Sunday, February 7, 2021

Quod Erat Demonstrandum, Baby!


With the Steam Game Festival due to end in a couple of days I thought I'd better get on and check out the remaining demos I downloaded back at the start. That meant finishing up Nine Noir Lives and playing through Ring of Fire: Search for a Killer and Kathy Rain: Director's Cut

I also said I'd re-download the Frozen Flame demo and give it another try. It surely couldn't be that short on purpose, could it? I must have been bugged, right?

This afternoon I did all of that and it took me... well, it's hard to say, exactly. I can say for sure it wasn't long. Probably about an hour, all told.

In theory I ought to be able to come up with an exact figure. Steam keeps tabs on how long you spend playing, after all. According to the records on my account I spent ten minutes playing Ring of Fire, twenty on Kathy Rain and eleven minutes taking a second run at Frozen Flame. 

That all seems clear enough. The problem comes when I look at the time Steam has down for my full playthrough of Nine Noir Lives. 

When I first posted about the game I mentioned my opening session had lasted seventy minutes. I can clearly remember seeing that number on Steam when I logged out. What's more, it's about how long I would have guessed I'd been playing. I know roughly what time it was when I started and when I stopped.

Coming back to it today, there turned out not to be so much distance left in the demo as I'd thought. It ends when you manage to talk your way into the first real crime scene, the Knitty Kitty Club

Before you can do that, though, there's quite a lot of banter between your character, Cuddles Nutterbutter P.I. and Officer Krakowski, the by-the-book cop guarding the door. Before he'll let you in you have to show him your Private Investigator badge and a form from police headquarters authorizing you to work on the case. 

Since Nutterbutter would clearly forget his tail if it wasn't glued on, this means a trip back to the office to find the missing credentials. This in turn leads to yet more banter, this time with Tabby, Nutterbutter's long-suffering assistant and so the dance goes on.

A little light gameplay comes next , in the shape of a search for the badge (Spoiler: it's under the cushion on the sofa. Took me a little while to find it) and finally a phone call to the gravel-voiced form-faxer down at the cop shop. All of this takes quite a while. I'd guess it took me at least twenty minutes.

In fact, I think I can prove it. You can follow most of the action in the second half of this twenty-eight minute playthrough on YouTube. The player who posted it, Cryptic Hybrid, must already have made the phone call because he just gets a copy from Tabby. It took me an extra four or five minutes to learn how to use the phone (cats don't use numbers) and to sweet talk the gorgon on the other end of the line.

And yet somehow Steam now shows my total time spent in the Nine Noir Lives demo as... sixty-five minutes. I somehow lost five minutes getting from where I left off to the end!

Okay, alright, never mind about that. The point is, however long it took me, the Nine Noir Lives demo is a solid, entertaining introduction to what looks like it should be a very enjoyable game. I was quite disappointed when it ended abruptly, just as I saw the first dead body on the floor. I would definitely have gone on playing if I could. I've added it to my wishlist. 

Nine Noir Lives: Recommended!

The demo for Kathy Rain: Director's Cut almost had the opposite effect. Not because it doesn't show the game off to good effect. It starts at the scene at the graveside during Kathy's grandfather's burial, where Kathy meets her grandmother for the first time since she was a child, and carries on from there just as it does in the full game.

And that was my problem with it. It's a while since I played but as far as I could tell what I was seeing and hearing was identical to what I saw and heard on my original playthrough. The graphics looked the same, the voiceover was as I remembered it, the mechanics, puzzles and dialogs appeared to be unchanged in any way. 

Since I already own Kathy Rain and this is a demo for the Director's Cut edition, I was hoping to see what was different about it, not just to be reminded of what I already knew. I kept on for twenty minutes but eventually I felt as though there were better things I could be doing with my time so I stopped.

I still have the Director's Cut on my wishlist but the main effect of partially playing through the demo has been to convince me I need to see some evidence of the extent and value of the new content before I pay again for what might end up being pretty much the same game I already have. Not quite the result I imagine they were hoping for.

Kathy Rain: Director's Cut: Recommended for anyone who doesn't already have Kathy Rain. Otherwise, maybe wait for the reviews when it comes out to see if it's really worth paying twice.

Next I took a look at the demo for Ring of Fire: Search For a Killer. Did not take me long. I hated it.

About the only thing I didn't actively dislike was the visual aesthetic. It sets a striking, minimalist tone that seems to nod towards pop art and abstract expressionism. I am something of a soft target for stuff like that as some of my previous choices probably suggest. 

It was mostly the look of the the game that made me pick it out of the pack in the first place but I do also like a good police procedural, particularly one that takes place in a near-future Dickian dystopia. Probably haven't been hiding that any too well, either.

What I don't like are supposedly adult characters who cuss and banter like fourteen-year old boys. Neither do I see any point in crowing about game mechanics designed to make the player copy down text from the screen in longhand, just so they can type it back into the game five seconds later. 

If I wanted to make notes with pen and paper I'd get in my time machine and go back twenty years. Or possibly thirty. Either let the game keep track or at least give me an in-game notebook I can record information in, ffs!

What I actually did, of course, was screenshot each piece of text as it appeared and tab back and forth. Arguably more awkward and annoying than writing it down with a pen and paper, I can't deny it. Also probably what made the demo glitch to the point where I couldn't read the dialog any more and had to close it and start over. That's on me. 

Including the restart I lasted ten minutes. If I hadn't known I was going to have to write something about it it would have been five. If even that.

Ring of Fire: Search For a Killer : Not Recommended

Last and definitely least in terms of what there is to see and do in the demo, Frozen Flame. I was replaying this because I was convinced I'd done something wrong the first time. As I mentioned, a commenter on Massively:OP had explained there was more to it than the ten minutes I'd spent running across a bridge and watching a gate open. 

And I'm sure there is... in the game. I'm guessing that person had tried the early access version, not the demo. The demo is just the bridge and the gate and that's it. I googled to see if anyone else was confused and found this Reddit thread

Well, if you can call it a thread. It's a couple of comments but they both describe the exact same experience I had. And no-one comes on to contradict them, so I'm taking it that's all there is to the demo after all.

The tiny sliver I saw did look interesting. I will certainly give it another look if ever goes into some kind of open beta or free trial. I don't think it's enough of my kind of thing to pay money for but honestly on the little I saw it's hard to be entirely sure.

Frozen Flame: Insufficient Data.

And there we have it. One thing I will say, demos are fun. Too many can leave me feeling a little queasy, like I've filled up on snacks, but somehow there always seems to be room for just one more.

Two days left. Maybe I'll take my plate and go round one more time.

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