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October 12, 2022 (Originally posted on Neocities)

Steam Next Fest October 2022 Demos

Hey, guess what, more demos, and of course it was happening during a week where I was pretty busy with everything else so I’m pretty much going over whatever ones I that I could get through in about a day total.

This time I’m starting with the VR demos because, I don’t know, why not.

This is a game about escape rooms. Yes, there have been these before, in VR as well. It took me a moment to figure out how to actually be able to turn after messing around in the settings, once I found them, and putting it into a “normal” configuration for me. And thankfully they have walking and smooth turn. A pretty slow walk, but still. However there wasn’t really an actual escape room I could mess with, but they had example puzzles and previews of rooms. I was able to playspace drag into the example rooms to find that there was nothing interactive except for poking random outlets and getting yelled at for that. If there was more to the demo then they hid it too well, but if not then it’s unfortunately really short. But at least the movement and interaction feel okay. If I had more chance to test out more of an example room that would get a better feel for things, but there’s potential here.

Isle of Pan
This is a photography game in VR, which given how many photos I want to take in VR is a good thing. Plus this lets you export them in a weird manual system that reveals itself later. However, getting into this game in the first place was a bit difficult because I had to realize the options menu was hidden behind not only a double tap of a button but also scrolling with one of the joysticks to get to that menu. I don’t like that level of obfuscation of options, and really options should be easily accessed on startup in and out of VR. The previous demo I played also had a brief moment of that but I was able to figure out my settings sooner. Though while that one didn’t seem to let me turn at all initially, this one did, but of course defaulted to snap turn, which I just find disorienting. Fortunately, in both cases, I could enable smooth turn. I’m glad that’s more of an option.

But back on the game. It’s a weird fantasy sort of game where you can get photos of sheep and maybe other regular animals, then the fantasy stuff gets in there, and there’s some weird portal that leads to some strange dimension with more creatures to take photos of, including some kind of psychic party-hat-wearing surgery mantis being. One of the descriptions mentions that creature is also seen during DMT trips. I wonder if anyone on the team knows this from experience. Interesting concept and setting, but the movement felt really slow and physics-y to the point where I’m not sure if it’d be possible to go up much of a slope.

This is some kind of VR fantasy medieval swordfight thing, but I’m not sure if it’s trying to do anything beyond that. Mostly it just seemed like fighting zombies and skeletons who have weapons, and the things about being able to swipe at enemies from odd angles because of the whole VR thing still apply here. I pretty much already have this in the form of Blade and Sorcery so I’m not really sure what I get out of this. Plus Blade and Sorcery has mods. While those mods might break sometimes because the game’s still in development, I can usually find something that works. And that base game is even fun as it is given all the physics and stuff you can do there. As for this one, I’m not really sure.

Noun Town
This is a VR learning tool for languages, provided you can memorize primarily nouns as the name goes. It involves picking up things and learning the words and repeating it back. Since I picked Japanese, a lot of the words were in kanji or katakana, rarely hiragana, which might be scary for people still new to the idea of having complex characters like that. Though it does also spell out the pronunciation in English letters. Also at one point I couldn’t figure out how to progress so I started messing around in the available dev menu options to see what they would do. Turns out I’d somehow skipped a tutorial for something I already figured out by accidentally grabbing stuff across the room as usual, and that was a running theme for this demo as I kept trying to grab something else but something much further out I was apparently vaguely aiming towards kept flying into my hand and messing things up. The room was a total mess by the end of it.

And now the rest of the demos in non-VR form. As in regular form, I guess.

Lego Bricktales
This is some sort of adventure game from a perspective, but the puzzles end up being building puzzles, including attempting to have builds strong enough to support walking across them. It’s an interesting idea, but I was often struggling to get the bricks to align where I wanted them to go because of how it was aiming where to put it, but it may or may not work better on keyboard, as I was testing this with a controller. Also I know that some of the things I made in the game might not support much at all realistically, so you really have to go with how the game probably thinks the support will work rather than real-world brick logic, which is fortunately forgiving by the looks of it. The fact that it involves making structures that can hold together under some pressure is interesting, though seems basic level. It also really looks like it was focused as a phone game at some point in development given the not ultra-res graphics and the general interface. The demo also goes on for a while then ends pretty suddenly at reaching a certain point.

