2023-02-10: The Steam Next Fest of Now, Where Now is February 2023
Steam Next Fest has come, and so have I. Let's get right into it.
Clustertruck if he ULTRAKILL. I'm pretty sure that's basically how the developer describes the game, and it's very apt. Grapple, jump, and triple-dash between moving vehicles, taking down mooks and bosses while going as fast as you can, because going fast is how you build up your heart rate, and a low heart rate is how you die. It's a difficult game to get an action screenshot of, so you'll have to trust me that it's very hectic and satisfying.
I am generally deeply sceptical of procedurally generated games, but this demo had me well and truly impressed. A fully simulated city block? With a tight, consistent web of relationships and schedules driving the game world? Open-ended exploration gameplay where you solve cases with with deduction and sleuthing rather than following a linear narrative? And all of that, procedurally generated? Maybe we'll look back at this game and realise that it was too good to be true after all, but the demo has left me less cautious and more optimistic than I expected. Here's hoping all of these systems come together into one satisfying and cohesive experience.
Precision adventure platformer with puzzle elements? The movement in this game's very fast, responsive, and satisfying, in a way that kinda reminds me of N++. The level of difficulty seems fairly similar too - there are parts of the demo where it took a good few tries before I executed the right series of rolling jumps and air lunges to survive with all of the player character's limbs still attached. And the pixel art! Holy shit it looks good, both in motion and in screenshots. There's an incredible sense of scale to the game that I've seen very few 2D games pull off anywhere near as well. Play it!
When I started this demo and realised it was a Vampire Survivorslike, I was quite disappointed. It's a "genre" I find to be a manipulative dopamine drip feed which exploits the same psychological hooks as gambling, rather than an engaging experience worth dedicating any time to. This game, I think, is not that. Hordes of enemies are still thrown at you, sure, but there is actual enemy variety, with different mooks having different attack and movement patters, and the bosses are unique mano a mano bullet hell encounters rather than yet another bullet sponge to add to the pile. There's a narrative that unfolds as you progress, cool art, a boppin DnB soundtrack! A game where skill and player participation actually matters beyond just picking synergies! Gosh, I think I need to sit down.
... it's still pretty repetitive though.
Move over, 90s kids. Between VIVIDLOPE and CROSSNIQ, it seems like early 2000s nostalgia is finally here, and in the form of addictive puzzle games with slick and stylised aesthetics evocative of the funkier side of the Dreamcast and Playstation libraries. The goal is to navigate a series of increasingly complex levels, stepping on every tile while avoiding aggressive beasties, and leaving yourself a clear path to finish the level without stepping on tiles you've already been on. You won't fail if you do, mind, it just affects your final level rating, turning the game from extremely punishing to highly accessible even for the IQ challenged such as myself.
Cavern of Dreams is an N64-style 3D platformerwith cute art, atmospheric music, and some surprisingly tricky to get collectibles. Or, perhaps, they're not actually tricky, and it just took me half an hour to realise you can hit trees to knock the apples off, and then throw the apples to make little trees you can climb. Whatever the case may be, the movement is responsive and satisfying, with a move that lets you curl yourself up into a ball and gather momentum to massive increase your movement speed. The game also really reminds me of Analgesic's games, in particular Anodyne 2 and Sephonie. It's got that same vibe. That je ne sais quoi.
Planet of Lana is a puzzle platformer in the same vein as LIMBO, with the addition of a little four-legged companion who you can give various instructions to stand on switches or help solve environmental puzzles. Nothing too innovative, at least within the part of the demo that I played. However, the game is absolutely fucking beautiful. I mean incredibly polished and stylised and pretty, with smooth animations, beautiful backdrops, and a painterly flair to the texture work that makes the game feel almost like a moving painting. Worth checking out for the visuals alone, imo.
This short demo sets up Mika and the Witch's Mountain as a diabetes-inducingly kawaii witch parcel delivery simulator: You fly around, taking parcels from one place to another, using increasingly advanced brooms to scale a sprawling vertical map, slowly upgrading your broom with the money you make until you can eventually reach the top. Or, at least, that's the impression the video at the end of the demo gave me. The demo itself doesn't show off the flying much, but what's there feels pretty fun.
Quirky adventure game about a salaryman who gets kinda-isekai'd into a world of goofy corporate shenanigans where humanity is replaced by a species of burrowing furry ferret snake things. Another case where the demo really doesn't really show off all that much, but the art is cute and the writing is generally well done. Something to keep an eye on, at least.
Greedventory takes place in a satirical fantasy setting where adventurers are terrorised by a law enforcement organisation which seizes and destroys magical artifacts they find during their quests - a reasonable precaution in a fantasy society, one might think, but not one you're willing to put up with any longer. The pixel art is nice, the dialogue is pretty funny (if a bit overreliant on gratuitous fuckwords), and the gameplay revolves around well timed and well placed left and right clicks to attack, parry, and deflect projectiles. It's actually really hard! So hard that I gave up about 45 minutes into the demo, but that's mostly because I have so many of these things to play. This one is definitely worth checking out.
okay go play some demos now bye