The World Next Door – A Demo that Opened My Wallet

The demo of The World Next Door is short – if you pick up on the core game play loop fast enough, you could be done in 15 minutes. I died a few times, so it took me 20.

Still, that 20 minutes sent me right back to Steam to toss them some money for the full game while it’s on a 70% discount.


I’ve reached a point in my life where a game being short is no longer a point against it. Low playtime with limited replayability is fine by me, as long as it’s reflected in the pricing, and the current discount more than compensates for a 4-5 hour play time. But is it fun?

Yes. Yes it is.

Well, at least I think it is, but I like match-3 games of all sorts. This one is a little more frenetic than most, and includes a dodging mechanic (which I didn’t really get the hang of during the demo and was probably a good part of my handful of deaths).

Spells are cast by standing on a group of three or more tiles and activating them. No aiming is required – your spell will head towards the nearest enemy. You can also tether a single tile to you and move it to a new location. It sounds easy, until you realize that the enemy isn’t constrained by the board and will be firing at you the whole time.

There is very little planning going on, and a whole lot of hustle. The green tiles that are vaguely heart shaped will heal you, so if you find your health getting low, you still can come back, as long as you move fast.

The control scheme isn’t accessible from the main menu, only the pause menu, so I spent a little time smashing buttons that did nothing. The keyboard choice of Z X C Space was a little odd, but not uncomfortable once I knew what keys did what. That said, if you’re comfortable with a controller, it feels like that’s what the game was designed for, and is likely somewhat easier to play that way.

The art is lovely, the concept is delightful (why yes, I WOULD like to take a trip the world of magic and mystical beings!), and the combat is fun. Reviews on the game’s Steam page point to the story being the weak part of the game, but since it’s lovely to look at and fun to play (and oh, did I mention, on sale for $3?), I can forgive a less-than-stellar story.

As an added bonus, for folks who like this kind of thing, after beating the game’s story mode, you can play local versus with a friend if you have two controllers.

I’ve already added this gem to my Steam library, and am looking forward to seeing all of what The World Next Door has to offer.

Crying Suns – The Demo that Convinced Me

There are so many games released every day, there’s no way that any one person can keep up with all of them. I’m not surprised I hadn’t heard about Crying Suns before its release, but for the past two days, it’s been all over my Twitter feed (granted, mostly promotions from storefronts and not from players BUT STILL), so upon discovering it had a demo, I thought I’d give it a whirl.

While I understand that early levels of any (reasonable) game are going to take it easy on you so you can learn about the game, I found the combat mechanics simple enough, and the introductory battles seemed nearly un-loseable.

What I didn’t realize at first was how important it was to make note of your officer’s individual abilities. I grabbed two different classes, and didn’t even glance at their skills. Skills matter, and it looks like there’s lots of DNA blueprint unlockables along the way.

I had my doubts about a story-driven rogue-lite, and I’m not always into sci-fi stories, but man, I was into this. I loved the written dialogue with the unintelligible speaking noises. I loved the music. And I was sucked right into the story – I didn’t just have to save the world, but the WHOLE GALAXY.

One clever quirk – the game expects you to die (and therefore, need to restart) a lot. Crying Suns is a single autosave, permadeath game, so I was prepared to have to sit through tedious exposition time and time again. Other than the introductory sequence (which is absolutely skippable), the game lets you have as much – or as little – story as you like, even on your very first play through.

The expeditions section might be the least compelling part of the game, as the only decisions you can make are which crew to send out, as well as if you want to use a tactical retreat when the opportunity arises. Everything that happens during the expedition seems to be resolved by whether or not the crew present has the appropriate skill, but later expeditions might flesh out this aspect more.

There is some light resource management, but it seems that if you can make it to a shipyard, you can repair or restock anything, assuming you have the scrap to do so. This makes scavenging at least as important as maintaining your crew when going on expeditions.

