Steam Game Festival 2021 Demo Impressions
Some first impressions on the demos I was able to play! Take a look at these 15 upcoming games.
If you ask me, having only a week to check out 500 demos is way too short of a time. Not only is there a high possibility you’ll be busy, cutting down the time you’ll have, it also depends on the demo length. Though, I do also wish we are notified on which demos would be leaving after the event. As with that information, you can prioritize demos that will be leaving over those that will be staying.
Anyway, I was able to check out some demos for myself and my first impressions on them are right here. This sadly won’t be out while Steam Game Festival is still live, as much as I would have loved to, so hopefully if any of these catch your fancy, they would have their demos available still or will participate in future events with a demo. Though, I will put a (*) to games with demos still available in a couple days as things settle from the event. Without further ado, here are my first impressions of numerous games:
I can stare at the artwork that’s featured in this game all day long. Anyway, Beacon Pines takes place within a physical book where we go into the illustrations to play out the story within it. Within the story, you play as Luka as he and his friend, Rolo, decides to see if the rumored abandoned warehouse was true. Well, it was and this revelation sparked a whole new mystery on what Beacon Pines is hiding.
To put this apart and make it unique, you have Charms, Charms, which you’ll find as you interact/examine items and talk to other characters, are used for Turning Points. When you come to a Turning Point, you’ll come out, back to looking at the physical book, where you’ll put in a charm in the blank space to alter events and rewrite the fate of Beacon Pines. If you look closely, most charms have symbols on them, and they’re used so you’ll be able to put charms that would make sense in a space. With this system, you also have access to The Chronicle right away, which basically lets you go back to a Turning Point and put in another Charm, as well as letting you see the branching paths you can take. This is especially helpful as you’ll find charms that you can use while down a certain path. Like, in this demo, you’ll have a Turning Point where you only have one charm that leads to a bad ending, but once you go down the other path (with the help of the charm you get in this bad ending), you’ll get a charm to avoid the bad end and continue the story in those circumstances.
I’m definitely going to keep an eye on this one… and occasionally look at the character artwork.
Fate of Kai
This one is interesting. The whole game takes place within a book and is mostly textless as you do get text to put you in context at the beginning of a chapter. Getting the first 3 chapters, we find that Kai wakes up in a field of sunflowers and finds himself shackled to a magical chest. Unless he wants to be shackled to it forever, he must take it to a castle, but the journey won’t be easy and it looks like there are many that want to get their hands on it.
There are also unique puzzle mechanics here. Instead of controlling characters, you more put thoughts into their head. As you turn the pages, you’ll come across ideas that you can pick up and place back into thought bubbles so the character will do just that. There are also unique panels where you can go back in time to see what happened, and prevent a disaster that prevents you from continuing your journey, look into a different room, and even cause a character to knock stuff over. Funnily enough, there are even end screens if you don’t solve the puzzle, which does give you a hint on what you’ll need to do to get past it. This certainly looks like it’ll be a memorable game.
Since the last Game Festival, Floppy Knights got an update, and man does it look better than ever. We got a new main menu screen and the first look at the story that will accompany the game. You play as Phoebe who built an arm friend computer named Carlton who, with floppy disks, can project tangible projections. They’re planning to enter into a Science Fair, but once they arrive, they find it canceled due to a volcano. With the demo ending with Phoebe and Carlton going to the next town to hopefully solve the volcano problem.
Floppy Knights is a turn-based strategy mixed with a card game. Apart from your main knight, which you’ll lose if they die, mostly everything includes having the necessary card in your hand. If you want to move a unit, you’ll need to have it in your hand as well as energy. Though, your initial attack to an enemy in your attack zone is free. Cards have various energy consumption depending on what it is, but you can send out more units, have cards that will let you attack more, and give your units (or cards) an upgrade. Though, the card system also means you need to put more thought into your moves, as having too many units out can mean that not everyone will move in any of your turns. It also feels like it got slightly harder. As, from what I remember the last demo, your enemies didn’t use to have an every turn spawner.
Each level will, of course, have you tasked with finishing the level, but will have a secondary task that will give you an extra card reward to add to your deck. So it may be worth going back to a level to see if you can do even better and get that reward.
