Last year, I made a post which talked a bit about the Steam Game Festival and what role demos were playing in the modern era. Since then, Valve has run several more of these events — three in total this year, I believe. For each one, there’s been hundreds upon hundreds of new demos being revealed, and I’ve skimmed through the event page every time to see what upcoming small budget games were being worked on out there, as I’m always on the lookout for new games, large or small, extravagant or cheap, ambitious or conservative, and so on, and I also like to keep aware of what state of creativity the world is in. This time around, for the Steam Next Fest which ran from October 1st to the 7th, I decided to jot down my thoughts for some of the demos I played.

As far as my thoughts on demos in the modern era go, they haven’t changed much. Demos, as I understand it, fell by the wayside when it became possible to watch others play these games on the internet live. Another point I’ve recently considered is that publishers eventually decided that it was better to invest in other forms of advertising, because releasing demos involves maintaining demo branches for the programming team, and in the age of the internet when customers expect games to continue being patched long after release, maintaining these branches became not only too costly and burdensome, but a bit redundant; lots of developers release games now in only a semi-working condition, using the first wave of buyers as testers, in a sense, so that they can patch any remaining bugs while not having to deal with separate branches or the pressure of meeting a release date deadline. That said, it’s still nice to have these demo events, as it makes it a bit easier to make side-by-side comparisons for some of these games, and it does sometimes reveal an undesirable control scheme that I otherwise would have overlooked if I were just watching someone else play the game.

So, what is the state of creativity in the world right now, judging by these demos? You can decide that for yourself as you read through my mini reviews below, but as far as I am concerned, the world is in a strange state at the moment. Lots of these games were polished and clearly invested with passion, but I also found most of them to be kitsch — there are more rehashes of older games than there are new ideas and ideas that explore and push forward the limits of technology and game design. As far as the indie game scene goes, it appears to be dominated by the desire to tell a story, express a certain perspective, resurrect an old, dying genre, or just be silly, rather than try to be experimental or innovative. There are some exceptions, of course, most of which were the ones I decided to review here, and I’m not saying I didn’t enjoy playing these games — I enjoyed playing all of them. But what I’d like to see more of is deeper experimentation and the drive to apply theory to be more innovative in both a mechanical and thematic sense. Perhaps with these demo events, there will be more individuals like myself who play a variety of games and come to a similar conclusion.

Now, without further ado, here are my reviews for the demos I played:

The Good Life (Release Date: October 15th, 2021)

Available on Steam, Nintendo Switch, Xbox, and PS4

Being a fan of Deadly Premonition, the first demo I had to try was for Hidetaka “SWERY” Suehiro’s new game, The Good Life. In this game, you take on the role of a snobbish photographer from New York who is visiting a small, remote village called Rainy Woods with the intention of taking photos of the rustic scenery and any oddities to upload on social media for a company you work for in hopes to pay back an insurmountable debt that you owe them. What you soon discover is that at night, all of the villagers mysteriously turn into cats and dogs, and you soon get wrapped up in this strange curse yourself, along with a murder mystery. By turning into a cat, you’re then able to scale buildings and explore more of the village — although the places you’re able to scale appear to be designated, so don’t expect to be able to climb over everything you see. The village has the same Twin Peaks-inspired charm as Deadly Premonition did, and the map is quite large with a number of buildings and landmarks scattered across it, so I felt eager to explore more. Being a photographer, you can photograph all kinds of objects and landmarks and each one that you upload slowly earns you money to pay back your debt, but this premise serves only as a front for the more interesting mysteries surrounding the village and its quirky residents. Be advised that, since it is a SWERY game, it may not run smoothly on older systems. Nonetheless, this is one I’ll definitely be picking up.

Storyteller (Release Date: To Be Dated)

Available on Steam and Nintendo Switch

Storyteller is a cute little puzzle game that involves dragging and dropping scenes and characters in order to construct a story that fits the titles given to you. From what the demo offered, it appears that each puzzle in the game will be based on actual literature (e.g., Edgar Allan Poe, Bram Stoker, the Bible, etc.). There are sometimes multiple ways to solve a puzzle, and some puzzles have multiple possible endings / secondary objectives to fulfill. Overall, it’s a very simple puzzle game, but one that looks nice and uses classic literary themes, so for those reasons, I can recommend it.

