It's a place all right.

June 23, 2021 (Originally posted on Neocities)

Post-E3 June 2021 Demo Reviews

There are still very many demos out once again. I'm glad that the idea of demos are being thrown around more but would be nicer to not have such a short window to play them, especially with the societal necessity of a job and such. Regardless, I just grabbed a bunch of demos to see about getting through them all over a weekend. Full games can wait for a bit longer.

This first set I played on the Xbone I've had for several months now. Game Pass has been interesting, but a few more demos were highlighted on here that I must have missed when grabbing a handful from Steam, or maybe weren't there at all.

Scarlet Nexus
Here's an anime action game. After looking through the terms and conditions that are in Bandai Namco games now, I found that it of course involves anime characters, the option for Japanese voices instead of the dub if preferred, some weird augmented cyber reality thing while fighting monsters of some weird variety having strange names, and so on. It's flashy hack and slash combat. It seems fine for the game like it is. There's also a thing about trying to mix attacks with psychic powers to maintain combos and also environmental cues for special attacks. Fairly neat but not sure I'd be wanting to pick this one up. And of course the demo ends with a music video from a Japanese rock band.

Justice Sucks Recharged
I'm never sure if this game actually came out in any form or not, since the title implies it's a re-release or sequel or something. It's that one where a robot vacuum becomes murderous to protect the house from thieves. Then it gets weirder. Somehow the TV dimension gets involved again, and I guess that's how they keep it from being the same house always. It's also sort of a stealth game because of limited health and dash, not being able to at least trip someone up by ramming their feet even at normal vacuum speeds, and things that I feel keep it from being as fun as it could be. I would rather like to see this become more of a chaos game that results in wrecking the place more as collateral with no regard for anyone's safety and making the end of run cleanup more of a panic, including somehow getting the house generally clean, but there's not much of the house left. Maybe if they didn't even initially realize that the vacuum was a threat until they saw it was to play on fear. Stealth factors could actually play into that even after the fact, like how Batman does stuff in Batman games.

The Eternal Cylinder
Given that I wouldn't be picking up this game otherwise, I decided to see what it was anyway from the vague times I'd heard of it. It's sort of marketed as a survival game but it's more of a weird adventure game with survival stuff thrown on top. It involves a giant cylinder that flattens everything aside from special towers that have to be activated which hold it in place, and a group of alien creatures uses shapeshifting powers from eating random items to achieve various goals. It's weird and for all I know could be partly procedurally generated due to the layout of the world seeming that way, but an interesting concept at the base, though not quite the always on the run thing because it stops at the checkpoints when activated until leaving the safe zone. I do wonder, what if the cylinder moved at a slower and constant pace without stopping aside from entering dungeons and maybe brief holds at the towers without the safe zone mechanic, more of a slow burn than a frantic run to the next safe zone. I actually wonder if they tried that.

Faraday Protocol
Here's another first person puzzle game with a weird gun. This one grabs and shoots energy between places. It also takes place in space with some guy who ends up at a weird space station. I finished the demo pretty quickly since it's the opening puzzles after all. I have some experience with weird puzzle room thinking. Not the most, but a fair bit. Another thing about these puzzle games seems to be that they want to use the Unreal Engine or at least appear very shiny like it. Often such shiny puzzle rooms for some reason. I can think of several examples but can't seem to name them.

If you wanted to play an isometric Zelda clone as a tiny fox, this is the game. The text is either in some rune language or English and there's also bits of a game manual scattered throughout. It is a lot of figuring out what stuff does because of the rune language. That's really it, hit things with sticks and then swords and try not to die too much or else you lose the money which I don't even know if it does anything because a lot of the game is finding stuff out. Just use things on things. I found a dungeon and then stopped after a bit, as I kinda feel like I've played this sort of thing plenty before, and not just having played the classic Zelda games at times. Probably intentional, though, nostalgia is a strong factor in things.

This is a pretty typical-looking indie RPG involving a team of cupcakes and every other NPC and creature being some kind of pastry. There's a battle system involving a time meter and pausing for the next action, which also has a cast time and some sort of point system where using stronger attacks is unlocked after using weaker ones. There are also befriending actions which can be used when an enemy is weak enough to push one side of their health meter over the other side and keeps them from attacking further, and might also award something more, I'm not sure. Nobody seems to die here anyway so it's not that kind of moral bridge. It's all friendly and happy and I managed to crash the demo by trying to fish more than once. You can also pet a weird cat log cake. It's a pretty short demo and the few battles were easy enough I didn't need to use any healing items which are available anyway.

I didn't know what this was going in, and I'm still not entirely sure. I guess it's a farming and caring for random creatures kind of game, where the player character is followed by a weird cat character, unless they get stuck on a panel somewhere. Regardless I don't even really know what the cat thing does because I was able to do stuff without it, just finding random items and then having to feed a cloud tea, as in it just eats the whole tea, before throwing water at it to clean it. There are a bunch of clouds around the map just staring at each other across barriers like cliffs and fences, even if there's a way around it. I also found some spot where crossing into a dock just showed some bonding cutscene with the cat creature that I'm not sure did anything either. It's pretty strange overall, and I found keyboard mentions here and there. Maybe it really does work with keyboard and mouse on the console, because some games apparently support it, but I didn't feel like trying it.

