It's a place all right.

June 21, 2020 (Originally posted on Blogger)

Steam Game Festival Summer 2020 Demo Reviews

At this point, any gathering that's not a protest is effectively canceled eternally, possibly through next year as well, and at that point it may be more than protests that need to form for all I know because I'm not some kind of clairvoyant, more of a pessimistic analyst at times. At the moment, though, I'm balancing bandwidth between having downloaded a ton of games from bundles and just outright free games, and this new flood of demos for future games that just showed up on Steam. This time I'm looking to cover a lot more demos than I usually do, between finding several that caught my interest and there just being a whole bunch in general. Some from previous demo things have returned, but I've already posted my thoughts on those, given they haven't changed much. I'm focusing on ones that I haven't done yet.

Nine Noir Lives
This is a point and click with cats. However it feels really drawn out. The time between starting the game and starting the tutorial that tells you how point and clicks work feels long. The dialogue also seems slow paced. At least you can just lick everything in the room. I don't know of many point and clicks that do that aside from one of the Space Quest games. Also for some reason there's an achievement for finishing the demo, where it also begins a cutscene showing the next part of gameplay including the mouse cursor, so it's a bit confusing because the mouse cursor is only occasionally visible, in the case where you're usually in some dialogue, where it's hidden.

Again, the dialogue just feels long and drawn out, like when someone extends a joke for just a bit too long with a bunch of padding that doesn't add to a punchline and tries to make other jokes during the joke. Like modern Family Guy minus the obsession with shock value. If it wasn't for that, the demo would be pretty short considering what you actually have to do for it, and it mostly just demonstrates the ineptitude of the main character, who also has an obsession with licking absolutely everything, at least with how I'd interpret the ability to do so. The best thing I got out of the demo was the fact that just about everything was lickable. Yet he won't lick other cats. So at least there's boundaries. Second best is being able to take the licking mouse cursor and putting it on the face of cats so they have a silly face.

Another point and click, this time everything's made of paper. This is a self-stated "short demo", and that's very true. You really only do a couple things before it tells you the demo is over. However, I still had control at the end and was able to get the game stuck in a screen that didn't exist by trying to go to the next part. It's a weird and interesting art style, with everything having been made out of paper sculpture, but I don't know what else to expect from this aside from a game that's probably similar to something like Samorost or possibly the Neverhood. Not that another point and click with nice art and strange puzzles is a bad thing, of course.

This is a game a lot like Besiege, which is a game about making mechanical things that try to do some task, which is usually to kill everything on the map. However, this is more about making robots to do useful tasks other than razing a castle and everything around it. I made one called the Deliverfucker 8000 which is pretty much a static platform on top of a flat car that somehow bounces because the physics are a bit weird, and uses general Newtonian laws to hurl whatever it's carrying ideally into the target zone. Sometimes the simple approach is the most effective. It also has a sandbox map to just mess around in and possibly do secret missions. However, since I've already had Besiege to mess with, I might just go for that eventually for now.

This demo makes no damn sense. It partly works with the controller by default, because I thought this was going to be a platformer, but is meant for keyboard and mouse because those are the only controls fully programmed in, but mostly it's somehow tank controls in an allegedly modern game so figuring out how to go somewhere is bizarre at first, and is still bizarre because nothing else makes sense. For instance, you somehow have to go towards what's a wall to leave the initial crate. And for whatever reason there's limited "oil" for movement so the robot eventually dies and then the demo resets. I somehow found another place that would look like it's supposed to be somewhere to go and there was a truck but then nothing else. Then the robot died because it ran out of oil because the oil meter that only shows up sometimes didn't show up. Also it just throws up random quotes for supposed inspiration.

I get the feeling this is some kind of artsy experiment, but I've played better artsy games, even the ones that barely qualify as games. If the oil thing is just a demo thing, which I suspect it isn't, then it's not a lot to go on for a demo. On the other hand, if it's an actual mechanic, I have no idea about where things like a jetpack come in because I don't know how to resolve the oil thing. Maybe the game is just supposed to be like Dark Souls somehow and they're going to claim it's hard for reasons when instead it's just incredibly obtuse. Long story short, it needs a lot of work going from how the demo is. First maybe remove or have a toggle for the tank controls for this thing that's not a tank or a classic style survival horror. They're somehow worse than normal tank controls in the aforementioned.

This is another short point and click demo. I'm seeing some trend in the demos I've picked out. It's about some archaelogical group who returned from Mars after thousands of years back to Earth probably and looking for some ancient stuff. It's long enough to set the initial intro, but not really do much either. At least it seems to control a bit more tightly, and it's not voice acted so you can go through the dialogue at your own pace, and even then it's not excessively long. It mostly just shows that the team is weird, the player character is a bit classic in their ways but also seems to be rational and not licking everything because he's not a cat.

