Steam Next Fest 2022 Demo Impressions

Out of all the demos I played this Next Fest, 5 of them caught my attention

And it’s time for another Steam Next Fest with a whole lot of demos to check out! And I’m back with some demo impressions! I know I didn’t put out any for the last couple, but I want to at least talk about a couple games and I didn’t find a lot of demos that I didn’t already play. Well, with it being a year later (wow, time sure does fly!), more games have joined the upcoming list and have put out demos for this Next Fest! Which means less of a chance of having most of the games that look interesting being those that I already tried. Either way, I wanted to get this out before the Next Fest ended on the 28th just in case any of the games I’m talking about interests anyone reading this (at least those that reads this before Monday). There’s nothing that’s more annoying than a youtuber you watch putting out a demo gameplay after the demo becomes unavailable.

Anyway, it looks like I have 5 demos to talk about this time. Starting with…

Bingus: My Beloved

This was the weirdest VN demo I saw while browsing the Next Fest page and you know me, just have to check it out. The demo takes place during one in-game day as you just moved to a new place and the new kid to your new school, Zabloing Academy. For better or for worse, you will only be the new kid for a year as you’re a senior (though, granted, you could hope for another new kid to show up but what’s the odds for that). It also turns out that everyone are cats, which you might also be as well considering there isn’t any mention I noticed of you being human (and I’m assuming you’re meant to imagine yourself as any type of cat you want). Anyway, you get to meet some of the characters, including the two you’ll be able to romance. Your introduction to Big Floppa wasn’t that good, as it turns out that I assumed his friend, Sogga, was stalking me and that included them making fun of me despite me being right there in front of them. And then acting like a jerk in the other classes that you have with him. Though, Bingus (which I can’t imagine why I have a feeling the game is leaning towards him more) turns out to be nice, albeit a bit awkward at first, as he does seem to be nice and helpful. It also seems that Bingus and Big Floppa has a rivalry going on before you transferred. After you arrive back at home, the demo ends. So far, the story does seem interesting, and I do kinda like the writing style, so I’ll be interested to see where the story ends up in the full release. Not to mention the minigames, as the demo does feature one that seems to be dodgeball.

Though, I didn’t really like how clicking before the dialog text is fully out will advance the text rather than auto filling the rest before making you click again to advance. I also would have liked being able to disable the text bounciness as well. I’m all for stylization occasionally in VNs as it can really add to the text, especially when it’s not voiced, but having it all the time is a bit much for me. I also noticed that while I said I wasn’t going to help tutor Big Floppa and Sogga, a later dialogue sounded like I did after agreeing to hang out with Bingus, so hopefully choice conflicts won’t happen in the full release.

Card Shark

Right when Card Shark was announced I knew I wanted to play it. I was someone that had a phase of trying to learn the card tricks and while I wasn’t too good, I can always admire those that can pull them off, especially in gambling settings where they can get caught (but don’t because they’re so good). Card Shark starts off with you playing a poor, mute man working in a pub (I believe) before a particular man comes in. This man, who you learn his name is Comte, suggests helping him cheat in a game of cards and you agree. However, this causes your employer to be shot, due to the man Comte was playing against more or less catching on, and you flee with Comte and stay with his crew so you don’t get blamed for the murder (as it turns out the guy Comte was playing against is influential). Throughout the game, you’ll be going to different locations to play some rich fools and get their money, but you will learn more tricks. You can’t have just one trick that can easily get noticed or a trick that is pretty situational (you can’t always be the one pouring wine) as you learn how to cut the deck in Comte’s favor, how to peek at cards, how to signal the highest value card someone has, and all without being suspicious. Talking about suspicion, there is a bar indicating how suspicious your opponent is and as you’re doing one of tricks it will slowly go up. The difficulty of the tricks themselves will really depend on the person, but I really do like how the game starts with the simplest version before teaching you the more advanced version of it (like you learn how to signal the value and suit of a card and then how to signal the suit they have the most of). For me, the hardest trick was one where you take cards from a separate deck into the current deck mainly due to you having to remember up to 5 cards that you pulled out so you can put them back in their original deck while also being quick and stacking the deck in Comte’s favor. It also doesn’t help when there’s a cutscene between you taking the cards out and having to put them back in. Otherwise, you do have to remember the signals, but the game does give you a bit of leeway as it does say what you’re signaling before you let go (granted you’ll get more suspicion but still helps, at least on normal difficulty).

