It's a place all right.

February 9, 2021 (Originally posted on Neocities)

Steam Game Festival February 2021 Demo Reviews

This one doesn't have a season attached, it's the eternal winter or something, I don't know. I ended up skipping a previous set of demos because not much interested me from it, but now there's a lot I saw again that at least got my attention. And this is in the midst of doing a bunch of home type stuff like attempting to predict a giant game or looking into subscriptions for everything because there's the chance to trial them and so on. Just always looking for time to do things or not do things or so on. So here's a bunch of demos I played, even on stream because I felt like streaming a bit, too.

Balan Wonderworld
A weird NiGHTS-esque game mainly in style, but it's largely a generic-looking platformer type thing it turns out. The core of the game is playing as some kid who wears different outfits. Those outfits usually grant powers to platform with, but it also sometimes results in a random minigame for some reason. There are also other minigame segments involving QTEs that are sometimes hard to read if you're expecting one type instead of another because it's not the most clear. You have to be able to tell one anime effect from the other. Also the hub world is called the Isle of Tims, full of birds named Tim I guess. Somehow the goal of this is a bit like Chao and the Nightopians, where it's about raising the birds by feeding them gems so they can power a crank wheel that gradually makes a tower appear. I'm not sure what the point of the tower is. I spent the demo mainly either confused on where I was going because the levels seemed to loop around and I thought I was stuck but wasn't, or using "gamer instinct" to easily solve puzzles and even a boss. Interestingly, the boss in this demo allowed different approaches to inflict damage. Speaking of damage, I'm not even sure if I took any, or if it's possible to take any. The game seemed generally easy, but it was the initial levels. Who knows if this actually goes anywhere, though.

SkateBIRD (once again)
A new demo, now featuring a more specific gameplay focus, involving goals to tackle in levels of some type. I do see it being cleaned up since the last time, because I wasn't really able to get the bird into a spaghetti format, and the level didn't lag excessively trying to reboot the whole game when leaving the level. It also controls a bit more sensibly. However, it's something that reminds me a bit of LittleBigPlanet, where you have a game that has very physics-y controls and movement and trying to adhere rigid goals to it that require the physics and controls to cooperate better. I understand the game is a bit of a parody in its approach, but I feel like having the path to the next level potentially get in the way of itself is an issue. The hitboxes for collectibles, for one instance, felt tiny, and it was difficult to get onto a grind in the right direction. Also, the level felt a bit difficult to navigate but also a bit empty, since there was only one quest giver active at a time and the camera felt a bit low. It felt a bit less like a park designed around the idea of a rooftop and more just like a rooftop with park elements. Maybe things to be adjusted in time, but for all I know the game is releasing soon. It could be fun, but I guess we'll see where it ends up. I wish more developers were willing to take on the Tony Hawk formula for skate games rather than just only trying to follow up on Skate. I can only hope the Switch version is optimized and runs well, and isn't outsourced to a quick turnaround developer team that turns the draw distance down to 2 to max the FPS up to 5.

Squadron 51
The side-scrolling shoot-em-up genre isn't my favorite and I'm bad at it. However I had to give this game a chance due to its presentation, which is a 50s-era B-movie style, including live action cutscenes and graphical style choices to make it look like it's filmed with the then state-of-the-art effects. It still looks video game-y to me, but they did a pretty good job with it. They even do a "cue mark" effect to warn about enemies from the back to make it fit without being glaring. Also, I got to experience the thing where a game is configured weirdly and just automatically loads up VR when it's not even a VR game, and then search around for the launch option to turn that off so it would run correctly. Long story short, it's "-nohmd" for Unreal games at least.

This is essentially a game like Pokémon Snap, while there's an upcoming actual new game of that kind, indie versions have started showing up recently. This features taking pictures of strange creatures and being ranked on them while moving on a set path. The film seems infinite from what I could tell, maybe limited only by RAM, and then there are random minigames to attempt to play while not going out photographing, given as quests from the photographed creatures. Of course there are also hidden paths to unlock and events to trigger to find more creatures. It is very much like Pokémon Snap, now playable with the mouse. Sometimes mouse aim is all you need.

