Flesh, trash and tiny witches – Our favorite indie game demos from Steam Next Fest (2021 June)

Gare – Friday, June 25, 2021 4:39 PM
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Steam Next Fest, previously known as the Steam Game Festival, has come and gone, and as usual, it gave us dozens upon dozens of demos to sift through and try. Focusing on promising indie games, we pretty much did what we do every year and dove head-first into the festival’s mouth-watering repertoire, finding some real gems as a result. And now we’re here to talk to you about them. So, without further ado, here are the six indie games we enjoyed the most during summer 2021’s Steam Next Fest:

Death Trash

Death Trash was one of the festival’s most unexpectedly pleasant surprises, as well as my personal favorite indie game of the show. I anticipated something light and straightforward, and instead got what I can only describe as an open-world RPG presented with gruesome, retro-inspired pixel art and a wickedly entertaining sense of humor. You’re thrown out of society and into a desolate wasteland ruled by flesh, trash, and all sorts of curious individuals… and then, in true RPG fashion, you’re allowed to do whatever you want. There are skill checks in dialogues, various weapons and cybertech to specialize in, a fluid stealth system that lets you get the drop on enemies… and so on. Feel like wandering across the lands looking for side quests and ruins to explore? Sure, go ahead. Or barge into people’s homes, steal their stuff and/or pickpocket their pants off them. That’s an option, too. So yeah. Death Trash left me intrigued and hopeful, and I’m more than looking forward to its Early Access release in August.


Tormented Souls

This is a game I’ve had my eye on ever since it was first announced, as it essentially looked like a modern take on the Silent Hill franchise. And after completing Tormented Souls’ demo, I can confidently say that’s more or less what it is. The atmosphere’s spot on, the visuals are to die for, the storyline feels intriguing, and… and combat is clunky and awkward. Well, yeah. In fact, combat is probably the one area that didn’t particularly impress me about the demo – and while fans of the genre can rightfully point out that the Silent Hill franchise has never been known for its tight, easy-to-use combat systems, Tormented Souls sadly takes this awkwardness to the next level, with enemies that hit hard and are exceedingly difficult to evade due to the main character’s clunky, sluggish animations. But hey, the rest of the game is great, so there’s that.


Little Witch in the Woods

If the cute artwork doesn’t immediately hook you, then the charming dialogue will. Little Witch in the Woods is… about a little witch in the woods, which is to be expected – I did not, however, expect it to be as captivating as it ended up being. The main character is an apprentice witch by the name of Ellie, whose adorably over-adventurous personality is one of the main supporting pillars of the experience, making her jolly little quest for ingredients and potion recipes infinitely more amusing. This is a game with tons of heart, and I can’t wait to see what the full version will have on offer.


Unsighted

Striking pixel art meets tight, fluid action in Unsighted, a lovely little action-RPG from developer Studio Pixel Punk – and the end result is actually surprisingly solid. With a combat system based heavily around stamina management, well-timed parries and destructive counterattacks, Unsighted never quite felt like it was handing me victory on a silver platter – in fact, I did actually die once while making my way through the demo. If there’s one piece of criticism I’d level at the project, it’s that its level design (specifically, the way elevation and platforms are handled) can be visually disorienting at times, as it’s not always entirely evident what you can and can’t jump on. Other than that, I had a grand old time with the demo.


Interference

I wasn’t sure if I should include interference on the list as its demo literally ends in roughly 5 minutes, but I loved the concept so much I felt like it’d be a waste not to give the project a quick shoutout. In short, you’re a security guard stationed at a cozy little one-room office in the middle of nowhere, and you’ve got radio contact with a bunch of scientists down in a lab. When the you-know-what hits the fan at the research facility, it’s your job to flip some switches, tinker with computers and generally provide support for your surviving scientist buddies. But here’s the twist – you’re not forced to do any of that. You can goof off, mess with the light switch, play a crossword puzzle or even watch a movie while the scientists down in the lab die horrible deaths – you are, after all, safe in your office. Probably.


Tandem: A Tale of Shadows

If you’re at all interested in puzzle-platformers that try something different, you might want to give Tandem: A Tale of Shadows a quick look. The game combines the perspectives of two protagonists (a teddy bear and a girl called Emma) in a rather unique fashion: Emma is controlled from a top-down viewpoint and can manipulate shadows with her lantern; meanwhile, the teddy bear Fenton – controlled from a side-scrolling perspective – can actually use the shadows created by Emma as platforms, resulting in all sorts of opportunities for creative teamwork.


So that’s about it for our list! Did I miss anything cool? Do you wanna talk about it? Join our Discord community and let us know! And if you still hunger for more, check out our coverage of this year’s E3, where we take a look at some of the coolest indie games of the show.

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