October 11, 2020 (Originally posted on Neocities)
I keep on reviewing these demo festival things in the middle of me being busy with whatever I've made myself busy with at the moment because I'm fairly open to trying new games to see what they get up to. And even if the demos are really short, it at least gets me looking at them and understanding that there's still a number of interesting games in the sea of AAA things cranked out annually and cheaply compiled cash-ins on fads or assets. Once again, I'm looking at demos I haven't played yet, regardless of how many times they've showed up in these things, because there's definitely repeats for games that have yet to release.
Of Bird And Cage
I’m not really sure what this game was, but it seemed really indie at first. Then it was just weird. It claims to be some kind of album that’s also a game, but mainly you play as some woman who is addicted to nuclear cocaine like in Heavy Rain and there’s a dedicated button to inject drugs into your eye veins. The first time this comes up it locks into a tutorial where you can’t leave a certain spot, but you can constantly jump if you want and nobody pays any mind. Mostly I just jumped on top of everyone and everything I could, almost got stuck inside of a woman taking invisible drugs in the bathroom, saw a poster for a fictional movie that exists but in a completely different way than the poster which was maybe meant to be fake, and saw some guy whose 3D hair didn’t match up entirely with his 2D texture hair. The music doesn’t really kick in until later and then there’s a couple songs, where it seems like you’re stuck in a timed segment to maybe do something until the next part of the song. The story doesn’t really make sense, plus it has random QTEs throughout that are also very Heavy Rain in that you have to do weird things with different buttons, but I didn’t see any that necessitated moving joysticks around weirdly. Also somehow the background music was being sung by this one guy that was also in the game. Mostly the game is unclear on what to do, as at one point I had to move a case away from a dartboard, but I moved it away wrong and had to move it to a very specific spot instead. At another point I had to maybe open a door but couldn’t figure out how because it was a weird puzzle. I guess the game seems to think it’s like Heavy Rain but possibly a rock-like opera-esque thing. It’s an interesting idea but I don’t know about how it’s made to try to work in this game, and I’m still confused about the plot, plus random segments where the character runs around on some symbolic weird broken rock dimension.
Observer: System Redux
Here’s a demo of a game that already came out, but now this is an enhanced version. The original version seemed to be fairly well-received, so I figured this would be a chance to see this game for myself. It says it’s enhanced for super graphics and probably raytracing, things I don’t currently have. Fortunately, the game generally works fine, and thankfully allows me to turn off things like motion blur and that chromatic aberration that makes things hard to look at, but there always seems to be a faint film grain and the shadows looked a bit weird and pixelated on whatever settings I was doing. I did also have an issue with a “drunk mouse” in that I think there was some weird mouse look acceleration I couldn’t turn off, and that should be addressed so the game doesn’t need to be hacked to be more playable. For some reason, the demo starts off with a video of gameplay up to the point where it’s actually playable. Generally it’s a neat cyberpunk kind of game where it’s either a detective game, a walking simulator, or some kind of part out of nowhere where you have to hide from some monster for some reason. That last part isn’t something I’m looking for in a game, I’m tired of the arbitrary and out of nowhere “hide from everything or else you die” thing that keeps showing up in games. That also seems to be one of the critical complaints on the previous version, but those are game critics, so who knows. I would only hope that the game doesn’t lean heavily on stealth segments, even if they’re brief and possibly easy ones, let’s say even less than Spider-Man on the PS4 did, and likewise I hope the new Spider-Man game doesn’t have that when I’d eventually pick that up. However, the atmosphere and worldbuilding is still pretty cool. The demo felt kinda long, but I was kinda just messing with a bunch of stuff anyway, as the game lets you talk to a bunch of other people through TVs on their doors for the sake of interaction and immersion. Blade Runner is the obvious thing this is compared to, between the cyberpunk stuff and the possibly slow buildup, and fittingly enough it stars the late great Rutger Hauer who also starred in that film. I wonder how the story was extended here in this version, but apparently the demo may have moved some plot elements around for demo pacing, so I wonder how the game really plays. I am interested in the full game overall at least, and I wouldn’t be surprised if they later patched in a “no monsters that are the only way to get a game over in this game” mode like Soma had, another atmospheric story-focused but also kinda horror game.