Otherwise, I did have trouble with the signal where you wipe the table misreading my diamond signal as a heart and you can prematurely stop pouring the wine if you click too many times to advance the dialogue. You also do have to perfectly perform the tricks where you have to stack the deck in Comte’s favor. If you gave everyone bad cards, but gave Comte mostly good cards, Comte will still manage to lose.

The demo is pretty hefty, around 1-2 hours, so if you’ve been eyeing Card Shark definitely try out the demo. I do think I’ll enjoy the full game once it comes out, though I’m sure I won’t be good as the more advance tricks come out haha.

Cat Cafe Manager

Come on, who doesn’t want to go to a cat cafe (well, aside from those that are allergic or don’t like cats). I totally would go to one as much as I could if there was one in my town. And hey, a little secret, I kind of dream of opening up a cat cafe, but I don’t really know anything about owning a business and I’m someone that really bakes when I’m in the mood to. But hey, games lets me live that out in some way and one day I saw Cat Cafe Manager pop up and when I saw there was a demo for this recent Steam Fest I just had to try it out.

In Cat Cafe Manager, you basically inherit a plot of land from your Grandmother where you’ll be building your cat cafe. You get to choose your first cat to adopt from a man that is either your Grandpa or your Grandma’s friend and you’re able to build the beginning of your cafe. In the beginning, you do also choose your first trait and you learn that each cat as their own traits as well. For me, I choose to have more points in Cooking, along with a chance to not use as many ingredients, and a cat that doesn’t eat as much. In addition, you do start with a table, a couple chairs (which dictate how many customers can be inside sitting at once, and a sink where you can make your only recipe… water. After you build the cafe, your first day in your cat cafe journey will begin.

Each day basically has customers coming in, having you take their order when they’re ready, prepare it at the needed station, and then bring it back to them. The cat (or cats when you pick up new strays) sitting on their laps on certain points and after a certain amount of time they leave, showing how they liked their visit through hearts and paying. As you continue through, you get introduced to the different customer types, first through a character you’ll actually be able to talk to called “Regulars” (and they also seem to be shopkeepers as well). The different customer types will give you different resources that go to different aspects that you’ll need. Like Punks will be your only way of getting the money (Lumber) to expand. While the game does end soon after meeting the last customer type, it does seem you can advertise for specific types if maybe you need more of a currency over the others. You will also have multiple food prep stations and ingredients to keep up with so you can serve the food associated with them. You also get to learn about the cat shrines, which basically is a way to unlock more stuff by getting a certain amount of hearts. You want more food items to prepare? Cat Shrine. Confused why there’s no litter box for your cats? Cat Shrine. Want more furniture types to buy? Cat Shrine. There is also a leveling up system with the cats and you (and I’m assuming your staff once that unlocks) where you can add more points to skills (which is important for food as some require Cooking to be at like lvl 5) and be able to add another trait at certain levels.

