It's a place all right.

July 10, 2022 (Originally posted on Neocities)

Steam Next Fest June 2022 Demos

Yep, it’s demo time again, or at least it was when I wrote this initially before getting sidetracked with everything else. I grabbed a whole lot of demos this time and worked through them over the weekend they were available as I was catching up on everything else over that week. Also, since I’ve replaced the graphics card in my big gaming PC since the last demo session, things are running better and I’m hoping for less crashes, but this is a review of incomplete games after all, so anything is possible. It’s also nice that graphics cards can be found at reasonable prices again so we can play games as intended with them instead of exercising raw greed on everyone to sell monkeys that aren’t actual monkeys. For the record it wasn’t much of an upgrade since I went for something with roughly the same graphics power, except since it’s newer it also has lower power draw and raytracing. Yay. I have attempted to see what raytracing does in games. I’m still not quite sure yet. The most difference I saw so far was in Minecraft on a demo map. Because why not render cubes in omega HD 69K or whatever. I don’t even have 4K. It’s a 1200p monitor at a slightly different aspect ratio. That’s just what I’ve got for the big screen.

First, the non-VR demos. I think I picked more here than I’ve done for most previous demo rounds entirely. The WiiWare demos are definitely still the most I’ve covered as a group, as I grabbed every single one I could find there.

Agent 64: Spies Never Die
The first demo I tried of this list, since I’d also seen someone play it beforehand and essentially knew what to expect even more. It’s an FPS, but I played with a controller to see how they handled the clear Goldeneye 64 style they went after. Speaking of clear, they fortunately had a method to turn off the “retro” filters so I could actually see. Controlling with the controller seemed about on model, but aim mode felt weirdly sensitive, and I couldn’t adjust the setting any lower with the controller, so I ended up not using it a lot of the time. Even though we’re at the point where replicating Goldeneye 64 is a thing in indie retro style now, I don’t exactly see this taking off like things in the style of Doom or Quake as this game is slower paced and people usually like to play FPS with a mouse on PC, as far as I can tell. I at least usually do.

I saw a trailer for this one that got my interest so I figured I’d look into it. It starts up setting the initial settings which leads right into the game as it’s the OS assisting with the settings. At first it looks like a walking simulator but adds puzzles later on so it’s more of a puzzle room game. It involves the old OS not wanting to update and the player being the bringer of the update but also having a possible interest in not carrying on with the update. There’s random tech references, like the object giving out puzzle hints being a talking rubber duck and certain game inputs being system commands, but advanced tech stuff doesn’t seem to be required knowledge to progress in the game. If this turns out well I might want to check out the full game.

Being a Penguin
A weird simple graphics game about being a penguin, except the penguin doesn’t seem to want to be one. I was expecting controller support but it didn’t seem to work. The palette is very pastel and also there’s incredible bloom on anything shiny to the point where it blinds out half the screen at certain angles. There’s also a bit of an angle with jumping and ragdolling into things which could be expanded on to make the game more fun and trying to cause a chain reaction of ragdolling penguins, kind of like the weird system in L.A. Noire, but I couldn’t get more than one other penguin to ragdoll at a time. There’s a map in the corner, but it’s not very useful, and it took a while to find where all the animals were to talk to in the demo. After that the demo is finished, but I didn’t know it until I saw very light pink text in the corner saying the demo was complete, hard to see against the pastel everything else. I think this one might need some more work, maybe making some surfaces less blinding and the map more useful.

Monuments Flipper
I figured I’d check out a general simulator kind of thing. Or several. This one has a weird name, as if someone’s going to repair monuments worldwide to sell them at a profit to people who want to rent them out, but it seems to be more about restoring historical sites in France. The game follows a strict tutorial where things have to be done a certain way in a certain order, so that’s not a great first impression. Also the tutorial is sometimes confusing and hard to read, plus there’s trying to click on very tiny objects, or at least objects with weird hitboxes. Also there’s the mechanic of needing to use AR hologram stuff to set up tables to do other things. This doesn’t seem to be my type of thing at all and it felt pretty boring.

Pocket Wheels
This is a driving game set in a house driving all around rooms that have tracks and things set up. Maybe a bit like Forza Horizon style but compartmented. Maybe closer to Tony Hawk 4 and similar. SkateBIRD, perhaps, but with more control. Given I was already playing Forza Horizon 5, I kinda thought there should be a bit more borrowed from that game, like more things to do that aren’t just time trial races, and it does have a variety of things to find and do, but maybe just a touch extra. Also there’s a boost mechanic that doesn’t really make sense in the free roam mode because using boost means having to find one of the few locations it’s placed in the room to refresh it. This might make sense during a race or some other event, but in free roam it should be a lot easier to renew, like having more drops or even recharge over time. Also I kept getting the car stuck in holes that were hard to escape from, but I managed it every time. They weren’t even really deep holes, and it kept happening. That shouldn’t happen so easily. I think this one needs more polish especially with navigating around the levels, a few more things to do in the levels, and hopefully expand the music selection if the demo selection of music is all they have in the game. It was mainly a set of chiptune and indie general stuff from one artist I think and it seemed mostly okay.