Tentacle Typer
This is apparently a text editor that integrates with some abstract world to interact and even somehow do combat with words, though instead of specific typing words, it involves just typing anything. Supposedly typing certain things causes stuff to happen, but it feels more like typing while at certain places makes things happen so I don’t know if keywords of that regard are involved at all. It does seem to work as a basic text editor, plus I had to unlock lowercase letters so the rest of it wasn’t screaming, as the game itself pointed out, and it does save a file to some obscure AppData folder like programs tend to on Windows these days, but I couldn’t actually exit even though I chose to save and exit several times so I hard to hard quit. But it did save the random junk I entered on the playthrough. It’s a very interesting idea and suggests its use as a creative writing tool though I was just punching in a lot of weird sentences and junk in general.

Cassette Beasts
This is an indie Pokémon-like thing announced during the flood of indies deciding they can do Pokémon better than Pokémon itself. Since then several of those attempts have come out to varying degrees of not quite deviating enough from the formula, at least from what I can tell. This one that I’ve had my eye on for some time involves some weird Persona-like stuff added in, including social links and fusing to some degree. There’s claim to having tons of different fusions that even can vary depending on what order they’re in, apparently, but I only saw one in the demo. It even has a small amount of voice acting, mainly for random parts of lines during dialogue. Plus the people involved become their monsters and can switch out their chosen form by switching the tapes. Character customization can be done over completely at any point from the wardrobe, including the name, and it looks like there’s a choice of two starter monsters between a “spooky” and “sweet” theme. I picked the former and got some kind of ghostly sheep, so I thought that was cool. The designs for monsters I saw seemed neat enough.

The story quickly gets weird because it starts incorporating some kind of demons that look different from everything in every aspect of presentation that end up being high level bosses, and the general difficulty felt pretty close to the edge if no grinding is done, which I generally avoided for the run of the demo to get through it. It also seems to cap types of items to low numbers I guess to prevent stockpiling, and instead of money, encounters drop various items that can be exchanged, but only certain kinds for certain usable items. There also seem to be difficulty settings that can be adjusted including things like level scaling of certain aspects and opponent battle AI, though I left those as-is for the demo. Overall, it’s interesting and seems to follow a lot of ideas that I’d consider for a new take on Pokémon-type games while also borrowing some elements from other RPGs. About what I got from the trailers, but good to know it plays decently as well.

This is pretty much Echochrome. That game is apparently now old enough to inspire indies to make their own. It involves merging people as well as hitting markers on the shapes. However the “snapping” that the game does to confirm that a path works seems really hit-or-miss, to where sometimes it’ll try to connect two edges that are even further apart than the one I was trying to do, and that just ends up making the puzzles frustrating. It also feels like the complexity goes up really quickly, and I recall the difficulty in Echochrome going up a bit more gradually. Maybe it was compressed for the sake of the demo but it still seemed weird and a little unpolished for that effect, in addition to the snapping issues.

Season: A Letter to the Future
This seems to be a walking and scrapbooking type of thing, but running and even biking are also allowed. It requires figuring out the scrapbook thing up front to continue with the actual exploration of the area, which involves using an audio recorder and a camera to put together a scrapbook of a village that has a weird history of apparent diseases founded in memories and dreams, as well as idolizing the doctor who cured them in whatever capacity that entails. Also for some reason it’s presented in ultrawide for presentation reasons, I can only guess, because trying to manually set the resolution didn’t really do much and there’s not really any graphics settings in the settings. Since this is releasing on PC, I’d hope some basic resolution stuff at least gets in later, if nothing else, even if they keep the ultrawide presentation regardless of any settings.

The Entropy Centre
This is a Portal-like first person puzzle, except the gun in this case rewinds time of objects. It also has collectible intel for whatever reason instead of just leaving it as flavor text, now there’ll probably be an achievement for finding it all that maybe 5% of players get. The trailer of course shows other things happening besides using the time gun on cubes over buttons. I managed to get through the demo just fine. Hopefully this one ends up good. Having cube and button puzzles only goes so far these days since those were mastered previously and I’d like to see a lot more weird uses of the time gun and some other props. Probably saving some really good stuff for the full game, I’d hope.

So these were the ten demos I got through in pretty much a day’s worth of play. Some neat things I’d like to see more of in there. If I’d had more time maybe I’d done a few more if some caught my eye. I may have also fixed some obscure issue with my VR configuration so maybe that helped with the VR stuff being less broken. Maybe a reason to revisit some previous things, if possible, if I just decide to go through the VR section and see what still has demos.

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