The Tartarus Key (Release Date: To Be Dated)

Available on Steam

At first I was hesitant to try this one, because I had played a number of other low-poly indie horror games earlier this year, and was not particularly impressed with them; however, The Tartarus Key turned out to be a cut above the rest in at least some respects. Essentially, this is an escape-the-room puzzle game, or in this case, escape-the-mansion: you play as Alex, who wakes up in a room inside a mansion, not knowing how she got there. You soon find a walkie talkie and begin talking to a stranger named Torres, who seems to be in the same situation as you. Navigating the mansion and progressing the story involves going through a series of escape-the-room puzzles. It’s basically a walking sim with light key- and path-finding puzzles, but it contains a story with characters and a properly fleshed out and decorated setting, which places it above a number of other horror games you may find using low-poly graphics today.

Arthurian Legends (Release Date: Out Now)

Available on Steam

"The Saxon bastards art in thy home, and they just fuck'ethd with the one son of a wench in all of Albion they shouldst not hast fuck'ethd with..."

Arthurian Legends is a badass medieval FPS sprinkled with a classic Monty Python sense of humor and a wonderful attention to detail. Sure, it’s basically just a glorified Doom mod and looks dated, but a lot of love clearly went into this. The game doesn’t mess around at all and expects you to already be familiar with how these games play, because as soon as you start your adventure, Saxons really are knocking on your bedroom door before you even have a chance to arm yourself. Since the setting is Arthurian-style Albion, you’ll fight not only knights, but also mages, giant spiders, skeletons, winged demons… you name it. The game has a lot of blood, a lot of gore, and a lot of loud chewing and belching as you heal yourself. The levels are full of secrets as well, for those who love that sort of thing. A quaint, but excellent game if you’re a fan of the legends of King Arthur and any media surrounding it.

Urban Strife (Release Date: 2022)

Available on Steam

Urban Strife is XCOM meets The Walking Dead, and it’s done rather well. A turn-based game with both a tactical and strategy layer, you’ll fight hordes of zombies and other human factions, manage a base, level up and upgrade your squad, and follow an ongoing story. Each character you control can be customized and has a D&D-style stat sheet. Sound plays an important role in this game since it’s a zombie apocalypse: each action you take generates sound within a certain radius and will attract zombies to your position, and zombies will quickly and easily overwhelm you, so you’ll want to use stealth or create sound-based diversions to divide and conquer your way through the undead streets. The only problem I had with this game was the character designs and to a lesser extent the customization options; like The Walking Dead, this aspect is pretty bland and leaves a lot to be desired. However, as the game unfolds, customization options expand, and this aspect could certainly be improved before the game is released.

Forgive Me Father (Release Date: October 26th, 2021)

Available on Steam and GOG

Forgive Me Father is a frantic, retro-style FPS with a neon-colored, Lovecraftian, heavy metal aesthetic where you play as a punishing old priest who can carry a whole lot of guns. As a shooter, it’s pretty standard fare, but the aesthetic is cool and it’s well-made. I almost dropped this on the first level of the demo, because it seemed too basic and I was losing interesting, but I’m glad I didn’t, because the second level introduced a number of new enemy types and offered better level design overall. I read some complaints about issues with respawning getting you stuck in irredeemable situations, but I never ran into the issue myself. If you like this style of FPS, don’t skip this one.

Rescue Party: Live! (Release Date: Fall 2021)

Available on Steam

My favorite demo with local multiplayer from this season’s Steam Next Fest, Rescue Party: Live! is a 1 to 4 player casual action game where you play as paramedics trying to rescue civilians from various natural disasters. Each level is timed and there are a certain number of civilians in the level that you can rescue, with your performance being ranked, so there is a lot of replayability here. Rescuing civilians usually involves freeing them from stuck areas or resuscitating them and then escorting or carrying them to a safety zone / helicopter pad. In order to progress in the main campaign, you’ll have to rescue a certain number of civilians per level, but the game also encourages goofing around with your friends, so it’ll probably take you some time to get through all of the levels (the trailer boasts that the full game will feature over 30 of them, which is an excellent amount). This is a charming little multiplayer game you shouldn’t skip over with friends.