Gwan Moon High School: The Ghost Gate*
This one certainly made an entrance, opening up to a teenage girl being chased and screaming as she’s running away from someone unseen. Well, not so unseen as a bloody ghost woman leans down to grab her before we’re put on the title screen. From here, it looks like there will be different arcs, each having multiple chapters as the night progresses. In the Labyrinth, we find out her name is Seung Yeon who went back to her school to retrieve a workbook. Though, we also found out that others are in the school as well: Ji Hee, who came to help Seung Yeon feel more at ease, Jun Ik who also seemed to have forgotten something, and Si Heon who lost track of time in the study room. And well, it doesn’t take long for you to run into a ghost. In Skein, Jin Woo is telling, you guessed it, a ghost story to his friend, Seong Tae, Geon, and Hyo Gin. This seems to be happening after Labyrinth, well unless the ghost stories were put in a book while it was still open, as both of them as well as Ha Rin are planning to going to the school. Here we find out why the school has ghost activity and there are stories about ghost encounters there. They all think what they’ve read are just that, stories, but they will soon find out the truth.
It seems the choices you’ll be choosing will be tied to whether or not you’ll get a death ending or continue on with the story. Luckily, if you do get to a death ending, you do get the option to reload to the previous scene, so there’s no need to save the game before choosing a choice. There are also a Search minigame which will have you search for something specific in a certain timeframe. Though, failing to do so will cause a ghost to kill you. As you go along, and even get endings, you’ll gather information that will be put in your notebook/the character’s short bio.
So far, this horror visual novel has an interesting story as these two group of teenagers are coming across ghosts and trying to survive the night. It was also a pretty nice idea to have one of the groups being those that don’t go to the school, but are only there for the rumored ghost stories. Not to mention it does manage to be scary, especially when you see a ghost looming over, threatening to attack you. In terms of a translation, it’s good, but there are still some errors here and there, which will hopefully be fixed as we still have some time before the release date.
I… I don’t like how the smiles are looking at me. Happy Game demo was the first 15 minutes of the game, where our main character, a little boy, goes to bed and has a… happy dream. Where he dreams up of various creepy smiles, more pronounced as each of the items take on a blood red appearance as the little boy chases a bouncing ball. You run into various puzzles and they are all creepy, but you can easily figure it out. Whether it being pretty obvious, or figuring it out as you fiddle with it.
From what I can get out of so far, it seems like this little boy is trying to be happy no matter what bad thing happens to him, which is supported by when he gets bullied in the schoolyard, and it’s finally catching up to him in his dreams.
For better or for worse, Happy Game is going to be memorable. It builds up a creepy atmosphere and I certainly don’t want all those smiles looking at me.
Hermitage Strange Case Files*
I’ve actually been waiting on the translation of this visual novel for a long while now. When I first found it, despite not knowing what was being written in Simplified Chinese, it looked really interesting and I hoped, along with others, that it would get a translation. Well, the announcement came that it was and I already knew I was going to pick it up once it’s ready. Though, it looks like I’ll get a little peak into the game.
Now did it reach my expectations? At least from the section the demo showed us, yes! We open to a teenage girl, who recently got transfered to a new school in hopes that it would be better than her last. However, it wasn’t and she’s picked on even more due to her being shy and a perfectionist in her art hobby. Though, it isn’t long until we switch to the book store owner, who will be our main character and self-proclaimed detective, who gets a school girl as a customer looking for an old book. While suspicions are there, we do find out who this teenage girl is, but she’s been having strange and disturbing dreams (which our character calls them supernatural dreams) that actually gives us more context to the first thing we see when we start the game. And well, when our character sets out to do more research, the demo ends.
From what we can see, we’ll have a general hub, in form of the book store, where we’ll be able to look back into any thoughts, check for information, and even talk to any customers. We’ll also be getting multiple dialogue choices, which goes along with different approaches of getting information, and we’ll get a catalog of information or thoughts as conversations go on. And lastly, the translation is surprisingly great. Everything made sense and there wasn’t any noticeable errors. The only thing that does bother me is that the whole sentence isn’t put into a dialogue box, making the last word or two needlessly be all alone in their own box sometimes. Nonetheless, this is a pet peeve of mine and it certainly isn’t going to keep me away from this one.
