to live in its now-deserted landscape. Though the family’s story is moving and tragic, it was sometimes difficult to know where to uncover the next chapter, as the story is told non-linearly by interacting with light orbs. Making this harder is the overworld — while it’s stunning to behold, I found myself getting lost frequently due to its unvaried appearance. Though it is a bit muddled at the moment, The Companion could certainly grow into something special with a stronger direction.
Have you ever wanted to jump into a mech suit and explore new horizons on a galactic level? If so, The Riftbreaker is your dream come true. Although the name suggests that you’re supposed to destroy rifts or something like that, you are actually responsible for exploring new planets and link them using rift portals. I guess Riftbreaker sounds a lot cooler than Rift Maker? EXOR Studios is the developer of this game and in my opinion, they have done a remarkable job. What makes it so special is the mixture of Real-Time Strategy (RTS) elements with isometric shooter gameplay. You find resources, build your base, conduct research, manufacture new weapons and equipment and defend your colony against the dangers of unknown planets. Ali Arkani
There are some experiences that can never be forgotten — things like riding your first bicycle, having your first kiss and magically getting sucked into a computer and saving the digital world! The latter is a rare experience that only a few people like Jeff Bridges get to have, but Narita Boy provides the chance to step up as the hero of a digital world and save the Motherboard! Narita Boy is the main character of this 2D action-adventure title made by Studio Koba exploring the hidden layers of digital world with his multipurpose Techno Sword. What made this one memorable to me was its ‘80s theme that openly pays homage to cult classic movies and games such as Tron and Comix Zone. The pixelated and untextured character designs, as well as the visual CRT effect truly feels like traveling back to the ‘80s and playing on an Apple II system. Ali Arkani
Genesis Noir seems to be a love story about how the universe was created by the big bang. To be honest, I didn’t entirely understand what the demo was about, but it was definitely stunning. The hand-drawn graphics, eye-catching level design, noir theme and fantastic music all made time fly while I was playing. I mean, using Jazz music to tell the story of creation? The game might end up more like an interactive story rather than a puzzler, but everything I saw was great. Ali Arkani
This is a roguelite title in development by SmokeStab, but as the name suggests, Orbital Bullet is a 360° shooter in every sense. The levels are like giant cylinders and the player has to shoot and loot their way to the top. I found this to be quite fun because the bullets move around the level like satellites and the challenge is in lining up a perfect shot – when it happens, it’s memorable. There are many different types of weapons, items and skills, and it’s also important to note that friendly fire is on… watch where you’re firing! Ali Arkani
It’s slow, it’s tactical, it’s incredibly punishing for even the smallest error, and it’s one of the best demos I’ve ever played. Set deep below the ocean in a series of ominous caverns full of inexplicable beasts, Hidden Deep puts players in charge of a team of researchers trying to understand just what they’ve stumbled upon — before it kills them. The grounded presentation of technology, from the glimmer of a mapping ball as it flies through narrow corridors to the clink of a rappelling harness locking onto a grappling line, gives the game such an authentic feel that I can’t wait to explore everything it has to offer. (NOTE – The game is very reliant on players being able to hear offscreen enemies approaching, and as such, it’s currently very unfriendly to Deaf and HoH players)
Aerial_Knight’s Never Yield
An incredibly stylish 2D runner, Never Yield’s demo shows off some context-free action and it’s a blast. A parkour expert sprints endlessly forward, vaulting over obstacles and sliding blow walls of gunfire, all while intense music drives the action. The visuals are stunning and the gameplay is tight, with only two things holding it back. The first is the complete lack of sound effects — I understand that the game is about the music to a great extent, but watching vans crash, machinery whirr, and guns fire onscreen without any audio component other than the soundtrack distances the player from the action, keeping them from feeling the thrill of the chase. The developers also need to color-code the obstacles a little more clearly, since the lightly tinted highlighting can obscure exactly which button players need to press to keep moving forward.
The Last Stand: Aftermath
This might finally be the game to crack the zombie apocalypse roguelike genre. It starts off with a dynamite premise — the player controls a series of doomed survivors, those who have been infected by the zombie virus but haven’t yet turned. Since they’re doomed anyway, they’re dispatched on suicide missions to gather up as many resources as they can so that the colony might survive. This involves driving from one randomly-generated encounter to the next, exploring ruined cities and fighting zombies with the paltry supplies that can be spared for the expendable. Right now there isn’t a ton of variety in the locations — most of them have a generator that needs to be started, the noise of which leads to a zombie siege they quickly escape in their car — but I’m sure the developers will be able to open things up quite a bit in the final version.