Spectacular Sparky (Release Date: October 20th, 2021)

Available on Steam and Nintendo Switch

What do you get when you cross Gunstar Heroes with Alien Soldier? You get Spectacular Sparky. In this highly polished, albeit unoriginal, side-scrolling run-and-gun shooter, you play as the space alien bounty hunter Sparky, a little yellow rabbit who amusingly never stops open-mouth grinning as he blasts his way across alien planets taking down his bounties. The game is a boss rush like Alien Soldier, though I’m not sure if the full game will be designed to be one-credit cleared like Alien Soldier was. Sparky also has a jump that works just like Kirby’s, except instead of using air to float, he flaps his rabbit ears. A nostalgic, well-made game overall.

The Bookwalker (Release Date: To Be Dated)

Available on Steam

The Bookwalker is a strange one. It’s an adventure puzzle game at its core, but it combines two different perspectives: in the “real” world, the game is in first person, while in the “book” world, the game takes on a third person perspective typical of your standard point-and-click adventure games. You play as a writer who has lost his ability to write, but is able to enter the worlds of books, and through that hopes to write again. Objects that you obtain in book worlds can be taken out and used outside of them. There are also basic crafting and combat systems, the combat being turn-based and only occurring inside book worlds. The game features several different settings on account of the traveling-through-books theme. This is a decent looking, decently written game, albeit kind of odd.

Harvest Island (Release Date: 2022)

Available on Steam

Harvest Island is a farming sim that is more of a visual novel than a game, but what attracted me to it was the art, and what kept me playing until the end of the demo was the writing. Although what you’ll be doing most of the time is reading dialogue and clicking through prompts, it does feature fishing, crafting, tending to your farm animals, gathering other supplies on the island, and a day/night and weather cycle. You play as Will, a young farmer’s boy who lives on an island with his father and younger sister. The island is free to explore as the story progresses, and it contains a dark secret that drives the plot. The game has a strong religious theme as Will’s father demands that you and your sister give daily worship to the gods in the form of offerings, which are randomized. If you’re looking for more story than game, try this.

Blood West (Release Date: To Be Dated)

Available on Steam

What got me interested in Blood West was the western horror theme and the low-poly visual style, which I thought looked somewhat decent here. It’s an FPS, but with the respawn mechanic of From Software’s Souls games, so each time you die enemy respawns are refreshed, and the story has you playing as someone who is undead fighting a lot of other undead. The game suggests using stealth, but the stealth mechanics are pretty shallow, so you’ll have no choice but to get confrontational, which usually ends in death. Besides this, you can expect some non-linear level design, a few other undead characters to talk to, and a main protagonist who talks in a comically gruffy old cowboy voice. Not my first pick here, but if you like the sound of it, go for it.

INCANTAMENTUM (Release Date: To Be Dated)

Available on Steam

INCANTAMENTUM is a straightforward point-and-click adventure game with a level of quality that is similar to what Wadjet Eye Games achieves (Gemini Rue, Blackwell Legacy, etc.). You play as Thomasina Bateman, a “barrow-digger” (regularly dismissed by others as a gravedigger) who visits a remote village in England in search of antiques and relics. The theme here is folk horror, and you soon find that the villagers are distant and unwelcoming, for perhaps out of more than just a fear of outsiders. Overall, not much to say here, you know what you’re getting yourself into with these games — but it was written well from what I played, so I can recommend it.

Lumencraft (Release Date: To Be Dated)

Available on Steam

Lately, there’s been a lot of games about digging, mining, and drilling in underground spaces, no doubt due to Minecraft‘s popularity. Well, Lumencraft is one of those games. Set in the 23rd century, where the surface of our planet has become uninhabitable for us, you take on the role of a miner (who looks a bit like Isaac from Dead Space on the promotional art) searching for Lumen, a newly discovered mineral that can be used to rejuvenate human civilization. Using your drill, you can dig into any material, or use explosives to excavate the underground cave system you find yourself in. There are also armies of bugs pursuing you, and the game has tower defense elements because of this: you’ll need to obtain materials and build up your defenses for the bugs that come in waves to destroy your hard work. I’m not usually a fan of top-down games, but if you enjoy games with digging mechanics, you may like this one.