To be honest, I didn’t really like the different resources. I do like having different types of customers, but I do prefer having one resource needed to buy items (though a part of me does like not accidentally paying too much in a building aspect and not having enough money for ingredients or furniture and vice versa). I also hope that customers won’t be able to order food not on the menu past the first time the Regulars come in (and I do hope you have the ability to take items off if you want to). I also had some trouble with adding to the building, but I feel this was just not being used to how the game handles how you interact with the building (though I do wish it had an undo button to undo the weird mishaps that can happen). And also it’s weird having a cat cafe but not really being able to buy a litter box for the cats until you unlock it with the shrine and then having to pay a good chunk of resources for it. I guess what I’m trying to say is that I wished you could buy a basic litter box (and maybe some basic cat toys/scratchers) and that I would be fine if the upgraded/fancier counterparts cost more; just like how you can upgrade the passed down furniture to basic newer ones, then fancier ones that are in a specific style later in the game. Granted, the demo also only happens during the first week or two so I might change my opinions on these aspects, but we’ll see. Cat Cafe Manager does seem like it’ll be a go to game for when you just want to chill, but also play a game where you serve customers. I’m personally undecided on it, as there are good and bad aspects, and I do feel it’s the type of game where I’ll need more time with to really get my feelings on it pinned down.

Read Only Memories: Neurodiver

While Neurodriver’s demo has been out for some time now, I only got around to playing it during this Next Fest (haha oops). This demo is the game’s prologue and you get to learn the basics of what I can only assume you’ll do for the rest of the game. You play as as Esper (or psychic) known as ES88 to her clients, but as Luna to her friends, and the genetically engineered creature known as a Neurodiver that is used to help Espers in their jobs. She’s trying to cram for her upcoming Esper test before a friend of hers, Gate, comes in with a hybrid named Crow. A certain memory of his is conflicting with the memories of his old buddies, not to mention that he found what he was wearing that night and saw that he still has this information chip that was supposed to have been traded for money 10 years ago. Confused, he turned to Gate, who then brought him to you. While ES88 is hesitant as she isn’t fully certified yet, Gate knows the risks so you proceed to dive into that memory.

When you’re diving into memories, it seems that ES88 will still be able to make comments as well as the current person you’re diving into, but you are also in the shoes of that person in the past. So you can still examine stuff to your heart’s content. In dialogue, you also still do get several options to choose from, with it being based on what your client was thinking at the time. Anyway, you’ll be going along the path your client originally took to get to where the corrupted or missing memory is, and in this case it’s a corrupted memory for Gate. This includes some people being shown in a weird way that the client associates them with, the first being the bartender looking like a big baby. The way to correct this is to put an item that’s associated with them, which will let you continue through the memory. It also seems that while some will only require one item, others will require two or more (and I’m sure past the prologue you can miss the needed item before finding the corrupted version of the character). At the end of Gate’s memory, we see someone weird and get a taste on the conflict, as this Stranger remarks that he’s a hybrid Esper (which might explain his one complete golden eye), that he’s going to take the information chip without paying, and that he’s going to change Gate’s memories (which he of course did). Except, it turns out that despite him reading Gate’s mind through the conversation with him he took the jegi that was just a regular jegi and not the one hiding the chip. Good for us it seems, especially when it’s theorized by the characters that it held old information on how to make Espers (which isn’t relevant 10 years later, but could have done some damage if it was taken by that kid). Considering that this is the prologue, and we know that ES88 will be chasing after someone dubbed as the Golden Butterfly, it does make me wonder if this Stranger will turn out to be Golden Butterfly, or maybe he’s someone you’ll run across that came into contact with Golden Butterfly (either in a one off encounter or as someone that worked with Golden Butterfly before being abandoned).

I’d say this does seem like it’ll be a good game. If you already played the first game (2064: Read Only Memories) you will most likely enjoy this sequel. And if you like point and click games with a good art style and enjoyable dialogue, you’ll like this as well. You don’t have to take my word for it though, play the demo!

Small Saga

Honestly, Small Saga might be my favorite demo that I tried during this Next Fest. I actually came to know about Small Saga through Twitter and I was looking forward to it as it looked interesting. I didn’t know there was a Steam page up yet until I saw it in the RPG demo category and I was like “YES, DOWNLOAD THIS”.