Ice Cream Truck*
I actually found this game last year, but since it’s participating in this year’s game festival, it’s a good enough time to talk about it. I actually originally found this game while randomly scrolling through the available demos and the simple name caught my eye. Something about “Ice Cream Truck” made me curious as even if you take it seriously, it could be a number of different games. Well, what this happened to be surprised me. Ice Cream Truck follows Max and his ice cream truck as he finds himself in an unfamiliar place. Though, despite that, his goal to help kids still prevails as he helps a little rabbit child that kickstarts this whole game. You’ll be managing your stock, gathering toppings, making your own ice cream, and scooping them into cones to give out. Though there’s a twist, your ice cream has the ability to manipulate emotions. You’ll be challenged to figuring out what emotion you need to give your customer, make that emotion by combining flavors if need be, and add any toppings they may or may not have requested.
Luna’s Fishing Garden*
This one is as cute as it looks. Playing as a cute girl with a sprout coming out of her head, you’ll help a mysterious fox spirit named Luna to create a garden. Except, in this game, you’ll have the ocean and multiple islands to plant on. You’ll be getting requests from Luna, other spirits residing here (one of which is a seal), cleaning up the islands and the ocean around them, planting plants, and collecting the seeds or fruit they produce.
Not only that, but you’ll also be fishing as there will be multiple fishing spots for you to use. You can choose what kind of fishing minigame you’ll be picking. The more difficult one is where the fish will be bouncing around and you’ll need to keep your bar on the fish long enough so the bar on the right will fill up while not letting it deplete entirely. With the fish becoming harder to keep in your bar the more valuable it is. In contrast, the more relaxing fishing minigame takes on a different look as you’ll see your fishing rod visually represented and you’ll need to start the catching process once the fish swims up into the hook. While this may be the more relaxing, easy alternative, it doesn’t mean it doesn’t have a challenge. The fish will wiggle and put stress on your rod, represented by it turning red and darkening in color, before it breaks free. To prevent that, you’ll need to let go momentarily to lessen the stress. The value of the fish is represented by how fast the fish gets reeled in, which also gives a good feel for how heavy the fish must be to your character. You can buy upgrades, though I suspect this is more for the difficult alternative rather than the relaxing one.
It was a nice little relaxing demo and, with it releasing soon, I will pick it up to see what else is in store.
The Longest Road on Earth
This one is pretty decent, but I’m not sure whether or not I’ll pick it up yet. The demo included the first couple chapters and this basically follows the everyday life of these anthropomorphic animals. Whether it be meaningful or mundane. With gameplay simply needing you to walk, do the occasional action (which mainly shows a close up of an item you’ll be picking up/using or doing something like riding a bike), and enjoy the beautiful music that’s accompanying all of the beautiful scenes you’ll be walking through. Though they do some interesting things with the visuals, like how they handle turning a corner while still walking forward and a perspective surprise that turned out to be a billboard.
I was honestly surprised that Mamiya (full name, Mamiya A Shared Illusion of the World’s End) was participating in the game festival and offering up a demo. Though, this wouldn’t be the only thing surprising about it. This game starts right at a funeral for someone named Natsume and 4 characters that were at the funeral are a focus point of this visual novel. You actually choose, blindly at first, which character route you see with who you sit by during the funeral, which will either be Suou Keito, Kikuchi Ryou, Morichika Haruki, or Toujou Minato. I sat by Keito, where he finds an amnesiac Ryou in the rain one day and he decides to give him a room in his home. Well, until his parents come back from their trip. There was also Mamiya, which turned out to be an invisible friend that only Ryou can hear. This turned out to be more of a slice of life than I expected, with the dark aspects being hinted at before they come at full force. I did take a quick look into the other acts, and it doesn’t look like they’re connected other than the other characters coming in. And the “shared illusion” part of the title becomes clear as all 4 of these boys hear Mamiya, or in case of one actually see him. Each route ends with a mysterious man standing in front of them, with the way to unlock the next arc being opened after you finish one route.
The demo is pretty substantial, giving you the first arc called FallDown. Personally, I found it pretty decent, with the translation being good with a few moments where it got confusing. And the art is very appealing, and even having a unique feel to it even among the familiar aura. With no idea how the rest of the game is, I’d say that if you find slice of life visual novels boring, you might want to hold off on this one.
This game follows Charlie who’s day to day life was always like the day before until her mother seemingly dies while she’s giving birth to her little brother. Some years later, she finds herself landing in a strange land with various fairytale references, which her mother used to read to her before bed, after her brother. First quest: Find her brother; second quest: Get outta here and back to their house. Though, you’ll need to help others along the way.
