2023-02-12: The Next Post Concerning The Steam Next Fest of Now, Where Now is February 2023
Steam Next Fest is still here, and so am I. Let's get back into it.
Extreme Evolution: Drive to Divinity is the next game by Mr. Sam Astral, developer of the Space Hole series, something which becomes very clear the moment you start the game. It's still a ball roller at its core, but it builds on mechanics introduced in earlier games by adding more transformations and more types of interactables and hazards, while doubling down on that psychedelic "spaced out kaleidoscopic LSD trip" vibe that has defined him as a developer so far. As a Space Hole enjoyer, I'm excited to see where this experience takes me.
The main idea of Yellow Taxi seems to be: what if we took a 3D platformer, but replaced the running guy with a wind-up car? You can turn, accelerate, reverse, and do this spinning dash move that stops you for a second before giving you a burst of speed, and that last bit is what makes the game much more interesting. The levels aren't just race tracks, they're bona fide platformer levels which ask you to use ramps, ledges, and well timed dashes to get around, less like a taxi and more like a jumping spider. The more standard driving levels are satisfying too, thanks to the simple, responsive, and arcadey controls, like a somehow even more hectic Crazy Taxi. Man, I'm really not describing this game all that well... Just go play the demo!
I've been struggling to put my feelings about Repeat into words, which I think speaks to the strength of this demo. It's a perfect demonstration of what the game is; weird, not particularly interested in explaining itself, and about being a balloon person carrying around a magic disembodied head which can make space infinitely repeat, allowing you to solve first person platforming challenges by wrapping around from one edge of a level to another. It's a cool visual effect, and if they get creative with the level design they could come up with some really unique gameplay too.
In a word, irreverent. The defining trait of this game, alongside its Mesoamerican cultural influence, is the unrelentingly sassy and self-aware tone that pervades every second of the experience. Gameplay segments constantly switch genres, and narrative moments break the fourth wall with such casual disregard that the only equivalent I can think of is Who Killed Captain Alex's video joker. I don't think I can do this game justice with one paragraph, so I'll just tell you to go play the demo instead. You might find it insufferable, but I loved it.
Interior Worlds is a liminal space photography game, which is heavy on the atmosphere but devoid of scary monsters and jumpscares and combat. For the best, I think. The same developer made Hypnagogia, which was a game full of super fun, atmospheric environments to explore, and the addition of photography mechanics explicitly encourages you to really soak in all the levels and look for cool things to take pictures of, instead of focusing on any particular objectives. Unfortunately the demo only contains a rather uninspired car park level, but based on Sodaraptor's prior work, I'm excited for the full game.
SUPER 56 is a microgame collection. The good? Incredible levels of polish, with a lot of leaderboard profile customisation, tonnes of different well-executed art styles, great dynamic music, and a lot of creativity in terms of microgame design. The bad? The sound effects are obnoxiously loud, and the game's The Gimmick is that you only use a single button. For everything, including the menu. Time to see how far they can stretch those creative muscles in the full game.
Okay, to get an idea of this game's terms of presentation and structure, just imagine a Megaman game. Now add a grappling hook, melee attacks, the ability to use enemy corpses as projectiles, high-speed movement, and special attacks, and that's Gravity Circuit. The demo is very polished, with fluid and responsive movement and combat, slick SNES-era pixel art, and a real bopper of a soundtrack.
I enjoyed this demo a lot, but I'm finding it hard to say more than "it's a Western point and click adventure with lightgun elements." The art is pretty, and while the demo plays the cowboy tropes straight, it sets up a somewhat anachronistic alternate reality Old West ruled by nefarious water barons. As the store page says, it's a narrative adventure game first and foremost, so don't go in expecting to blast fools every two seconds.
