Tuesday, June 14, 2022

Six, Seven, Eight...

With six days left in the June Steam Next Fest, I thought it would be jolly clever to pick six demos to play and write about here. If Krikket can play and review one hundred indie games in a year, I can play and review seven demos in a week, right? I mean, I'm one down already! How hard can it be?

Yeah, I wouldn't hold your breath. As I may have mentioned about a thousand times, having a puppy in the house seems to create some kind of temporal vortex into which all free time is sucked. This post would have published four or five hours earlier than it did if there hadn't been so many dog-related activities to interrupt the process. The chances of my getting enough time to both play and review all six games before the event ends seem remote.

I'm quite surprised I found enough time to choose six in the first place. It didn't take as long as I expected. I'm getting more used to the Next Fest aesthetic, which appears to draw its spiritual inspiration from a mash-up of mid-90s GeoCities home pages and the kind of fliers people used to hand out at acid house gigs a few years before then. I had less trouble navigating the manifold options this time, at least. It's still something of a crap shoot, all the same. 

Given the time-frame, I decided to stick very much with what I know, as will become obvious when we get to the list. Point and click adventures? Check! Detectives? Check! Cyberpunk? Check! Anthropomorphic animals? Check!

In the time-honored tradition of awards contests everywhere, let's start with the runners-up. The also-rans. The ones that didn't quite make the cut. These are the demos I thought about downloading then thought again. If I can remember why, I'll mention it. If not, just assume the worst.

Frozen Flame - Didn't I already play a demo of this? Yes, twice. I said I'd give it another look if they ever made a demo that lasted more than ten minutes and maybe I will. Just not this time.

Renown - Looks interesting but also looks quite, um, serious? Intense? Not sure a demo is the best way to introduce something like this. Maybe an open beta would be better.

Dragon Forge - "Become a powerful dragon and automate massive factories!" Of course! First thing I always think of when someone mentions dragons - assembly-line production methods!

Grand Theft Gato: Vice Kitty - Someone really likes puns. I'm always up for a game where you play as a cat but unfortunately the trailer is not encouraging.

Roadwarden - tl:dr. Jk.

Gnome Online - Can't say I wasn't tempted. PvP and those graphics, though?

And now the winners, in no particular order...

 Brok the Investigator - "The very first PUNCH & CLICK! Brok is an innovative adventure mixed with beat 'em up and RPG elements. In a grim world where animals have replaced mankind, what kind of detective will you be?"

An alligator one, apparently. I don't think there's a choice. This one has a demo and a Free Prologue. Not sure if those are two different things or the same thing with two different names. I don't believe I've ever played a beat 'em up in my life so that part is going to be interesting. Other than that, it looks like the standard anthropomorphic animal noir detective point and click game I've played a hundred times before but the trailer suggests it at least ought to be a good one.

 Cats and the Other Lives - "Part interactive fiction, part Felis domesticus adventure, “Cats and the Other Lives” explores the reunion of a broken family from the perspective of their house cat, Aspen."

I did say I liked playing a cat. I'd lay odds this is translated from an Eastern European language. The writing has that off-kilter feel to it. Let me just check... oh, close! Cultic Games is "an indie development studio from Istanbul". Looks downbeat, which appeals to me, and there seems to be at least an attempt at interpreting a feline psychological perspective, something that fascinates me as a conceit. Probably the demo of the six I'm most enthusiastic to try.

Sanya - "2D narrative adventure game about the warmth of fleeting childhood memories: about a little boy named Sanya, his dog, his friends and many exciting adventures that await them in a small post-soviet Russian town set in the achingly strange and nostalgic period of the 90s."

This whole "cozy 90s" thing is beginning to weird me out. I'm seeing it start to crop up all over the place, now. Were the '90s really a simpler, easier time? I lived through them and it's not exactly how I remember it. Supposedly "a game about your childhood", only if you were twenty or thirty years younger than I am and grew up in Russia, guess. 

Post-Soviet Russia is certainly an unusual choice for a setting. The game's produced by a two-developer team called Helpnode, about whom I can find very little. I was curious whether the developers were themselves Russian, something that might have been a concern given the current political situation, so I did a little digging. 

The game is being funded by Bright Gambit, "a small private investment initiative...focusing on investing only in games". According to a news item at Gamesindustry.biz, Bright Gambit "intends to support games from marginalized communities and overlooked regions." Does that sound like Russia to anyone?

Sanya is one of the first tranche of five games to receive funding. None of the news sources or reviews I could find chose to make it clear but eventually I tracked down the location of Helpnode via an archived job advertisement. According to Ingamejob,  "Helpnode is a small indie studio founded in Moscow, Russia in 2020". So now we know.

Hill Agency:PURITYdecay (Or possibly PURITY&Decay. The Steam page uses both.) "Murdered sisters, mind altering drugs and flying cities, to a case that goes way further than the banks of this one detective's little neighbourhood in this Indigenous cybernoir detective narrative adventure set in a post-post-apocalyptical future."

Does that run-on sentence sound odd to anyone? It seems like there might be a preposition missing. The Steam page leans heavily into the post-colonial, indigenous (Néhinaw) setting, which does sound intriguing, but the glitching video was what sold me. Mind you, at that point I hadn't read the Mature Content Description: "violence, sexual assault, human-trafficking, drug and alcohol abuse, self-harm and suicide, body disorders and body hatred, racism." I might have passed if I had.

Genfanad: A Generic Fantasy Adventure - "Heroes, we need you! Our world has too many jobs that need doing and not enough willing suckers to do them. Chop wood! Craft slightly better weapons! Go fishing! (When we remember to add fish.) Oh and if you REALLY must fight scary demons, we've got some dungeons that need clearing out… "

When I picked this one I didn't realise it was a Runescape parody. I just watched two alpha gameplay videos on YouTube and I'm already regretting it. I suspect this may be less ironic than I imagined. And less fun.

Yoko Redux: Dreams of a Blue Planet - "I've been h4ving these dreams la7ely. They can't be real...8ut what if they are? I close my eyes and I see her fac3. Follow Locke as he tries to discover the secrets of Yoko in this point and click, cyberpunk noir adventure"

Another cyber-noir setting, another glitching video, another sale. I'm such an easy mark, although if I'm honest it was the "Yoko" that hooked me. This is another Kickstarter game (So was Genfanad.), which might raise some flags but I think Kickstarter point&clicks have a much better success rate than Kickstarter mmos. Not that I've done the reearch to prove it. Just a hunch. 

And that's the lot. Oh, except I added a seventh while I was pulling the links for this post.

Monorail Stories -  "Monorail Stories is an adventure game focusing on extraordinary things happening to ordinary people. Board the monorail and experience a special story about humanity, friendships, and intertwined destinies manifesting during the everyday commute."

And guess what? It's yet another Kicjstarter project! I swear I'm not picking them on purpose.

Reminds me a lot of The Longest Road on Earth, which I bought, played and loved as a result of playing the demo during an earlier Steam festival. Only this time its in color. And there aren't any mice. Presumably.

And that really is it. Now I suppose I'd better go play some of them.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Wider Two Column Modification courtesy of The Blogger Guide