Chinatown Detective Agency
This demo felt the most polished of the ones I'd played so far. Another point and click, but it's full of puzzles instead of finding inventory stuff. Puzzles as in hacking minigames where you match tiles, and the game just outright telling you to Google stuff to find the answers. In that way it also feels like some kind of Carmen Sandiego-like adventure, giving you a quote or some historical artifact that you have to find the context for. It really is some kind of puzzle adventure. Then it also has an added mechanic of keeping track of time and maintaining endurance or else time will pass by really quickly, though the time mechanic was a bit set aside for the demo because flights were no problem to deal with. As well, you have to not run out of funding which is spent on flights and food as well as other random things.

It gives a decent vertical slice of what to expect for the game, which is what a demo should do, and now I'm a bit interested in the game as a result. Though it really does feel like a grown up version of Carmen Sandiego where you'd otherwise have some almanac at the ready, instead there's the modern equivalent of the entire Internet. And even that was a bit of a stretch on the last puzzle because you also need to know what exactly to search for and how to phrase it. Also, I managed to get the player character stuck walking into a wall several times, but not actually stuck. And time still passes during puzzles, including ones where it's just a text box to figure out what to put in there, so making sure to not take too long on those is another thing to watch out for.

Hello Guest
I haven't played any kind of those Hello and/or Neighbor games so I'm probably missing a billion lore that gets explained in some Game Theory video that somehow also ended up writing the lore itself. The most I know is that there are these Android bootlegs where some T-pose model just gets stuck on walls and starts flying all over the place because it goes too fast to try to catch the player after it got stuck on a wall. This game is either called Hello Guest, Hello Gueset Alpha, or Hello Neighbor 2, depending on where you look. It has cutscenes, and yet the menu is super basic and even has placeholder menus for what I assume would be sound and some other thing. At least there's graphics menus though, so I'm not forcibly assaulted by excessive motion blur thanks to the power of the Unreal Engine.

From what I can tell, the gameplay involves going to a house in the abandoned amusement park, I guess is what this is, and then running around frantically with a flashlight or a fire extinguisher, trying to scare off hooligans who kick the empty sheds and sometimes light them on fire. Also there's this creaky robot chicken thing running circles around you because I guess they're trying to get behind you, according to the page description that claims there's advanced AI that tries to get behind you. Mostly I would just keep chasing them away, and then they would run at me because they couldn't figure out how to get behind me, and then some number on the side would fill up. Eventually you just wake up at the house, either the morning shows up or you run into the chicken too many times, then you get money to spend on a store to get things where I don't know what half of them do.

I guess that's the loop of this game, and I still don't understand it. Supposedly you can catch the hooligans for rewards. Maybe there's keys to find to get into doors, but if you go into the hooligan house, you can get stuck on geometry and also find a door that gets stuck and a room with an unfinished texture. You also get to pick playing between this eyepatch lady and someone who looks like the old Neighbor I guess, but I don't know if there's much difference between the two in terms of mechanics, so it may just be pick whoever you want. I think I would prefer to play as the chicken robot and run into everyone while carrying what might be a lantern that has the fire positioned to the right outside of it. Also for some reason the text on things in the park is all jumbled up and I thought it was Russian at first. This may have been a thing in the last games but again I haven't played those, only really seen bootlegs.

Coromon, while also being pretty much the name of a Digimon, is a game for people who claim to be tired of Pokémon but aren't exactly either. It plays a lot like Pokémon, including the general progression from what I decided to play, except the characters keep having emoji pop up on their heads and the types work a little differently. The same types of strategies seem doable here. That's about all I really have, so if you're actually tired of the mechanics of Pokémon, I'm not sure what this really adds on top of this. Just that some monsters are stronger than others, kinda like a Shiny but not, even though they have slight visual differences I guess. If there's something super crazy that happens that turns the game on its head later on, I'm not sure what it would be. Also for some reason it lets you play a demo battle before playing the demo so you can see just how much it resembles Pokémon in action. I think if I was going to seek out another monster game, I'd want the mechanics to function differently enough to distinguish it a bit more.

Any time someone becomes a bug, people just always bring up Kafka, and I wonder if it ever implies anything other than people becoming bugs, like writing style, but I doubt that. I remember reading about the actual style used by Kafka taking advantage of the structure of the native language to build suspense. This is a very short demo that sort of just demonstrates the very beginning of the game, to the point where I thought it was trying to pull up the settings menu before the demo really got started, but that was just the whole demo. Speaking of settings, it claims to be able to turn off motion blur, but it seems stuck on, and moving the mouse feels a bit drunk so it might also have acceleration stuck on as well. It's the power of the Unreal Engine to have a bunch of special effects stuck on. Also for some reason a bug can't just climb up things without doing something else first, which is weird.