Potato Flowers in Full Bloom (Release Date: To Be Dated)

Available on Steam

Potato Flowers in Full Bloom is a Japanese dungeon crawler with a minimalist aesthetic. The chibi character designs and clean interface immediately appealed to me, but what I really enjoyed was the combat — though only a simple turn-based tactics system at heart, in this game, you can see what action the enemies will be taking on their next turn and who they’re targeting, and this feature is factored in directly into the tactical element of the game on account of the stamina system. Every move you make, whether it’s an attack or a defensive maneuver, requires stamina, and you’ll occasionally need to use up a character’s turn to rest to regain it. You’ll need to pay attention to what enemies do next, because you’ll need to plan your resting turns at least two turns ahead, since enemies hit hard and being without enough stamina to defend yourself will quickly get you killed. Also, the customization, while simple, is really nice, as it lets you create all kinds of fantasy races in different colors and with different eye shapes, hair styles, and so on. I suppose the one thing I would want changed is the music, because I can’t remember there even being any; some distinct background tunes would complete the experience for me.

POSTAL: Brain Damaged (Release Date: May 2022)

Available on Steam, Nintendo Switch, Xbox, and PlayStation

And now for the total opposite of the above game… POSTAL: Brain Damaged is the eighth game in the series and is, you guessed it, just as crude, filthy, and deranged as the others. Graphically, it seems to resemble Postal 2 (which is the only other Postal I’ve played, by the way). I’ll admit that I found the demo pretty fun overall. For those who aren’t familiar, in Postal you play as The Dude, a mentally ill lunatic who routinely shoots up his neighborhood while hallucinating the event as something far more heroic — it’s a satire on the portrayal of videogames as violent in the media. Unlike most of the others, Brain Damaged is more of a linear shooter set in open spaces filled with enemies to mow down, like Serious Sam, but it still features innocent bystanders that run away screaming when they see you, that you can choose to hack down if you like.

Inscryption (Release Date: October 19th, 2021)

Available on Steam and GOG

Inscryption is an escape-the-room puzzle game masquerading as a card game. To be clear, it does have card game mechanics, but this aspect of the game isn’t the main pull. You’re stuck in a poorly lit cabin with a faceless individual sitting in front of you, who’s threatening your life and demanding that you continue playing this strange card game with him where all of the cards are animals or insects that you must fight your opponent with. Each card type has a certain number of hitpoints and attack power and most of them require sacrificing a certain number of other cards currently on the playing field in order to use them, and you and your opponent have hitpoints as well; like Magic the Gathering, you must use your cards as defense and try to take down your opponent’s hitpoints each match before your opponent takes yours down. As you progress across the board, which is represented as a dark forest, the color of the cabin you’re in changes, and the mysterious individual changes appearance into various menacing boss figures. One of the cards, a stoat, starts breaking the fourth wall with you, the player, trying to guide you to solve the puzzle so that you can leave the cabin alive. There’s two decks to pull from, one that draws a random card, and another that always draws a squirrel card, squirrels being the useless animals that you place down simply to sacrifice for better cards. As you build your deck, you can upgrade certain cards with new abilities. The game overall feels a bit gimmicky and not like a serious card or puzzle game, but fans of the art direction will probably enjoy it.

Fallen Aces (Release Date: To Be Dated)

Available on Steam

Fallen Aces is a comical retro-style FPS set in Switchblade City, a Gotham-like city of gangsters, which is wrapped in a classic comic-bookish story told in a Max Payne-like style. The game is very funny: enemies give sarcastic and amusing commentary as you beat them up (or as they beat each other up), they snore while lying on the ground after you’ve knocked them out and continue to mumble in their sleep, your finishers and sneak attacks trigger dramatic old cartoon sound effects, and various environmental objects can be used to clobber enemies with or even blow them into bloody bits. Unlike Blood West, stealth is a viable option here. The characters aren’t drawn all that well, but this only adds to the humor. The level design is also non-linear and contains plenty of secrets for the explorer. Oh, and the music and sound design overall have a very authentic, quality feel. This was definitely one of my favorite demos I tried.