Small Saga tells the story of the small animals that we wish we never see. You play as a small mouse named Verm. The prologue has you traveling with his brother, Lance, to go to the God’s Domain (which you learn the “gods” are actually humans) where a rumored food stock is to get seeds for their town. Here, you learn how to play and fight. This is basically your normal RPG battle system, but the different attacks is dictated by you having available, erm, action dots. Each attack will cost at least one dot and the more powerful it is, the more it costs. You do get one dot back at the start of your turn, but two dot attacks will require you to have a rest turn eventually if you want to do it again. You can also Defend, which will not only block some damage (though it looks like you might take at least 1 damage) but acts as a rest action both for your action dots and as a way to avoid situations where the enemy is taunting you to attack, when they themselves defend, any maybe when later enemies charge an attack. Each party member will also be able to equip two items, which can boost a stat like defense or be a food item to heal someone. The food item is a particular interesting aspect as while you can only use it once in battle, it turns out to be a “once per battle” as it returns.

Also, I do like to mention some aspects related to battles as well. There is actually no random encounters, which I actually appreciate. So far, I do like the scripted encounters (and how Verm has specific lines for his Rage ability depending on the enemy and/or the situation) and how this isn’t going to rely on grinding. The characters do level up after certain encounters though, where they can learn a new skill and get a point for their skill tree which can go to increasing attack, defense, or health, or even strengthen a skill. But the interesting thing is that it isn’t set in stone as you can actually undo it and put it into something else (if you can of course). If this demo is anything to go by, there does seem to be save points before significant battles so you can maybe switch up your party member’s skill tree if you feel like it would help, which is pretty cool. Though, this might imply that you won’t be able to completely fill every character’s skill tree (maybe for Verm as he is the protagonist, but maybe not for characters that join later or will leave).

After you get past the rats blocking your way, you emerge to the food stock, or “Heaven” and begin to start bringing a big bag of sunflower seeds (or normal bag to us) back. However, while the food was no rumor, a God comes to ruin their day. Dubbed as the “Yellow God” due to its exterminator attire, he straight up grabs and crushes Lance (which, to be honest, led to me headcanoning the Yellow God as Dale Gribble as it’s a very Dale thing to do) and Verm couldn’t do anything. By the time he could brutally cut off his own tale, Lance was already dead. We come back when it’s Summer and Verm is different due to his brother’s death. He basically turned into an angsty emo in the time we were away. He’s not the cute naive little mouse, but a cynical mouse who’s set to finding the Yellow God again. Not to mention he managed the ability to expertly wield the pocket kni- I mean god weapon that his brother said was too heavy to take and he learned the ability “Rage” (which accurate based on how he is now). Long story short here, but Verm comes across a town of moles dedicated towards the “Old Way” where they don’t have anything to do with the gods, but one (the smart, but naive Siobhan) and after the moles say they have no idea who the Yellow God is and beating up the cat with a god weapon lighter (which I love is like a shotgun for it’s special attack), you head off to the mouse city Murida. Before the demo ends at Murida, it does look like characters will be joining your party (whether it’s temporarily or permanently) and that we’ll get more locations to go to (and maybe be revisiting them) based on how the travel system is with the carrier pigeon Dizi. We also know that there will be treasure chest hidden in areas where you don’t have to go and hidden seeds (which may be used to buy stuff, which may be introduced in Murida).

If you like RPGs I can’t recommend this enough. While those that like random encounters and grinding may be a little turned off, I actually really like how the battles are scripted encounters, I love the writing, I really appreciate how you’re skill points aren’t set in stone, and I love the art style and the characters we met so far. I can’t wait until we get the full release!

And that’s all the demos that caught my eye, that I personally enjoyed the most, and wanted to write about. There’s a whole bunch of demos available until the 28 and while I do recommend checking these out, there will no doubt be other demos that you will enjoy. Just be sure to play them asap as not all of them will stick around afterwards and you can’t play them after they’re taken down anymore.


♡ ♡ ♡ A witch that goes for anything that peaks her interest no matter the genre. Currently obsessed with the Persona series and trying to make a dent in my backlog. ♡ ♡ ♡

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