This next set of demos I downloaded from Steam, which is apparently boasting over 700 demos. I do not have time to play 700 demos, so I grabbed far less than that. But still a lot.

Crisp Cube
This game is Intelligent Qube. That's pretty much it. It's Intelligent Qube but with a cartoon corgi as the player and the presentation is less imposing. Given that the original series is pretty scarce, it makes sense for an indie version of it to show up. If you want to play Intelligent Qube without dealing with a PlayStation Classic or region-locked digital stores or paying a fair sum for a physical copy, this is probably a good way about it.

Misc: A Tiny Tale
This is a 3D platformer starring tiny scrap robots collecting various collectibles and getting special collectibles for meeting challenges or poking around the right areas. The demo level was a tutorial level of course and its version of a challenge stage wasn't terribly difficult at all to me. The player robot also gets a safety pin as a weapon, which is used as a blunt object instead of unsheathing it for the pointy end. There were no enemies in the demo though, just objects that could be broken or hit. This game looks like a decently cute standard platformer, including double jumps and hovers.

Road 96
This game seems like a cross of a Telltale-like walking simulator and something like the Oregon Trail games, because it talks about how the journey is random each time and there's a short questionnaire that I guess determines the special abilities of the player, all on some journey to cross the border out of some fictional country that's a mix of a bunch of things, but largely resembles small-town Americana. The demo is also replayable in the sense of having different scenarios show up, I'm not sure how scripted they are though. Each had a ride segment including a minigame and a walking segment which either not much could happen or some story events could be triggered. It also tracks interaction levels with various characters, so getting higher rankings with those might do something to the overall game on repeated runs, or it's just completionist stuff. A neat indie concept of sorts.

A first-person shooter game that for whatever reason only has manual saves at typewriters because I guess it thinks it's part Resident Evil but has checkpoint autosaves on normal difficulty. I'm still the type that thinks a first-person shooter game on PC should really have quicksaves for the sake of experimentation. It wasn't a problem here, though, after the weird intro where I carried around a broken German radio for as long as I could because I wanted to, it jumped forward in the game to showcase a part where for whatever reason the player has to shoot a bunch of robots with guns, mostly humanoid but some aren't and I guess those use melee attacks. It was a fairly short demo with just one area of shooting.

A game that has a neat art style, though having other animations be smooth while the player's aren't is a bit weird if it's all in the same style. It's eventually about using a hoverbike to do stuff, though it starts with a slow one. I didn't get to the part of having a faster one because I got tired of having to deal with a task with limited spawns that seemed almost broken for whatever reason and I really wanted to see if it was possible to take that path on the task. Maybe the game gets more exciting later, but I would hope the climbing improves because it's pretty broken by sometimes constantly re-grabbing a ledge or not quite getting onto the wall a few times. I also kept finding some weird wiggle worms that turned into eggs. Maybe they're meant to be like Korok, I was getting a sort of Breath of the Wild idea the whole time.

Lawn Mowing Simulator
Of course I had to throw a crusty simulator in the demo pile. This one went better than the last one where a tutorial got stuck. After this demo crashed twice, I had to set it on the lowest graphical setting, which there's one of, because this is a high quality PC game with limited resolutions and everything, fresh from I could only assume a budget German studio because the violent video game ban there seemingly drove many studios to make so many simulator games because they managed to find a market there. Also the money is in Euros. Then I was able to figure out how to mow. It's mowing. That's it. Mowing involves trying to have an efficient method to not spend all the gas finding tiny missed spots and also not going on a rampage over other foliage. The fact that flowers can be mowed over is more carnage than a typical bus simulator where the people are just intangible.

Rainbow Billy: The Curse of the Leviathan
A strange game that looks like an old yet new style of cartoon and is about colorful goodness versus evil grayscale. It's kind of a basic platformer but also partially an RPG, where the battles are more just conversations to unlock the hearts of whoever's under the evil grayscale spell. It's very heavy handed on positive thinking versus supposed negative reality, and I'm not sure if it's going to take a weird twist later on in the story or what the end point would be, if it's going to stick to good manners or get weirder. Given it comes from a publisher known for publishing comics, not sure if it has any ties to comics either.

I saw a bit of this game before in a trailer and figured to give it a look. It's pretty much a photography adventure game where the player, as some kind of bird-looking person, goes around to take photos and do other tasks not necessarily related to photos. Reminds me a bit of when I played Eastshade earlier this year, but with a camera instead of being a speed painter. It's very cute and in grayscale, yet not the evil kind of grayscale, clearly. There's a lot of activities in each area in which to figure out the mysteries and see what to do about photography.