Builder Simulator
Another one of those simulator games that simulates a job in both excruciating yet limited detail. I started by picking up a bunch of cement bags after noticing that trying to move while picking things up caused the player model to bend weirdly. Then I followed the directions to start building a house, maybe. I got stuck when it asked me to find a shovel, because the shovel seemed to have disappeared. Maybe in my attempt to grab things by clicking on them or flinging cement bags around, the shovel got knocked somewhere unreachable. I couldn't even use an alternative shovel that was stuck in a plant because it wasn't usable. Also I had instructions on clicking to use things always on the screen. And when I tried to give feedback on the game, it took me to a Steam activity feed page instead. Long story short, a weird and broken simulator that's probably great for YouTube, but it is an early on game it seems.

Stay Out of the House
I'm not sure if this was a demo for the actual game or just some other standalone thing, because there was no house. Therefore, objective complete. The demo was just messing around in a gas station for what felt like an hour, sweeping every single surface I could climb on and trying to break the front door so it would get stuck. Eventually all the doors were open for some reason. It felt like another hour before there was suddenly a loud noise monster and the demo was over. I feel like this demo was meant for YouTubers to make dumb thumbnails on from being mainly nothing and then random spooky thing. Also, being a Puppet Combo game, I had to fix the video settings so I could actually see instead of having a bunch of fake VHS crust layers on a PS1 game. Like how it's actually hard to read text with all the filters on.

Gal*Gun Returns
This sure is a game. I actually played this more as a joke, but long story short it's a rail shooter where you score headshots on random anime girls who yell Japanese letters at you. And then the game keeps trying to make you do upskirt shots. And then there's randomly a tentacle monster who captures a girl because of course there is. Having the mouse for the game makes it easy, but it sure doesn't make navigating the menus easily as it has to be done with the arrow keys and such. It's very much a console port to PC, including the very limited resolution choices and how it somehow started in a windowed mode while also being the correct fullscreen resolution. Expect a bunch of patches on launch, and not just the usual "18+ super naked bonus patch because we swear these girls are all legal" thing.

Copy Editor
To the effect of eating a whole potato after the last demo, I decided to play this game that is pretty much work. It's all about regular expressions. You know, those weird code things that you use when you have 99 problems and then you have 100 afterward. I guess it's meant to teach you about how to use them, but I've hardly been able to learn because they're so weird, and even using a website I normally use for work or attempting to adjust web stuff on my main computer, I still get lost. It's certainly an idea for a game, but yeah, it's one that needs a lot of thinking and messing around.

Ice Cream Truck
The game has a simple name and also appears to be Korean. This guy drives an ice cream truck, drives off a cliff, and ends up in a weird animal kid land. Somehow the ice cream now has powers to alter emotions, like some weird mind control ice cream. Also there's a point where you have to wait around while holding a balloon, but nothing actually happens and you have to lose it and then Spider-Man 2 flashbacks happen. It's a very weird game. For some reason the demo had achievements.

Time Loader
A game about a man in a wheelchair spending his life's work to develop AI robots and time travel so that he'll never end up in a wheelchair and possibly result in some kind of paradox. As the physics-based grabber robot who keeps making comments to himself, you drive and hop around levels to get through them and perform minor acts of vandalism to alter the timeline. Somehow the ideas to solve these recurring causes involve breaking the sink disposal and shutting off power to the entire house, and then suddenly the robot warps to the future for I don't know why. Then the demo ends. It was weird. The store page said it would have nostaligic music from the 90s but I didn't really hear anything. I would doubt they'd get licensed songs anyway.

If you like Call of Duty Zombies, this game is pretty much that. But with toys. That's really it. It's a thing where parts of the map can open up and upgrades are bought and somehow the melee weapon is much better than the guns. Don't have much else to say on this.

Tamarindos Freaking Dinner
A very Sunday game by the looks of it. It's weird, incredibly referential to the 90s, the demo was short once I figured out the hidden thing I was supposed to do, it's just a lot of weirdness. I also wasn't sure if the player character was a monkey or made of cheese.

I guess that's what games are today, at least ones that aren't just the same games as before. I'm always looking to play new kinds of things if they interest me enough. Or older stuff. I still wonder about the future of games, and I also didn't see much in the way of VR demos that really got my attention either. I would hope that the pinnacle of VR gaming doesn't stop at the likes of Half Life Alyx and Boneworks and whatever something like VRChat would count as.

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