I played for about 45 minutes, through the first itty bitty boss battle (which comes at the end of exploring a sector). I might go back and give it another whirl, applying what I learned the first trip through. I’m not sure I’m ready to drop $25 on it right now, but it was an instant add to my wishlist.


Important Note: I played the demo on easy, which suited my tastes just fine. If you’re the type that likes a challenge, I expect it’s available to you since there are two other difficulty methods you can pick from, but YMMV. Isn’t it great that there’s a demo?


Dreamscaper – An Intriguing Demo

Bear with me while I meander a little, ok? When I wrote up my Dev Appreciation post about Soldak Entertainment, one of the games I booted up to play around with (and take screenshots of) was Din’s Curse.

Now, Steam wants to show me every single game that it thinks I might like based on playing Din’s Curse, and, well, I like browsing. One of the games I found from their recommendation was Dreamscaper, which hey, has a demo to play.

And thus was Dreamscaper added to my demo queue.


First the good: It’s a gorgeous game. Well, it’s a gorgeous game after the (very brief) tutorial section. I was seriously disappointed actually, because the screenshots were lovely, and the tutorial was … kind of awful in comparison.

This look doesn’t last long, I promise.
This is the style I’m so here for.

I was also relieved that playing didn’t feel anything like playing The Binding of Isaac (which I and like 2 other people in the known universe really didn’t care for), despite that being a sentence-one comparison in the game’s description. Although I only got to spend a little time with it (and it’s an early build at that), the combat felt satisfying, if a little bit button-mashy. Disappointingly the demo was very short, and it didn’t give any peek at all into the daytime game play, just the vanquishing of nightmare monsters.

Still, the art, the concept, and the little bit of game play I got to experience have catapulted Dreamscaper into my “Buy Early” category. But sadly, it’s not due out until March of next year (although you can still pre-purchase via Kickstarter), and it might be worth keeping an eye out if you’re looking for some really neat indies to play on your Switch.

Heartbound: A Demo Worth Downloading

I’ve been noticing more and more indie games (especially those in Early Access) have been adding demos. To be fair, I have no idea if this is a new trend or if I’m just now becoming aware of it.

I’d like to tell you that I’m not sure what about Heartbound caught my eye, but I would be lying. It’s the dog. If there’s a dog, well, then that’s probably going to be the thing that snags my interest.

I played the demo for about half an hour – through what I believe to be the first chapter. There is real darkness here, both implied and explicit, and I’m not sure how to feel about that. I will say the story is effective. I want to find my dog. I desperately want to find my dog.

Once I figured out what I was doing, I liked the combat mini-games. I really liked the puzzles, which feel like they’re going to be an integral part of the experience. Honestly, there wasn’t much I didn’t like, and the only thing preventing me from just dropping a tenner on the game right now is this: it’s not done.

And I don’t mean it’s not done in that it still needs a spit & polish. It’s not that there are still bugs and other niggling problems. It’s that whole chapters of the game aren’t yet available, and I don’t do well with waiting. When I dive into a game, I want the whole package, because when I spend too much time away, I lose track of the story, of the mechanics, and really, anything more than a couple weeks, and I just start over. I don’t want Heartbound to leave me hanging, so I’m going to wait.

This is the bit I find really intriguing, and that confirms I’m going to have to keep an eye out for the full release. From the developer’s website:

Every time you interact with an object, talk to an NPC, forget to turn off a light-switch, take out the trash, or disregard a sparkly bush the game remembers this and will change subtly for all further interactions. The greatest part about this design is that it already works and is in the current builds of the game. Both minor and major differences are going to pop up throughout the game and give the community something to share with one another. Everything you do matters no matter what kind of player you are or choose to be

Jason (Thor) Hall – https://www.gopiratesoftware.com/games/Heartbound/

I love small dev teams with determination to make the game they want to make. I probably should pick this up now to support the process, but I am also leery enough of Early Access to worry that I’ll end up with a half-finished game. The latest information about expectations for full release says mid-to-late-2019, so it might not be far off now.