Probably taking some inspiration from Undertale, the turn-based combat has more than attacking and seem to have a morality system in place. The big thing you’ll have to deal with, in both your party members and the enemies, will be their Mood. Every attack will bring down the Mood of who got attacked and their are various skills that will affect the target’s Mood either positively or negatively. With you bringing the enemy mood all the way up or down leading to the enemies leaving unharmed (or well, you can kill them if you go down the route of bringing them down). With status effects being like subsets of Moods rather than what they would normally be called. Like being afflicted with Laughter won’t let that character attack. And some status Moods can even be negated by soothing them, like having a Feeling Hurt status can turn into Feeling Relieved after being soothed. Though, you can’t let your team mates go down in mood or else they’ll become depressed or overdose on happiness.
Though, the combat here leans more towards outlasting your enemies or stalling as you use consumables to stay alive and stay happy. Taking out your enemies without harming them is more tedious than not, making the battle longer and hurting you more. I’m not sure how much the morality system will truly play into the game, maybe it’ll reflect in how Charlie turns out when we get out of this fairytale world, though.
It’s hard not to get drawn to Potion Craft’s visuals, which will lead you to an alchemist simulator. Here, you’re a novice alchemist who arrived in a town and decide to stay in an abandoned house (which you suspect was owned by a wizard) as well as making it your Potion shop. Though, you don’t really remember much other than a simple Health and Poison potion. The others? It’ll be up to you to discover.
The gameplay for Potion Craft is pretty interesting. You’ll come across various ingredients that you’ll add to your cauldron to brew potions. Though, it’s more complicated than that. While other games simply have you adding certain ingredients, or even in a certain order, and doing certain motions to get what you need, it isn’t the same here. Instead, you’ll have to pay attention to the alchemy map, which is shrouded until you can bring the potion icon around to uncover it. On there, there will be knowledge icons, which will level you up so you go over to increase your skills to help you out, bottles that represent the type of potion, strange portals, and bone piles which will make the potion fail if the potion icon empties. To move around, various ingredients have their own pathing for the alchemy map, which you can see the preview of before throwing it in. To lengthen the path, you can grind the ingredients yourself. Once ingredient(s) are in, you can stir to move the potion icon along the path. Once the icon is over the potion outline on the map, which the more it’s matched up the stronger it is, you can then heat up the potion and bottle it up. Saving the potion will also give you an easy way to see what’s needed, and a quick creation of it. We’re also given water, which will move the potion in a certain direction which looks to be dependent on either the direction you’re going or the ingredients you put in.
Anyway, these potions will then be used to sell it to your customers, which will be waiting on you (and luckily have infinite patience). They’ll tell you what potion (or a hint to what they need) and why they’ll need it. If you think you have it, you can then offer it. If it’s what they’re looking for, you can sell or haggle for a higher price. Though, they themselves will how much more they’ll pay so it may or may not be worth it. Either way, you’ll have a minigame where you’ll have golden bonus areas that you’ll need to hit to tip the scale (oh, did I forget to mention your potion and their money are put on a scale?). However, hitting the empty space will tip it to the customer’s favor and even then, as time goes on, the scale will slowly tip into their favor as well. So you’ll need to be careful, and pressing the handshake button on each side once you get the best deal you can, which will be given to you along with the worst deal that will lose you money, least you get taken advantage of. Once you take care of any customers, and any sellers which you can haggle for to pay less as well, you’ll be able to go to sleep and get on to the next day. For another day of gathering ingredients in your garden (which spawns ingredients randomly), more customers, and more opportunities to brew up new potions.
You’ll also need to manage your shop’s reputation, which can be affected by giving the right potions, rejecting potion requests, and fulfilling some requests may even lower it. Your reputation does give you some advantages, so you may want to keep it decently high.
From what it looks like, there will be multiple chapters, which will be completed when you complete all tasks given to you, and move instruments to use to help you brew potions. This one is certainly interesting and I’ll keep my eye on it.
I’ve been hoping Princess Farmer would receive a demo ever since I found it and I’m glad it did! The demo takes place in Chapter 2 after our Princess Farmer found out her talent and was taken in by Gaia. It looks like we’ll be able to meet a variety of characters and go up against a mysterious villain.
