Tuesday, October 5, 2021

Coming Attractions Include Overwork, Crippling Debt, Death And, Of Course, Animals Wearing Pants.

I'm not sure if it's them or me but I never seem to notice when there's some kind of event happening on Steam. For example, I've had the thing open every day this week but it was only this afternoon I spotted another of those demofests going on. Only just in time, too. It's been running for five days already. Two more to go.

They do seem to host a lot of these things. I think there was one last month called Indiefest or something like that. I totally missed that one. This time it's NextFest, "A celebration of upcoming games", which I think is supposed to imply these are games you might actually be able to play in full some time before the heat death of the universe. No mmorpgs, then.

There's an extremely good argument to be made that the last thing I need at the moment would be more games. I just posted about the pile-up of point & click adventures clogging up my hard drive and it goes pretty much without saying that New World is eating every other game's lunch around here right now.

Still, I'm not one to turn down a freebie, as has been made all too plain of late. And these are demos, not whole games. Demos are short. Usually.

So I took a few minutes to scan through Steam's traditional ugly, garish, confusing display. Seriously, who do they have doing design there? It looks like a parody of something a twelve-year old might have put together for a GeoCities page and not a very talented twelve-year old at that.

Then again, I am old. What do I know? Maybe there's some kind of revival going on I don't know about that makes 90s graphics cutting edge again. There usually is.

On the positive side, while it may look repulsive, as a search interface it does work. Mousing over the various thumbnails sets a gameplay clip going, which makes it very easy to spot the handful of titles that might be of interest. 

There really weren't many this time but then I didn't spend as long looking as I have done in the past, mostly because I was trying to stick not only to demos I was almost certain I would actually play but to demos of games I might actually buy. 

My conversion record so far on that is dismal. I put several titles on my wish list after the last couple of rounds of demos but even though some of them have since launched I have yet to buy any. I will, eventually, but I'm waiting for the right moment. The way things are going, it looks like being a long wait.

This time, in the end, I went for just four demos. These are they. Them. Whatever. Up above, with some weird Steam housekeeping thing stuck in the middle. 

They vary hugely in size from almost 3gb to a shade over 100mb. That's like the difference between a pygmy shrew and a giraffe, which is kind of ironic since the protagonist of the smallest of them is a giraffe.


Taking them in order of magnitude, first  we have Lord Winklebottom Investigates, "a 1920s murder mystery, point and click adventure featuring a dashing giraffe detective." Oh goody! Another point&click adventure! Just what I needed!

Giraffes are by no means my favorite animals but I do like anthropomorphism and I do like detective stories and I do like the two of them together. And I suppose a giraffe does make a change from the usual cats, dogs and rabbits that tend to get the lead roles in these things.

Whether it's as funny as its creators imagine or, indeed, funny in any way at all, remains to be seen. Experience suggests it's unlikely but we can hope. 

Next up, weighing in at just over 500mb comes Chinatown Detective Agency. Guess what genre that is. Go on. I bet you can't. Give up? 

It's a point & click adventure! Not only that, it's "cybernoir". I hope everyone had their Bhagpuss bingo cards ready. At least this one doesn't have any funny animals. Far from it. Instead, the game "features scenes of moderate violence, blood, the use of tobacco and alcohol, and mild sexual references". Sounds fun.

Reading through the lengthy description, I suspect this one is going to turn out to be more work than play: "Do real-world research and investigation to solve puzzles and uncover leads, and manage your time and money to solve cases from clients both well-intentioned and nefarious." That sounds not in the slightest bit awesome but this sounds worse: "In Chinatown Detective Agency, time is a precious resource. The daily grind of the working Joe is a one-way ticket to fatigue, and tasks have a funny way of taking longer as you tire. Time is money, and the clock is always ticking." You can take realism too far, you know.


Third up, based on how how much of my hard drive it's sitting on, comes The Good Life. Not a sim of the 1970s self-sufficiency sitcom featuring the late Richard Briars et al, unfortunately, although I wouldn't be in the least surprised to learn there had already been a video game spin-off of that middle-class classic.

No, this is... oh go, on, take another guess. I'll give you a clue this time - it's not a point & click adventure. No, it's another anthropomorphic murder mystery! Only this time somehow it's an RPG. I have no clue how that's supposed to work but I'm curious to find out.

The plot sounds intriguing, too: "Journalist Naomi Hayward is drowning in debt and is at the end of her rope. Having accepted a request from The Morning Bell newspaper to “uncover the mystery of a small English town”, Naomi finds herself far from her home in New York, in Rainy Woods. Upon beginning her investigation, Naomi – camera in hand – soon discovers an inexplicable phenomenon in which the townspeople transform into cats and dogs as night falls... Then, as just she’s looking into that particular mystery, a murder occurs.."

So much there to savor, isn't there? Apart from those unfortunate prepositions. And so oddly familiar, somehow...


Last and not least if only because it's the biggest of them all, clocking in at 2.8gb comes Endling. I can't really be glib or snarky about this one. It looks absolutely beautiful and has one of the most depressing set-ups I can imagine for a game about a cute fox: "As the last mother fox on Earth, your cubs need all your care to survive in a merciless world that slowly destroys itself. You have to help them, teach them and save them. And you should never forget that extinction is forever."

Geez. As Zippy the Pinhead would say, are we having fun yet?

Honestly, I thought twice and then once more before I downloaded this one. The screenshots and gameplay clips look delightful but even the feature list designed to sell the game feels harrowing. I'm not sure I'm ready to "get involved in emotionally taxing decisions", especially when one mistake could mean the death of a bunch of "tiny furballs" with "unique personalities and fears."

And remember, "Extinction is forever". I hope that doesn't mean there's no save game function but I have a horrible feeling it does.

Those were my choices, anyway. I'll have to live with them. Although only if I ever find the time to play them, I guess.

If and when I do I'll be sure to report back on what I find. If I'm not too traumatized to type, that is.



  1. The last one reminds me of the urban animal MMO/ survival game that was on the PS3. Tokyo Jungle. The premise was interesting, and the gameplay changed considerably depending upon whether you chose to play an herbivore or omnivore, and what size of animal. But in the end I found it stressful and slightly depressing, so I didn't get to far. I think I may have made it far enough to mate once as a deer or small dog.

    1. I'm not mad keen on games that try to teach you life lessons in the first place and ones that make you feel bad for not learning them I would normally avoid altogether but the graphics for this are so lovely...

      I know I'll regret it when I play and get the last foxes on Earth wiped out.

  2. Really loving these post titles :-)

    1. It's a bit like having the straitjacket taken off at the moment. (Like I would know!) I'll calm down in a while.


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