It's a place all right.

April 29, 2020 (Originally posted on Blogger)

Ludological Narrative Convention 2020 Demo Reviews

With absolutely every physical convention being made non-existent for probably the entire year, at least, more time-limited demos are being uploaded to Steam, regardless of whatever exclusivity the game itself has, so not sure why they insist on not being on Steam but the demos are. This brings us to the virtual LudoNarraCon, something I don't really pay much attention to normally so already it's working. The games and demos here more seem to be really "indie", as in there's a lot of dialogue and slower paced gameplay and also a bunch of things where either choices matter or there's some kind of message or both. Not so much the type of "indie" that involves roguelikes and hardcore platforming. But there's still the retro pixelated art style because that applies to anything. I've decided to go over a few demos briefly, namely for games that aren't already in my library through giveaways or bundles.

Genesis Noir
I really only knew of this game from a trailer about a year ago and didn't really know what it was or if there was even gameplay in the trailer. It's certainly got an art style. After playing the demo, I'm not really sure what happened except what I thought something was ended up not quite being that and long story short, I'm more convinced it's some kind of abstract freeform jazz simulator. Supposedly the story is you play as some guy who has to rescue his lover while existing in some kind of multiverse or superverse and somehow the story spans between before the beginning and after the end of the universe's creation. So yeah, it's weird as hell while being heavy on the stylized side and of course that has me interested. Demo felt pretty short, but interesting, and didn't really explain anything aside from what was printed in text right at the beginning, but there's just a lot of atmosphere at play and it's not a typical point and click if it can even be considered one of those.

Lost Words: Beyond the Page
This is an indie sorta puzzle mostly storytelling platformer that goes between running around in a book and more regular levels. It's based around some girl telling a story she wrote while going over her life story. You control the girl jumping around on stuff like a regular platformer, but use the mouse to drag words around to do things. So in one setting you're switching between the controller and mouse, unless you can deal with the platform controls in this with a keyboard. The controls were a bit wacky, and I somehow glitched a platform by making it go up when she wasn't fully on, but she couldn't climb on, so the platform would get stuck and make a weird noise while trying to go down again, and then had to go up the elevator once more after falling off because the ground pushed her off. Also for some reason this game is exclusive to Stadia for now but says it'll eventually come to Steam and anything non-Stadia, by when I'm not sure if Stadia will still be going or not. Yet the demo is on Steam.

On a sort of related note, I was giving that one Stadia exclusive game a try with some trial before, Gylt, which is kind of the only one I know, and it seems okay, you just have to contend with the streaming video platform influencing how the dark shadows look on screen, since darkness has been a compression challenge for quite some time. I'll look into finishing it when I know I can spare more bandwidth, the issue with streaming game platforms, aside from potential lag and any connection that isn't wired. Namely downloading the game would probably use less bandwidth than streaming it for the length of play. Also I had to get help troubleshooting a specific issue between the browser and my machine. Not that running games locally isn't entirely without problems, but I'd think it would handle the streaming video fine.

Garden Story
It's one of those games that's similar to Zelda in structure but might be attempting to evoke some sort of Harvest Moon approach as well. In the demo it seemed to mostly focus on quests and dungeon stuff. It feels like a slower-paced Zelda but still with weapons and block pushing, as well as enemies that are weird to figure out exactly when they're dead sometimes. You play as a fruit I think that talks to other fruits and vegetables and frogs, trying to restore the world from something. The controller layout felt just a bit weird to me, with buttons related to inventory things not being where I'd think they'd be and forgetting what a few of the buttons are throughout because it couldn't be customized. There are several weapon types that also have use as tools to get items. One acts like a fishing rod, another a sword, and there's a couple others that I didn't really use. The demo was a little short but gave an idea of what a dungeon might be like.

Apparently this demo's been out for a while, but was featured on the demo page anyway. It even has a walkthrough, which I had to consult because some things are just completely obtuse in this point and click, because that's tradition I guess. This is one of those point and click games that has weirdly HD but pixelated graphics, and also features walking and talking animals. It also features random stealth segments where you have to figure out exactly what layer things are on to hide behind them, and then mixes timing stuff into that if you have to distract someone. I also managed to softlock the game by trying to tab between windows while viewing some locker and it kept trying to pull up the menu instead of exiting the view, but it at least saves so I wouldn't have to play the whole demo over. More than once the important thing you have to do blends into the environment because of all the lighting effects and cluttered room design. I also ended up brute forcing a couple puzzles when I was at least close to the solution but wasn't exactly right. Also this game was kickstarted so it has really long credits at the end of the demo. I can see several issues with this, mentioned above, that are hopefully ironed out by the full game, though I don't know if I'll check that out anyway, as I think things like the obtuse design and random stealth segments with timing will probably be in the final anyway.

I can understand obtuse design in point and clicks, I guess, if you want to be a purist, but random stealth segments, particularly with timing, aren't really in the favor of anybody. I especially don't like them in point and clicks, and forget all about it if there's no discernible pattern to anything, but enough about that one last Tex Avery game. Now if your game is built around stealth mechanics and not also one of those that just kicks you back to a save point if you're even seen slightly, that's different.

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