Slayers X: Terminal Aftermath: Vengance of the Slayer
Yes, “vengance” is correctly spelled incorrectly. This is apparently a game from some former Hypnospace kid who finally got around to releasing it, and it’s pretty much what you’d expect for an old school FPS type thing. If you don’t know what Hypnospace is/was, I’m going to once again recommend checking out Hypnospace Outlaw. This does still work out of context though, if you consider the angle worked at here for a teen into dark edgy rock type music and violent skull imagery and various toilet humor and other such notebook scribblings of the time. The style is top notch as far as capturing that attitude, but generally it’s a classic style FPS. I feel like this should work for fans of that, but I wonder just how deep the game will go into the subject matter.

Android Simulator
This is another work simulator, but at least a little more interesting and functional. Still, I had issues trying to get it to run at the correct resolution at first but managed to get it after reloading the demo. Apparently simulating an android means having one just run around a spaceship tending to fans and plants. Part of that involved repairing a circuit board, which had to be done zoomed in precisely, and due to not being able to remap some controls, means holding down the middle mouse and clicking on certain dots, so that’s not comfortable. Also the arrows pointing to what to replace didn’t seem entirely lined up so it took some guesswork to figure out exactly what it was asking. Also some of the language is a bit confusing and sometimes highlighting a path to the next objective still highlights a previous object. The demo mentioned a “musical reward” for completion, and that turned out being going into a “techno room” to play some generic techno music. This sure is a demo I guess.

Metal: Hellsinger
I was a bit skeptical of this one from the footage, as I was wondering how having to fire and pump a shotgun to the beat of a song would even work. It seemed awkward. Actually having played the demo, it works a fair bit better in action than what the demo was showing. The gameplay is generally modern Doom involving slaying many demons, while also apparently playing as some kind of demon, including the glory kill mechanic to get item drops. Ammo seems to be infinite, despite needing to reload some weapons, so it’s mainly just dropping health. The main thing is that attacks should be done to the beat to be effective, as well as many other actions, and getting a high combo going brings in the vocal track. There also seems to be a limited continue system to spend score points on reviving. The demo was pretty well made, and if the game has that same level of polish and action or better then this could turn out pretty well.

Fech the Ferret
This was a weird random pick. For starters, the ferret stands on two legs unless they’re running long enough, then they run like a typical ferret. Also they’re bright pink and the rest of the world is a bit of a neon pastel, but still able to tell where things are. As for where to go, I had no real clue so I was just running around the world, avoiding weird pollen trees that make the ferret make sneezing noises when running under them, at least as far as I could tell, and going onto stuff. Running around places can be interesting but I’m not even sure if there was a goal here or how to locate it. This game might need some work in that department.

Restaurant Simulator
For some reason, this crusty looking Unreal project was under the VR section. It’s not a VR game, but it does try to start any plugged in headsets if not toggled off in the launch options using “-nohmd”. This takes place in some strange restaurant building asset full of bikini women either sitting and eating, standing and talking, or wandering around randomly. Outside there’s some kind of beach skybox and some random white boxes. My first attempt after fixing the VR launch thing ended when I got stuck in a chair. The player character is a bikini woman as well. The second attempt went slightly better, not getting stuck until somehow getting stuck in a plant that caused immense lag for some reason while being stuck in it. Before that, I attempted to order something, which didn’t really work, “talked” to various specific bikini women and had two options that could be spammed so the obvious text to speech could overlap itself, one of which calls the player “cootie” and the other has them agree to a date that never happens, eventually that “talking” feature broke entirely so I also tried sitting in some chairs and realized I could jump while sitting and maintain the sit pose as seen in some reflection. Long story short, this is a perfect example of the kinds of things people use to point out the flaws of the Steam store given how there’s a ton of generic shovelware like this, and I’m not even sure the “full game” would go much past the demo. Though I expected this going in just by how it looked and felt like just checking out a really crusty demo.

Grand Theft Gato: Vice Kitty
I tried using an Xbox controller for this, but it was bound wrong in a way that I think that this may have been designed with a PS4 controller instead. I just decided to use keyboard and mouse. I also went through the tutorial in the order I saw the cats, and that mostly worked, except for some reason I guess I was somehow supposed to ignore all of them and go to the one at the end first according to how the quests were laid out. Also for some reason you have to manually turn in quests from the menu instead of just getting the rewards. It seems pretty basic in gameplay and execution, also for some reason jumping over a fence to knock over a giant Christmas tree caused some random NPC to shoot at the cat off-screen and I couldn’t even see where they were. Long story short it’s kinda what I expected, nothing too deep.

