Steam Game Festival 2021 February – These are the indie game demos we tried

Gare – Wednesday, February 10, 2021 3:28 PM
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If you’ve been keeping up-to-date with all the latest news about Steam and the indie game scene, you’ll know that the so-called Steam Game Festival, a digital event allowing access to hundreds of playable indie demos, ran between February 3 and 9. Naturally, we browsed and browsed until there was nowhere left to browse, and tried our hands at some of the more interesting-looking titles on offer – some of them proved to be just as pleasant as they seemed, while others were… well, disappointing, to say the least. But hey, such is life, you know? Box of chocolates and all that jazz.

So, with that out of the way, here’s my brief writeup about my experiences with the festival.

I started off with something nice and soothing – a game called Tasomachi: Behind the Twilight. To be perfectly honest, this one didn’t quite blow me away, but its charming soundtrack and colorful visuals were enough to carry me through the rather brief demo. Gameplay-wise, you’ll mostly be getting some very simple platforming with not much else to spice things up; the game certainly holds promise, but it needs to be seriously expanded upon. Still, it was a short & sweet experience I don’t regret having.

Tasomachi: Behind the Twilight


Next up came Alisa, a retro-style horror game whose demo I recall trying last year. Still, I saw no reason not to give it another spin; I do, after all, like me some classic survival horror, and Alisa is about as classic as you can get – clearly inspired by the original Resident Evil and the old Alone in the Dark games, the story starts with you waking up in a creepy old mansion where… well… creepy things happen. Give this one a try if you’re feeling nostalgic for the dawn of the survival horror genre.

Alisa


After this, I was in the mood for a bit more action and less surviving, so I dove head-first into Foregone, a side-scrolling action-platformer where you’re a supersoldier who must fight off the invasion of monsters called the Harrow. If fast-paced action, tight controls and a lots of hackin’ & slashin’ sounds good to you, do check out Foregone.

Graven was probably my favorite demo of the bunch. Inspired by first-person classics such as Hexen and Heretic, Graven looks like a game made in 2001 – and I do mean that as a compliment. Striking visuals, a strong, dark fantasy atmosphere and satisfying weaponry – combined with magical powers – make this one a must-play for anyone looking to relive the glory days of old-school FPS titles.

Graven


Next, I played Winter Ember, which I sadly found to be a colossal disappointment. It’s a top-down stealth game that looks absolutely gorgeous on its screenshots; as a long-time fan of the Thief franchise, I couldn’t wait to finish downloading the demo so I could go skulk around in the dark and bonk some people on the head with a trusty blackjack. The first five minutes of the demo are quite captivating, but when you start playing the actual game, everything falls apart. For starters, it’s too dark, even by stealth game standards, which is made even worse by a strange visual effect at the edges of the screen that makes everything doubly harder to see; at several points, I genuinely had to strain my eyes to be able to make things out. Proper stealth is made virtually impossible by the game’s oddly aggressive use of the so-called “fog of war” effect, making you unable to properly scout ahead; instead, you’ll mostly bumble through each dark room and randomly bump into enemies… which, of course, will blow your cover and force you into the game’s extremely awkward melee combat. It’s a shame, too, because the game could’ve been great, but its baffling design choices, clunky controls and shockingly poor execution end up draining all the fun out of the experience.

Winter Ember


After all that, I needed something to help calm me down, and – ironically enough – the point & click horror adventure game, Almost My Floor, ended up being a decent enough remedy for my woes. While it doesn’t exactly reinvent the wheel, and its “protagonist experiences strange, demonic visions in an apartment building” setup feels a touch too clichéd at this point, it’s competently made, sports some crisp, comic book-inspired visuals, and generally does what it says on the tin. There’s even the possibility of solving puzzles in multiple ways, where you can opt for a peaceful/good or a violent/evil option. I’m still not sure what this will affect (the ending, perhaps?), but it’s always nice to have options, you know?

Almost My Floor


So, after one point & click adventure, why not try another? That was pretty much my train of thought when I booted up The Darkside Detective: A Fumble in the Dark – a decision I soon came to regret. The demo takes you to a bizarre funfair with clown courts, robot animals and everything in-between, but… for some reason, I just didn’t find the game’s supposedly comedic writing to be particularly funny. Maybe it’s just me, and other people will have a grand old time with the game, but I personally found The Darkside Detective’s attempts at comedy to be mostly eyeroll-inducing.

The Darkside Detective: A Fumble in the Dark


Continuing with the whole “retro” theme, I tried Narita Boy next… and was immediately transported back into the 80s. The game itself felt fairly straightforward: you’re given the so-called Techno-Sword, a blade capable of all sorts of amazing feats (including the ability to turn into a shotgun) and are let loose in a lovingly crafted retro sci-fi world filled with digital inhabitants. If the unique art style catches your attention, I say give this one a go – the demo is worth experiencing for that alone.

Narita Boy


For my final demo of the day, I opted to check out Evil Inside, and I’m sad to say this turned out to be yet another disappointment. Using a location that seems almost like a carbon copy of PT (Silent Hills), the game, instead of building an unnerving atmosphere, goes straight for cheap, uninspired jump scares and loud noises. To that I say: no thanks.

Evil Inside


So that’s about all the games I tried! Did I miss anything cool? Do you wanna talk about it? Join our Discord community and let us know! You can also check out our earlier coverage of last October’s Steam Game Festival by clicking here.

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