Balsa Model Flight Simulator
Despite the name resembling that really flimsy light weight wood that is practically styrofoam, I think the parts are more metal and plastic. Coming from someone from Kerbal Space Program, it involves building a plane. However the tutorial broke for me because I somehow got the wings on backwards and couldn't figure out how to undo things so I just messed with existing planes. It's another one of those games that's probably meant more for people who can really get into it and not just struggle to attach additional propellers because they want the plane to go too fast. Also for some reason trying to attach some parts like batteries and motors initially turns off symmetry, and then it doesn't want to attach to every surface, so trying to get things to actually place can be difficult. Somehow it was easier to build super rockets and have the engines all go at the same time in Kerbal.

This has nothing to do with GoAnimate. Instead it's a game where you play as a kid, who has been shrunken, possibly by a honey, again. Therefore bugs are giant and you have to fight some of them. This game also has a feature specific to spiders that makes them resemble less like spiders and more like something utterly bizarre or an otherwise dismembered spider, which I feel makes it worse. I don't know why games with arachnophobia modes seem to make the spiders even creepier even if they no longer resemble a spider. Generally, it's a survival game where you initially hit things with rocks then can craft the rocks into an axe that you can hit things even better with. Also you have half an hour to finish the mission laid out in the demo, which is doable, and then have enough time to try to run to the edge of the map, but it is a pretty big map.

Destroy All Humans! Remastered
For my machine not exactly meeting the minimum recommended specs in the graphics card department, the demo still ran pretty well, though with a lot of people showing up the sound would occasionally get crusty, so I could maybe drop a few more settings a little bit. Speaking of crusty sound, it seems like the VO quality seems to be pulled from the previous final product instead of any master tapes because it seems a bit noticeably compressed. At least they didn't go over all the lines with soundalikes. I played this a lot on the PS2, and it looks like they generally did fine with at least bringing up the first mission to modern expectations. There might even be checkpoints now, given how often the "saving" icon appeared, something that didn't happen until the second game to my recollection. Still a lot sooner than GTA ever managed. Now there's also things like skins, optional objectives, and it seems like upgrades are also extended a bit.

Controlling this with mouse and keyboard works pretty well for a game previously only on console, but there may be a lot of buttons to mess with going by the configuration menu, so how that works out in the heat of action may be something to consider. At least there's always the gamepad option, since precision aiming isn't really a concern when most weapons either lock on or do splash damage. The demo also allows you to go into free roam for the first mission after you beat it, on the level which is pretty much only used for that mission. I don't know why background music didn't queue up as I was blowing up the farm again, but at least they fixed the level to allow the last stage of the heat meter to work like the others would and summon the highest level enemies. It also acts like you could go to the next mission on a new level, but that just brings up the sell screen again. It does let you get a few upgrades though if you go get the required DNA, but you'll just be using the starting equipment and I don't know that the save would carry over to the full release. Long story short, this remaster thing seems to work out pretty well overall, at least from the one intro mission I played, and for the sake of convenience I may consider looking into this version to revisit the game if it turns out great and maybe some optimization stuff gets figured out as well.

There are some games which I also feel the need to mention yet didn't play the demos this time, where I've either seen someone give a demo a playthrough or I'd played a demo previously. Critters for Sale is almost beyond explanation, it's sort of like a 1-bit bitmap image yet significantly animated trippy experience that might have you searching for certain Russian songs. Ultra Strangeness is practically self-explanatory, a claymation abstract adventure game, like other abstract adventure games made of clay, but also not. Ultrakill is one of the latest offerings from New Blood, a publisher specialized in retro FPS as well as Faith which is not a retro FPS but still retro, and also claiming to hate money. The game itself is a fast-paced retro FPS of course involving a robot who must kill in style and gather all the blood for reasons. Gloomwood, also coming from publisher New Blood, is another retro FPS, but more on stealth and survival in a creepy stone town. It's also notable for getting its trailer shoved to the side during a certain PC Gaming Show. Of course, Skatebird keeps showing up, a game I've played two demos for, and an arcade-style skating game that I hope can resolve just enough jank to be as playable as a classic Tony Hawk game yet still keep its odd charm. There aren't enough games in that style being made, most indies seem to want to go the way of Skate instead. Genesis Noir, which I played last demo festival, deserves another mention for being... whatever it is. Very jazzy and abstract at least. Finally, one more shoutout for Spiritfarer, a nicely animated boat and crew management game that's probably going to be touching somehow, and also lets you hug those who want hugs.

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