This was billed as a kaiju dating simulator so I was already interested. You also play as one, specifically the cute pink dragon that’s legally distinct from Godzilla, and can pick one of several other kaiju across the map. It also allows picking destinations to visit and level. I ended up going with the giant moth and rampaged across North America. There’s not much dialogue in the game, as it’s not a full-on visual novel, and the most text was in the news breaks between levels that sort of gave hints on the preferences of the chosen date. The gameplay is mainly seeing how compatible the player kaiju, giving answers to questions, would be with the date, and maybe ending with them making out. Overall this is pretty cute but I also wonder what depth this game will go, if one is meant to stick with one date or can possibly go for everyone, or maybe some other form of polygamy or friendship with a smaller circle depending. Or if it goes to the moon or something. I played a game sorta recently that ended up doing that but with dogs. And not coins.

LEGO Brawls
I had barely heard about this game existing so I decided to see what it was. Generally it seems to be a sidescrolling beat up type game with weird powerups that I’m not sure really do much. Pretty basic gameplay. I guess the main progression is unlocking more things to customize the minifigures, but that also seems slow, so I’d anticipate there being a lot of microtransaction potential for that. However modern multiplayer games have been taken over by passes and skins and whatnot that draws away from the actual gameplay experience. Meanwhile I must be pretty old-school for thinking I just want to pick a funny lizard or robot skin from the start where they’re generally all already there, and can even mod others in, and then play some kind of Half-Life or Quake or Unreal style thing involving bouncing around at 10000 MPH with rocket lasers covering the whole level. And if they manage to put that in VR and have it work I’m sold. So, yeah, long story short, I played one match of this Lego game, wasn’t even sure if it was bots or not, and decided I still don’t really care for multiplayer stuff in the modern sense.

The Many Pieces of Mr. Coo
A point and click adventure type with a lot of expressive animation, which was what got my attention. The demo was pretty short, but was interesting even with its one major puzzle. It also seems to be the style of game that doesn’t rely heavily on inventory puzzles and is more just interacting with things.

Spark the Electric Jester 3
This is definitely inspired by Sonic to the point where the game really looks like a Sonic game down to the font and most of the gameplay, including weird random gimmicks. For some reason the first level started out with driving a car. Then it actually got to the main gameplay and seemed okay, except for whatever reason the game was doing something weird with the display so it kept blanking out for a second whenever it would try to play a video, even when it wasn’t set to fullscreen. And given there are a lot of tutorial things at the beginning, it was getting distracting. If it wasn’t for that I’d have enjoyed the demo a little more. There were some points where it wasn’t entirely clear where to go next, and the general homing attack used for things uses two buttons and sometimes didn’t seem to go due to some factor, possibly speed, that wasn’t met. It’s a bit weird in execution that way, but maybe that makes it more authentic in terms of being a Sonic-like game.

Now, the specifically VR demos. Weird thing is, only two of these five worked correctly, and out of the three that didn’t work, I only managed to get one of those to work somewhat.

BrVR Backrooms Virtual Reality
This was one of the broken ones, because it somehow wasn’t set up to actually run from Steam, but I found the program in the folder and could run it there. It’s pretty telling of the quality of the thing itself and I really didn’t expect much going into this, especially given the overall “normalization” of the backrooms as they are now. We somehow went from “unknown poorly lit location where you don’t know what could happen” to “maze with a bunch of crap laying around and generic monsters and also it has a bunch of layers that look totally different and I guess space is involved somehow”. The fact that this program kind of works is at least something it has. However, maybe due to having to launch it differently, all the controls were bound weirdly so I couldn’t turn and the menu and jump buttons seemed misplaced. I had to use playspace drag turn like I’ve mentioned before to turn without strangling myself in the headset cord and also the character physics were weirdly elastic, which could easily make those less accustomed to VR vomit all over the floor. Also I somehow got stuck in the wall of an elevator at some point, and there’s just weird cases where a ton of items spawn on top of the player. There’s also a bunch of weird guns like water guns and balloon guns like from Garry’s Mod and also lasers, and it’s hard to pick up the right thing when there’s a bunch of things in a pile, even with stuff attached to the player, like having 4 guns on the vest because there’s just a bunch of guns laying around. It’s overall pretty mediocre yet at least it kind of worked in terms of functioning.