With you going along a path, you’ll talk to other residents and to do the mentioned farming. The farming here is a match-3 minigame which was equal parts fun and challenging (which may have been in part with the difficulty I choose). You’ll be able to see veggies a couple of grids below the ground, which serves as your play area, and you’ll need to grab the top-most veggie to either get a match, or put down the one you’re holding to get one to harvest them. And this doesn’t matter if it’s close to the surface, or not at all. You’re able to hold up to 5 to give you enough wiggle room. In addition, rocks will block you, but you can simply smash them with another rock to get them out of the way.
It may seem it isn’t that hard, but it does and it does throw you a couple of curveballs to mix it up. Each level you’ll be doing has a goal, which can range from fulfilling a request or getting a certain score. Though, the play area will vary, multiple requests may be made, and you’ll even go up against some AI.
This one is as cute in action as it is through screenshots. Not only is the art style for the characters pretty cute, but they also have cute reactions depending on what they’re saying. With our Princess Farmer having different reactions depending on your dialogue choice. Personally, Princess Farmer’s blushing face is so cute. Your dialogue choices seem to affect your relationship with the characters, which you’ll be able to see when you go to sleep at the end of the chapter.
The only thing that was weird that it did open to a small window, but it’s no big deal in the long run. I enjoyed my time with it, and can’t wait to see what’s next.
Scarlet Hood and the Wicked Woods
Devespresso Games is back again with a new game! Before the demo launched, it was originally going to launch in early access, with from what I remember a short couple months window, but it is now set to be a full release. Anyway, honestly, the first thing I thought when playing was that I did not expect Scarlet to have the voice that she does, but at the same time, it does make sense.
Anyway, this demo takes place during the first chapter, and maybe halfway through the second, to give us a taste of what to expect. Being a very country game, we start out learning that Scarlet Hood is part of a band getting their first big gig which will hopefully lead to signing a deal with Savannah. Well, Savannah did like their music, but want to only sign Scarlet. Conflicted, Scarlet tries to tell her band, but they find out and proceed to not let her get a word in (after all, she could have not decided to sign it, though I wouldn’t blame her if she does now) and leaves her out in the road alone. Well, alone apart from that tornado. Which, much like Dorothy, takes her to a weird realm called Glome. Where the game will mainly take place. It doesn’t take long for Scarlet to be deemed the next Red Witch and be taken into a Munchkin troupe who she’ll need to protect from the Black Witch as they go through the Wicked Wood.
So far, this seems pretty interesting and certainly gets me to want to see what will happen to Scarlet. The puzzles here are pretty easy to figure out, though one where you have to open a rune door was a bit confusing, and the hand staff (cough I mean broom) is rightfully creepy. Though, we don’t see much of the time loop, as the demo ends when Scarlet wakes up from the first one. Thankfully, the game doesn’t make us redo every puzzle and takes into account that Scarlet will know the information she gathered from the previous loop.
Stay Out of the House
Before going in, I thought having a VHS style horror game where you try to escape the house was a neat idea, so I opted to try out the demo. But what I didn’t know was this was by Puppet Combo, who dedicates themselves into making VHS-style horror games inspired by 80’s VHS gore films, serial killer stories, and true crime. And what Puppet Combo does best is building up tension, especially in games where you’re doing something mundane and it suddenly turns terrible. Like Babysitter Bloodbath where you play as a babysitter where a murderous intruder decides that’s the day he’ll break in.
Anyway, Stay Out of the House demo seems to be the prologue, called Night Shift. Where you have to work the night shift at a gas station. Everything seems normal at first. Barely anyone coming, doing some tasks the previous guy was too lazy to do, and ringing up anyone that happens to come by. And maybe playing the arcade game, a reference to Puppet Combo’s previous game, Power Drill Massacre, during the down time. However, as the night goes on, so does suspicion as a white van creepily makes it’s rounds ( they’re just turning around, right?) and a creepy man is being creepy. All leading to the end, where you’re knocked out by a strange man with a bag over their head, presumably taking you the the house you’ll have to get out of in the first game.
Though I think I broke the game somehow, as the killer failed to show up for a long while (at least, compared to gameplay videos I remember from years ago) and when he came in through the front, he was just scared to come into the back room. I guess don’t leave the back room door open your whole shift haha. Other than that, the text can be hard to read, but changing your display options can fix this.
I’m not sure that I’m brave enough for Puppet Combo games haha, which maybe wasn’t helped that I played this at midnight, but you can find their other games on itchio, as well as Murder House on Steam.