Here’s a demo for a game that’s finally coming to Steam because it was one of those “Epic exclusive” games, and I heard practically nothing about it otherwise, good or bad. It wasn’t a meme game that showed up everywhere for a couple months, and I’m pretty sure they didn’t insult everyone on social media, so I’m taking that as a good thing, though not so good for sales. Therefore, this is really my first look and impression overall, which is probably a good way to go into a game, having no real prior knowledge. Overall from playing the demo, I get the impression that it’s a game like Antichamber, and I feel like this would have probably done fine on Steam because people generally use that store for more than one game, but it’s no longer new so people probably won’t want to buy this at full price and wait for it to be 5 dollars unless they “found” a copy elsewhere. I also finished the demo pretty quickly because I have a bunch of experience in cube and button games and their possible physics, even if this one has gravity altering mechanics to mix things up a little. This game seems fine and looks nice, but I wonder how much further we can go with weird indie reality-bending puzzle games along this vein.
Speaking of reality-bending puzzle games, here’s this thing out of nowhere. Unfortunately, this demo seems unfinished for a demo of a game that might be sold later on. No title screen or options, it just starts immediately and hopefully you can run it as-is. It really feels like someone figured out how to make Unreal Engine to do weird things but forgot to add things like a pause or settings or even a way to exit the game without having to use the classic Alt+F4 command. The demo feels very early, so I hope they have plans to continue development and make it quality. I’m not sure if they plan to have a narration or it’s just going to be quiet, either could possibly work. It’s also that weird genre that seems to have come up recently about “this game has glitches but it’s intentional and it’s all in square rooms” because I guess that’s taking off on YouTube, maybe, but I don’t go to the popular side of that site. I got tired of this after ending up in a few rooms and one of the rooms made the controls backwards, but there was a mirror I guess you have to use to figure it out, unless the demo just ends there, which maybe it did given its state. At least they kind of have reflections working without relying on RTX stuff, but I think that’s a standard Unreal feature, alongside the excessive motion blur and every other post-processing setting being on by default, because that’s meant to look “good” according to the engine creators who don’t even use those settings in excess on their own games. Well, single game now.
I definitely saved the best for last here. I saw a trailer for this and thought it was the funniest thing ever, because it showed off jostling cats and riding giant ones and also there's some orb cat. Well, after having played the demo, I think this may be contender for game of the year whenever it comes out. You play as one of two girls, and then the world is just filled with cats and sometimes other girls. But mostly cats, and there's a dog and a couple red pandas. You can ride the giant animals, or you can pick them up and jostle them like any other cat. There's also a few quests to do, but I think it's mainly about running a cat café. However, all the animals have physics, and therefore fun ensues. You can also wear a cat on your head, or put a cat on the heads of the rideable animals. You can end up with a mass of animals on top of other animals while holding another animals and this is fine. You can break the physics to glitch through the ground, but you can jump back up through a river. If you do the right amount of riding and jostling, you can end up turning into a polygon ball while the orb cat somehow starts rotating around an invisible center point far away from it and therefore flies all over the place. If you finish the tutorial, you get a magic broom that I couldn't figure out how to ride because I started talking to a distant cat boy again. I didn't need the broom, though, I had a conglomerate of magical animals and physics on my side. I think this demo is a must play, and this most likely also applies to the game. If this is the demo, I wonder what possibilities the full game will hold.
So that was games. Well, demos of games. I sure had fun at some points. There was also a demo for Pixel Puzzle Makeout League that I didn't play because I know I like picross, but this is also a dating sim somehow probably. I remember seeing a banner for this at MAGFest, the last convention I ever went to, for now, and what a convention to end on. Other than that, there's still quite a selection of demos, including the return of Gloomwood and Critters for Sale. And some have even been around outside of these feature windows. More games need demos, they can really drive interest. And not the kind of demos you have to actually buy the game first in order to play. Activision.