Overall, I also find the thing the general popularity of the backrooms is doing to itself mediocre as well because sometimes “nothing” is spookier than something being super obvious in the face. Like when some skinny no-face guy was just something you’d see off in the side, not sure if you actually saw something or not, and not just running up to you screaming about needing $20. Or before Mr. Tall Screamy Hoopla got bootlegged to heck as a clone of that other guy, which for what I remember seeing somewhere was specifically against the wishes of the artist to just make another spooky game character clone thing. Or whatever the hell a Poopy Playtime Fartcoin DLC is. Or Cloverfield. The first one that was just named that. I don’t even know what any of the other ones are, but wasn’t one of those movies pretty much Event Horizon, like they use a magic technology on a space ship or station and then it accidentally enters hell? I mean at least when the whole SCP thing got popular and got dozens of clones, it was a least a big concept to draw from so it wasn’t just immediately diluting the whole idea. And works that seem to be inspired by that concept can manage to do their own thing that seems separate enough, like that one Control game. Which I still kinda think could have been a TV show instead, like I thought with Alan Wake until that finally got announced as a show. But maybe Warehouse 13 beat them to that idea.

This is some kind of katana simulator. And that’s it. Consider the really early modern VR “experiences” that are just in some room and you can maybe do a thing there. This is one of those. This is definitely not the groundbreaking thing like Half-Life Alyx or Boneworks, it’s more just showing someone what VR is for the first time. The movement, which I found by accident, is just teleportation and snap turns, with no other option unless you have a giant room. The physics aren’t even too reliable and it was weirdly hard to even pick up the swords in the first place. There’s a whole garden outside the door but you can’t go there. Not sure how much is blocked off due to it being a demo but for all I can tell this is mainly it.

Maestro VR
Supposedly this is a conducting simulator, but it wouldn’t load into VR correctly. I could access the menu from the desktop but it wouldn’t actually put me in VR. So it’s just broken.

Mayhem on a Rainbow
Out of all the VR demos I tried, this was the most functional. It reminds me a lot of the Hot Dogs Horseshoes Hand Grenades VR game (H3VR for short) with its variety of guns and melee, but with neon multicolor zombies of some kind instead of sausages. Also the level variety seems out there, again a bit like the varied gamemodes of H3VR. Out of what I played, there was a spaceship level involving shooting random debris and a horseback riding level where not much happened until getting to a ship in the distance, where zombies spawned. There are more levels but I didn’t do much as I was getting tired of things. Still, this ended up being the top VR demo, and the bar wasn’t too high anyway given how this is one of two that worked out of the box. Maybe for someone who enjoys H3VR or would rather play this than that for some reason. And maybe for someone who likes being doted on by a text to speech helmeted girlfriend who kept floating into frame.

Supposedly this is some kind of RPG but I couldn’t get it to work, not even being able to use the menu in desktop. Another completely broken one for me.

Those were some demos all right. I can only hope we haven’t already peaked in VR with the rhythm, combat, and social things we already have there that do work. Because those have been pretty nice. Of course even Xbox got into the demo festival right after Steam, but I didn’t really see much I wanted to play there, also since some demos were in a weird mode where it was trying to get me to preorder something instead because the Microsoft Store is very functional and not broken and totally doesn’t keep forgetting I want to not autoplay video. It wasn’t a demo for an ActiBlizzard game so it wasn’t intentionally that way I figure. Also some demos are clearly so graphically intense that they can only run on the new generation of Sexbox and totally not just avoiding having the demo run on older hardware out of just not doing it even though they have relatively simple enough graphics that would totally work fine on the Switch in handheld mode. However I did find stuff that was interesting enough and worked correctly as far as getting it downloaded, so here’s a bonus very short Xbone demo section. As in it’s just one demo.

Wave Break
This former Stadia exclusive, probably because they wanted easy Google money at the cost of people not knowing this game existed until it showed up on Steam later, and Google was desperate for anything to be on Stadia, is about skateboarding but on a boat. They call it “skateboating”. There was a brief tutorial and then it said something about “pro flipping” but then it just went into free skate in the level and I couldn’t find anything else to do as far as missions in the demo. It’s okay in execution, at least it controls decently, though the reason for it being a boat doesn’t make a lot of sense when a lot of the environment is above water and the boat drives just fine on that, it could have just as easily been cars or skateboards. They just wanted the Miami Vice style down to the music. Also it has guns and an HP system which doesn’t make much sense to have in modes that aren’t some kind of versus thing, and I couldn’t find a way to recover HP aside from respawning. I would think tricks would assist in that, and it would encourage doing more of that. Also I didn’t find a reload button so it either doesn’t have one or it’s a random button I didn’t think to use, since most other buttons do skate tricks. I’d still like to see more arcade style skate games but I don’t know about this one.

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