ANNO: Mutationem (Release Date: 2021)

Available on Steam

ANNO is a 2.5D cyberpunk anime action game with a pixel art style. While exploration actually involves full 3D movement, combat seems to only happen on a 2D layer, hence the 2.5D description. I was surprised to find that exploration involved full 3D movement and found running through the streets and talking to various citizens to be more enjoyable than the combat; unfortunately, the combat is a bit flat at this point and needs some work. Nonetheless, it has potential, and the art direction is decent.

Giants Uprising (Release Date: November 2nd, 2021)

Available on Steam

In Giants Uprising, you’re a giant, and you smash things. That’s it. And that’s all you need. Well, almost… there’s one other thing I need: people. You know, little people living in the little houses that I’m smashing. Where are they? I see them in the promotional art above, but in the demo, all I came across was armies to smash. Hopefully they’ll all be there in the full release. Giants Uprising is kind of like the realistic, medieval European variant of Attack on Titan, where you’re the titan. You can grab wooden beams and chuck them like spears, grab windmills and throw them like boomerangs, charge through buildings, step on soldiers, and more. I will say that the destruction part of this game could be a little more satisfying — all you have to do is tap a building and it’ll explode into pieces. I’d rather see chunks of buildings at a time get destroyed. However, the game was a little sluggish on my computer, so maybe that wouldn’t be such a good idea. Not a bad game if you want to rip medieval villages apart.

Medic: Pacific War (Release Date: 2021)

Available on Steam

I’m not one to ever play the healer in games, but Medic: Pacific War is pretty cool. It’s a WWII game, but instead of playing a combatant, you’re a medic this time around. Your duty here is not to kill, but to seek out injured soldiers, give them proper treatment, and carry them to a nearby hospital or ambulance, while they mumble to you about their lives and cling to you for emotional support. Administering treatment is a kind of mini-game where you pull out your medical supply bag, have to scan the soldier’s body for injuries, and then use the right supplies from your bag in the right order depending on the kinds of injuries you’re dealing with. On top of this, there are enemy soldiers on the battlefield, so you’ll have to carry the injured while dodging bullets scattering at your feet. It’s a unique kind of tension, and one worth checking out for yourself.

Diplomacy is Not an Option (Release Date: January 26th, 2022)

Available on Steam

Diplomacy is one of the most run-of-the-mill real-time strategy games I’ve ever played, but I still played it because it had a very clean, vibrant art style, and the screenshots featured tons of units. Mechanically, it’s similar to Age of Empires and Stronghold, while offering nothing new from these in the strategy department as far as I could tell. The appeal here really is just the aesthetic and the number of units that can appear at once, but that’s fine, because it’s well made, and the only thing it was really lacking was a multiplayer component.

MAZEMAN (Release Date: Out Now)

Available on Steam

Described as an arcade game, MAZEMAN reminds me a bit of the single-player mode in the original Bomberman, though with some differences. Like in Bomberman, you navigate through a series of levels with maze-like passageways and enemies that patrol back and forth or pursue you, while the goal is to find a key which, upon picking up, opens the level’s exit, which you then have to reach within the time limit. In MAZEMAN, you’re always moving forward and can’t stop, and there are over 20 different characters to play as, each with a different special ability. Special abilities require charges, which you have a limited number of per level. Overall, this was a nostalgic experience for me, and I had a good time with it.

Wytchwood (Release Date: 2021)

Available on Steam, GOG, Nintendo Switch, Xbox, and PS4

Wytchwood is a stylish little adventure game somewhat inspired by gothic fairy tales of old. You play a witch in the woods who wears a cauldron for a helmet and talks to a goat, and the game is all about foraging and gathering ingredients for recipes and spells, encountering all kinds of people in the woods who need your help, solving puzzles, defeating monsters with your witchcraft, and more. Combat and fast-paced challenges are not what this game is about, and the writing is geared towards younger audiences. It’s a slower-paced, story-driven game that’s worth checking out if you’re looking for that.

Terror of Hemasaurus (Release Date: To Be Dated)

Available on Steam and Nintendo Switch

Do you miss Rampage? Then you might want to check out Terror of Hemasaurus right away. Terror brings back many of the signature elements of Rampage while adding some new stuff of its own — the most important for me being the building physics, which allows you to destroy the foundation of a building so that it topples over and smashes into other buildings. Graphically, it’s much simpler compared to most Rampage titles, so don’t expect there to be hidden details within buildings while you’re smashing them, because there’s just not enough pixels for representing them. That said, if you just want to smash stuff with friends like the old days, this should be adequate for you.