This might be the closest a modern game has ever come to looking like a legitimate PS1 title. It's retro, yes, but there's a stunning level of detail and and care in the models, sprites, textures, and sound effects that truly emulates the best efforts of well-funded teams from the late 90s. Gameplay wise, it's a 2.5D sidescrolling spectacle fighter, and (though I may be missing something) it's hella tough to keep slick combos going, but very satisfying when you do. Combat is chunky and visceral, and it really makes you FEEL like an anime cyborg ninja in anime Warhammer land.
I started Ribby expecting it to be a standard super saccharine cutesy adventure game about friendship and other such things, and even though that's mostly right I was still positively surprised. The game has an unexpected edge to its humour, to the point that I had TWO (2) certified laugh out loud moments in the twenty five minutes it took me to complete the demo. Now, I'm not 100% sure how much of this humour is just a demo placeholder (obamna), but I'll give them the benefit of the doubt and assume they can keep the quality up for the length of a full game.
Don't let the great medieval stained glass aesthetic fool you, this is no Pentiment-style adventure. It's actually a pretty straightforward Megaman style jump and shoot game where Cecil, a cleric just returned from a holy crusade, enters people's minds to purge their sin from within in an effort to purge his home of the plague and misery that befell it. Following the guidance of a mysterious hooded priest, you take the forms of various demon beasties with unique powers and psychonaut your way through the town's drunks and gamblers, upgrading your abilities along the way.
...it's less heretical in context.
I am 100% convinced that this started out as a game about a spider. Your hand grips like a spider, moves like a spider, and generally does things more characteristic of a spider than a hand, even if that last point gets a bit muddled when keys and levers get involved. Super Adventure Hand is a 3D physics platformer which might be angling for tuber bait surrealism, but still ends up with a pretty cool idea. The hand has tank controls, kinda. You rotate your hand with the right stick, but can still move in any direction, with the relative orientation of your hand to your movement affecting things like your jump, where your grabbing area is, and so on. The demo doesn't get too imaginative with it, but there's a lot of potential here!
I suppose it wouldn't wrong to call this a Zelda-like, but the vibe is completely different. Gameplay wise, it's fairly standard, with a wide swing, a charged attack, firearms, dashes, and consumables, with plenty of upgrade materials rolling in to unlock new abilities or upgrade existing ones. But, everything else about this game is thick, oppressive, foreboding
: the droning music, the chunky sound effects, the distorted visuals, the winding, open-ended level layout... The game feels very intentional, aesthetically. Will the gameplay match this tone? I'm not sure, but it's worth keeping an eye on.
A somewhat rough and lo-fi game even by indie standards, Project Anomaly manages to be endearing enough to keep me invested anyway. It's a photography game where you'll take pictures of cryptids, weird sightings, and sometimes some utterly mundane stuff, which you'll use to solve quests given by various NPCs scattered in each level. Some quests may involve talking to cryptids to try to befriend/"tame" them, which usually involves giving advice or support to help the beastie get over something. Oh, and there's a time system as well, with NPCs and cryptids appearing and disappearing based on what time during the day it is. I suppose the writing isn't great, but it's not the point. It's a cute demo with a lot of content, and it's surprisingly addicting.
What if Yakuza was set in Indonesia, and Kiryu was a university student? Well, it would look a bit like this. There's a fair bit of jank, and the game does look a little bit like an Unreal example project at times, but the combat is quite fun and the setting is in a country and culture which usually gets very little representation in video games. There are also a lot of UwUs in this game, presumably because the UwU has become an integral part of Indonesian culture. It's the only explanation that makes sense.
I'm going to be honest, I mostly added this demo to poke fun at it a bit. In isolation the visuals are quite impressive and I liked the tone it was going for, but I simply can't get over the goofy low resolution voxel graphics being used for a game which is trying to be sombre and dramatic. Using very obvious motion capture to animate buck toothed skeletons with clamps for hands might be the most unintentionally funny aesthetic choice I've ever seen in a video game, and this incongruity is EVERYWHERE.
Now, would you kindly go play some demos? (ultima underworld in space under the sea is what the refrance!!!!!!!)