It's a place all right.

February 28, 2022 (Originally posted on Neocities)

Steam Next Fest February 2022 Demos

More demos happened, I decided to take a look once again with the limited time I had to do so. This time I at least found some more VR ones.

This first set is all the non-VR stuff, so what someone might call “normal games” I guess. Except that they’re all odd indie games.

Albert Wilde: Quantum P.I.
Another cat noir adventure game, this time at least it looks a bit more like noir with its black and white film filters and I think might be trying for a stop motion model look, except sometimes some motions are 60 FPS. Also the film filter looks kinda compression crusty like a low res MP4 or something, which is a bit weird. The main character in this one is also one to make a bunch of comments, several of which being about six nipples or the anus, and I was wondering if a certain person on YouTube known for comments around that sort of thing or an impersonator of such was voicing the cat. As far as voice acting, only the cat’s monologues are voice acted and the rest is just weird-filtered animal noises. Seems okay but not sure where it’s really going as the demo just ends mid-way in a tunnel. Also there weren’t any settings for mouse sensitivity in this game, and it’s set very low so having to keep moving the mouse back to the other side of the pad isn’t a good thing here.

One of those puzzle games that involves putting things on buttons, but this one also involves projecting light at door switches. The basics are fine, but then some things just end up being weird, like it turns out there’s a certain kind of switch for a cube, which can have another type of cube inserted into the cube, to make that switch actually do something. Maybe it didn’t help I may have been doing puzzles out of order because I couldn’t find the one marked as the first, so I went to the fourth, but maybe it was the second in the list? There’s apparently something about also manipulating time and maybe other things. However the demo crashed at some random point in the second puzzle I attempted, and since demos don’t have saves really, I just left it there. Also it had some list of player choices in the main menu but I’m not really sure what those are aside from the game just randomly asking about gender, if that was even one of those. I feel like it was doing okay aside from the lack of clarity on what a thing does and where the puzzle rooms are in the hub levels it’s apparently going to use.

A visual novel with some puzzles to it, a very weird artsy style about an organization that fixes “bugs” in people’s minds by filling their heads with flowers or something like that. The puzzles seemed to be figuring out the right word in a sequence that’s just dimmer on the screen and a typing segment later on. A pretty interesting approach though I’m not sure how far this could go in the full game, as the demo seemed fairly short when completing the case for it. However, I also read quickly.

Some kind of open survival game that’s a bit like Spore in that creatures can be customized a bit, but with more limited placement of some parts and it’s only the creature phase from what I can tell. I wasn’t exactly sure what I was doing in this, and then it also randomly crashed after my third attempt in figuring out what I was supposed to do with a creature. Because the crashes I was getting involved graphics drivers according to the system reports, I started looking into this as a potential deeper issue with my hardware.

A Tale of Paper
It’s one of those indie puzzle platformers that has just a creepy enough angle to it for it to stand out maybe I guess, but not outright horror like Limbo or Little Nightmares. The character can switch to forms with different abilities. In this case there’s frog and ball, and neither can move freely, but the frog can at least jump higher. The first thing the demo did was try to run in VR, which it’s not a VR game, so I had to set the usual “-nohmd” setting for games that forget to fix that. The second thing is the camera somehow getting stuck on the first room so there was a weird angle where I could see other parts of the house and a blue void, so I had to reset the level early on to get the camera unstuck.

This game is somehow both similar to Pikmin, most obviously, and a bit of Mario Odyssey or possibly Chibi-Robo in terms of exploration and verticality as well as collectibles and sidequests. Similar premise to Pikmin where a small humanoid astronaut lands in an Earth environment, but instead of having to survive a hostile environment, everything’s friendly and it’s mostly bugs the player talks to. Also all the characters are some kind of sprite instead of full 3D models that show off the power of the GameCube, more of a Live2D style so it looks vaguely 3D-ish but it’s still flat. This also has the effect of having the player character look like they’re running backwards when going straight forward. The gameplay is essentially gathering small creatures to move things, or sometimes explode them. The thing about the explosive ones is they’re just used like bombs so the player has to get more if they run out, but it seems like there’s plenty to gather for anything that can be blown up.