ITORAH (Release Date: 2021)

Available on Steam

ITORAH is a 2D action platformer that doesn’t really do anything remarkable, but looks pretty good, especially while in motion. Some of the animations are so smooth that I was wondering if they were really 3D models, but it’s all hand-drawn apparently. The game is tagged “Metroidvania” and “Exploration” on Steam, so you can expect to see some non-linear progression, as is the case with many platformers today. The game also sports a unique Mesoamerican-inspired theme, which separates it from many other recent platformers. If you really like platformers, check this one out — it’s also probably going to look amazing on the Steam Deck.

Supplice (Release Date: 2022)

Available on Steam

Out of all of the FPSs I tried, Supplice was certainly the most derivative, but it was also the most challenging. Playing Supplice reminded me of being at the arcades more than the others did, and I attribute that to the gritty, Predator-like jungle setting that the demo featured combined with the relentless difficulty of the experience. This game will test your patience more than Forgive Me Father, Blood West, or Fallen Aces will. If you want even more retro-style FPSs to play, then consider trying this.

Mad Streets (Release Date: October 15th, 2021)

Available on Steam

Mad Streets is in the same vein as games like Gang Beasts or Human: Fall Flat: the physics were “intentionally” made bad in order to make this multiplayer party brawler a “funny” party brawler. Well, sometimes it’s funny, I guess. What I like about Mad Streets more than the others is that it possesses at least some semblance of character design (even if it’s all very basic) and it does offer a variety of game modes aside from the straightforward battle modes (screenshots show a mode where you race to smash a car, another that looks like dodgeball, and more) so it won’t feel like you’re doing the same thing over and over… at least not right away. Oh, and take note that this game requires a controller to play.

Tactical Galactical (Release Date: To Be Dated)

Available on Steam

Speaking of controller-based games, Tactical Galactical is a neat little Japanese real-time tactics game that works great with a controller. In this, you control a ship that can beam down new units for you on the battlefield, which you then take control of in various miniature skirmishes. Spawning new units works like a simple card battler, requiring that you use cards in your deck. As far as the art direction goes, the game seems to be going for a mix of retro science fiction art and something like Advance Wars. As far as my experience with tactics games goes, this one is pretty unique, and it’s easy on the eyes, so if you like tactics games, give it a go.

Starship Troopers – Terran Command (Release Date: March 31st, 2022)

Available on Steam and GOG

Did you know that a new Starship Troopers game is in the works? It’s a real-time military tactics game, and judging by the demo, it’s going to be solid. There’s been a few base-building games recently with a focus on defending yourself against waves of armies of enemies, most notably They Are Billions, Conan Unconquered, and most recently Age of Darkness: Final Stand, and while Starship Troopers isn’t a base-builder, it sort of fits into this current trend, at least visually. Rather than control each soldier, you control squads of soldiers, a squad’s overall health being represented by the number of standing soldiers remaining in the squad, and squads get in the way of each other’s line of sight, so you’ll have to position all of your squads tactically to make the most out of them. Instead of building up a base, you roam different maps completing various objectives. Meanwhile, hordes of bugs are constantly headed your way, and there’s segments where you have to defend bases from being overrun, just like in the movie. In terms of visuals and audio, the game is pretty great too. Overall, I look forward to the full release.

Martha is Dead (Release Date: 2021)

Available on Steam and GOG

Martha is Dead is a first person war-themed psychological horror adventure game with easily the most bizarre story among the games I tried during the event. The game itself is a simple adventure game: you walk around, you examine objects, and you solve puzzles. There’s not much more to it than that, and for the most part you’re watching cutscenes rather than playing, at least judging by the demo. But the story, which opens with a morbid puppet show for the player to witness, makes this one a bit more interesting. For the adventure game connoisseur who can stomach horror stories, this is one you shouldn’t skip over.

To cap this rather lengthy post off, I saved five demos for the end. These five demos are for games I either don’t actually recommend or found weird enough to separate from the main list.

