Our adventures in the wild west of Steam Next Fest’s demos – June 2023 Edition

Gare – Tuesday, June 27, 2023 7:54 PM
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Steam’s Next Fest is a bit of a tradition on the platform – every year, we get to try out a whole deluge of demos from upcoming games, and every year, there are usually too many of them for us to try every single one. That said, we once again took it upon ourselves to pick and choose from the repertoire and hopefully discover some hidden gems along the way. Unfortunately, not every title is a winner (and we’ll talk about that later), but hey, that’s life for you, right? Right. Either way, without further ado, let’s see what titles came our way during this summer’s Steam Next Fest.

As a lifelong fan of horror games, I started my deep dive with scary stuff: specifically, Unholy and Luto. Luto turned out to be a game I wasn’t all that blown away by; though seemingly inspired by the ill-fated but otherwise brilliant P.T., it never really managed to scare or even unsettle me, and the majority of my experience with the title mostly boiled down to walking around dark corridors while looking for key items. What few “scares” there were boiled down to encountering a creature wrapped in bedsheets – like a cartoon ghost, almost. Which, you know… is not that scary. Unholy was a touch more impressive, though only in the first half of its demo. The parts where you explore an Eastern European suburb and the interior of an old-timey apartment building were quite memorable and visually stunning, but when the game introduced combat and stealth elements and forced you to explore a hellish otherworld while wielding a supernatural sling, it almost immediately lost me. Oh well.

Now for something more pleasant: En Garde was a game that piqued my curiosity when I first took note of its trailer, and upon playing it, I was happy to find out that it’s actually really quite well-made. The cartoony aesthetics work, and the game’s combat system is not only easy to learn, but it also lends itself to quite a bit of variety as players are both allowed and encouraged to use the environment to their advantage while hacking, slashing and parrying their way to victory. I similarly enjoyed my time with Beyond Sunset, a so-called “boomer shooter” that reminded me of classic titles like Shadow Warrior (the 1997 original, not the remake) and Duke Nukem 3D, among others. The graphics are admittedly a little bland, even by boomer shooter standards, but there’s plenty of fast-paced action and katana-swinging to be had for those that want it. Speaking of fast-paced action, El Paso, Elsewhere is the result of someone going “what if Max Payne, but with demons?”. It’s a game I had a decent bit of fun with (and the style of its cutscenes reminded me of Control, which is always a plus), but I was also somewhat disappointed by its lackluster level design and forgettable monsters.

We encountered a couple of really odd games as well, most notably Shirime 2: The Genesis of Butt-Eye… and yes, that’s really the title. In it, you face off against… uh… a monster that’s essentially a huge butt with an eye in the middle. The demo was fairly brief – you wonder around in a forest, find a key, encounter an Among Us reference (no, I’m not kidding) open a door, and then a bunch of butt-monsters attack you; you clumsily shoot them with a gun, and you’re done. I’m not sure what’s more shocking: that this game exists, or that it’s a sequel, meaning they already made a first one. Little Kitty, Big City is another fairly unconventional title, though this one is at least cute. You’re a cat and you do cat things, like knocking things over for no good reason, chasing after birds and jumping up to high places. It still felt a little rough around the edges and didn’t quite play as smoothly as I expected, but overall, it was a charming and fairly inoffensive experience. So was This Bed We Made, an investigative third-person adventure game where you take on the role of an overly curious maid snooping around inside people’s hotel rooms. For those that enjoy inspecting every last nook and cranny of a room, then piecing together clues based on their findings, it’s a decently made demo, albeit it ends far too soon.

Either way, I wanted to end things on a positive note, which is why I left Lies of P for last – a steampunk Soulslike that mixes the aesthetics and gameplay mechanics of Bloodborne with… uh, Pinocchio? An interesting combination for sure, but the end result speaks for itself: if you like Soulslike games, you’re going to like this. It plays and looks exactly like one, and offers exactly what you’d expect from it, more or less. It’s also decently hard, so do get ready for a challenge.

So there you have it: our wild, wild venture into the world of indie game demos. We hope you enjoyed it, and we’ll see you next time!

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