This last group of demos I also downloaded from Steam, but these were either made for VR or are VR-compatible so I played them in VR mode. I've been pretty interested in the possibilities of VR for some time now so I like to see if there's anything cool coming out of that.

Iron Rebellion
Of course I had to check out a mech game with VR support. They seem to have the controls down fairly well, but it's labeled as a "public alpha" so it's a pretty early one. I only saw two modes, practice, which allows learning how the mech moves better, and wave survival, which is like practice but with very basic AI enemies. So basic in fact that they just wander toward the player and attack when they have line of sight. Given that the level for the demo has a structure the player mech can fly on top of and the AI ones don't know how to do that, it can become more just getting onto the structure, dropping down and blasting once all the enemies are in one spot, and getting back to the roof. Again, work in progress. It does seem like it has good potential though and I hope it gets realized in full. I think it's even meant to have multiplayer at some point. If there was a bit more variety in mechs and additional weapons to equip and switch to mid-battle, but not too many, it'd be about perfect in that alone.

This game is meant to be a serious and thoughtful take on being an executioner while being immersive in VR. Meant to be. Maybe I'm just not exactly in the right mindset to take things too seriously, particularly given a few things about this game. All the graphics are in blues and purples and such other odd colors, including pink or purple blood, I guess to not make it so disgusting to those who have issues with performing virtual beheadings. What really got me though is the ability to just smack around the NPCs as they're talking and they don't really react to it aside from falling over sometimes and still getting up with no problem. I discovered how weird the physics can be in the practice mode, so I took that into the main demo. The initial part in some guy's office I spent grabbing random paper rolls, which the NPC did take offense to, and smashing his face with a skull, which he just kept going on like nothing. After signing a contract, which didn't really work because it just splattered a bunch of dots on the paper, it's at the scene of an execution. I spent the whole lead-up to when the player's meant to do their job shoving everyone else off the stage as they flopped around, then knocked the criminal's head off after a couple tries, and just as it was ending the scene, I also knocked the head off the guy who was leading the execution because I wanted to see if I could. It had no consequences and the demo ended after I made an attempt to clean off the sword in a dark void room. It was a short demo, but the problem I have to say something about that the movement is really broken on Index controllers at least, because it keeps trying to move forward while turning so it was hard to actually go where I wanted to, and no other option to fix them. Long story short, if a game has funny ragdolls and reactive NPCs, I may just screw with that a lot and not take anything seriously, but by no means should those features be removed. Leave the NPC physics, fix the motion, and I might just pick this one up soon enough.

This game really seemed like the essential "help I got a VR for some reason and don't know what to do with it" thing. The player is in a fixed position, to the point where trying to move or rotate or touch anything other than the triggers even just resets to the main menu without warning. Included in the demo are three experiences, which consisted of standing in a spot and shooting blocky zombies then aliens, standing in a spot and shooting slow moving spells at not blocky zombies then a witch, and sitting in a car driven by a toy robot dinosaur while other dinosaurs are there and clicking flashlights at them. It seems very basic and the guy at the end of the dinosaur ride had an accent that confused me as to what it even was. It also claims that there's a new experience every month. It feels like the kind of thing that would have come out when the Oculus was a new thing.

Paranormal Detective: Escape from the 90's
This is an escape room type of game, where the player visits the 90s I guess, maybe, or some places that were just around in the 90s. It doesn't look like it takes place in the actual 90s though because there's a fake iPhone and recent memes throughout to try to be funny. Long story short it feels like they didn't entirely know what the 90s were once again while having to look at literally everything in the room to try to figure out the code to the next door, which always seems like the last part to advance. It felt altogether obtuse, required the usual teleport and snap turn controls without finding a way to change those up, though it at least recognized my controllers for what they were and they worked fine, and also like a grab at what the 90s may have been, which I've seen quite often. One puzzle required getting a claw machine to work out in favor, which that always goes well in full sarcasm, but at least being able to see the important bit on it didn't require taking it out of the machine.

The Secret of Retropolis
This is a point and click sort of thing in VR, to where it's specifically a seated requirement and just pointing at things in the room to click at them. However for whatever reason it wasn't picking up my right controller consistently but mashing the trigger a bunch would maybe make it work. It was the game, anything other than it picked up the trigger fine. The demo was very short and really came down to clicking the right thing after poking around the whole room. There was even a cheap mirror to show that the player is controlling a robot, which I personally see a lot of that already in VRChat, but usually in better quality unless someone made an extra crusty mirror as a joke. Naturally, if a character in some demo experience has limbs in a VR mirror, I try to contort them the best I can without contorting myself too much.

So these were demos, I even played them on more things than just Steam in regular form this time. Some interesting finds and some finds that I guess were interesting to find at least, as such a long weekend dive into them can come up with. I still wish it wasn't such a limited timeframe to do so, but I guess they want to replicate trade shows more. At least we are getting more demos than before would usually do.

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