Blade of Darkness (Release Date: February 19th, 2001)

Available on Steam and GOG

The reason I separated this game from the main list was because, even though it had a featured demo during the event to hype up the new release on Steam, it’s actually a game from 2001 (which is using the “Souls-like” tag on Steam, amusingly). In case you don’t know anything about Blade of Darkness, this is a third person action-adventure game with stricter hitboxes than any Souls game, and also more gore, where you play as one of several characters in a dark fantasy / Conan-style setting, each with their own campaigns to play through. It’s currently being compared to the Souls games because of its notorious difficulty and because they share the same basic formula — third person melee combat with lock on and instant-kill attacks / traps and obstacles. Although it’s neither a new game nor was it a particularly big hit at release, it blended in rather nicely during the event, and actually showed up quite a number of other featured demos. If you’re looking for some fun, challenging barbarian action, don’t ignore this just because it’s from 2001.

Pull Stay (Release Date: April 2022)

Available on Steam

The term “hikikomori” means, according to Wikipedia, “total withdrawal from society and seeking extreme degrees of social isolation and confinement.” The Japanese ひきこもり translates to “pulling inward, being confined.” This behavior, at least at one point in time, became such a serious problem in Japan that the Japanese Ministry of Health, Labour, and Welfare recognized it as a legitimate health concern. Pull Stay is an outrageously absurd game that satirizes this condition and is made by a real life hikikomori. Basically, you’re a robot built by Susumu, a hikikomori, who has to stop people from coming into Susumu’s bedroom, because he wants to avoid all social interactions. It’s a completely unpolished 3D beat ’em up with all kinds of ludicrous moves to unlock and ludicrous enemy types. Nothing makes any sense and everything feels poorly made… and it’s hilarious.

Dread Delusion (Release Date: To Be Dated)

Available on Steam

If you were to cross Morrowind with a psychotic fever dream, you’d get Dread Delusion… and if you played Morrowind with the most surreal mods you can find installed, you’d get roughly the same experience, but with a hundred times more content. Dread Delusion didn’t really interest me, but if you’ve already played Morrowind with mods to death, and want more of that, then this one’s for you. It’s tagged “Metroidvania” and “Souls-like” on Steam, and I don’t see the reason for those tags at all besides marketing — you get the idea of how much of a mess this game is. But perhaps it’s a mess you’d like to explore on your own.

Hypnagogia: Boundless Dreams (Release Date: To Be Dated)

Available on Steam

Hypnagogia feels like a fever dream just like Dread Delusion, but somewhat better coordinated. From what I played, it’s more or less just a walking sim with some minor platforming. You’ll travel through various dreams which take you to different and strange environments, where you’ll meet odd little characters and make some basic choices that may or may not alter the events of the story. Not remarkable, but I’d recommend it before Dread Delusion on account of it not feeling like it was put together with duct tape.

Who’s Lila? (Release Date: February 2022)

Available on Steam

"It's difficult for me to express emotions. I envy other people. They make faces naturally, but I have to make a conscious decision each time I move a muscle. Every morning I go to the bathroom to rehearse what my face is going to show today."

And for the last, and truly weirdest game on this list, I present to you: Who’s Lila? In this point-and-click mystery puzzle game, you control Will, a high school student who has trouble expressing his emotions to others. The most popular girl in school, Tanya, has recently gone missing, and rumors are already spreading that you were the last one seen with her and that you killed her… and it’s up to you to prove them wrong. This game’s main gimmick is its AI-driven facial challenges: when NPCs tell you something that you’re expected to express a certain emotion in response to, you have a limited amount of time to drag parts of Will’s face to try and draw the expression in a convincing way on screen, but the AI will contort his face in random ways while you attempt to do so, making the challenge different every time you play. If you fail to make the expression look convincing, or if you express an emotion that’s ill-fitting for the moment, then NPCs will stop trusting you and you will be blocked from progressing the story on that particular path. The game boasts branching paths and multiple endings, and there’s a certain existential dread about the whole experience that I’ve never come across before in any other game, so kudos for that. When I think of playing videogames, Who’s Lila? isn’t exactly what I have in mind, but among adventure games it is one of the most unique, and it’s worth checking out for that reason alone.

And that’s a wrap. If you got this far with me, thank you. So, what was your favorite demo during this event? Did you learn about any new games from this article? What would you like to see covered in future articles for future events? Let me know in the comments, and I hope you enjoyed reading through this.