This next set of demos is for VR games, and this time they all seem to be specific to VR.

The Last Taxi
This demo was just weirdly broken for me. Twice it crashed the graphics card so hard that it took the system with it, and I actually had to diagnose the system to make sure it would still run things enough to get through the rest of these demos. I feel like the program itself was doing something really weird and unoptimized, particularly in the garage scene. Also, for some reason, it just refused to understand where I was in the playspace by default, so I had to space-drag myself over to the console that has to be messed with to start the game. Space-dragging is this thing I do in VR, when access to a certain part of the virtual world is limited due to my limited physical space, to just virtually move my origin point in a method that’s essentially noclipping over to something. I use OVR Advanced Settings to accomplish this as a standard plugin. So I was also fighting with that in the process of trying this demo, hopefully not having broken my defaults to a weird position to keep it from resetting every few seconds. I feel like that wasn’t due to any graphics hardware issue, but who knows, it really should be able to pick up where the player is regardless. The actual playing of the demo went pretty slowly, with awkward pauses in dialogue, especially when I was trying to get out of the part of the demo that kept crashing me. The actual gameplay itself, after the long time it gets to get there, is pretty much just interacting with things at a station while the car drives itself. Pretty basic gameplay. I feel it wasn’t worth nearly bricking my PC, though hardly anything would be.

Ziggy’s (Not So Good) Cosmic Adventures
Yes, that’s the title, at least according to the logo, and it’s concerningly fitting and possibly self-aware. This game felt like pretty generic early VR because it tasks the player with doing a bunch of random stuff all at once while in a chair. It really felt more like that Steel Battalion game for Kinect because half the time I was grabbing or pushing something I wasn’t meaning to. Also the significance of the titular Ziggy is to be cloned and then killed to fill batteries, and then ejected into space, which may or may not work because the ragdoll sticks to everything. The core gameplay is just to get to some point in space, but the flight is restricted to a tunnel to keep from getting lost I guess. Also for some reason the default flight controls were set up so pushing the control up made the ship go up, instead of the usual actual controls that manage a flight as far as I’m aware where pulling back goes up, and that could apparently be changed, but wasn’t pointed out. The initial tutorial left a lot out, as in where the hell anything was beyond putting batteries in things, and how to fix specific issues with the ship as it gradually gets shot at, because there’s a ton of random controls to mess with that might result in spinning around so much a player can end up strangled by the cord. Maybe this was designed for Quest in mind, since the game did run really well and didn’t break my PC.

This is more of a music generation app of some kind that puts instruments in a physical space. After figuring out how to actually move things around to interact with them, I was capable of making an obnoxious looping sound of every instrument going off at once. I figure in more talented hands it can make some interesting electronic type stuff. For what it is, it seems to get the job done. Not much else to say here, it’s some virtual space music playground thingy with export functions.

We Are One
It’s the idea of using time loops to clone the player to do things together, but also has the importance of resource management as well as time limits so it becomes high pressure. Player spots are stuck in a fixed location and can turn either with the snap option I find disorienting or the smooth option which is really slow unless both joysticks are used to turn for some reason. However I didn’t really do turns anyway. The objective is to shoot all the things without running out of ammo, pretty much, and of course it has to be shared by tossing stuff to another player location. Interesting concept but it seems to lean toward someone knowing exactly what they’re doing, and then there’s leaderboards which seem to point toward speedrunning things.

These are the demos I had just enough time to review before the weekend was up and while my PC manages to hold out. Interesting ideas, not sure if I’ll get anything in this though. I still feel like developers are trying to figure out what VR is good for while a few have managed to find things that work great in it, yet that message hasn’t quite propagated. Out of these demos, I feel like Tinykin and Mindhack were the most interesting, and might also have a decent likelihood of running on an older graphics setup if I was stuck with such a thing for a very long time while waiting for prices on graphics cards to not be absurd. Perhaps a console.

(Back to blog index)