I don’t think I ever realized just how many gaming expos there are until they all went online! PAX Online is just about wrapping up as I write this, but there were quite a few demos available on Steam between September 12 and September 20. Many of them I have already taken a look at during prior expos, but several were new to me.
I’ve been following the developers of Unpacking on Twitter for quite awhile now, and this small little idea – of a game where you just take things out of boxes and put them away – has really been catching people’s imaginations. The demo felt good to play (although there were definitely items that I couldn’t immediately identify visually), and it was easy to start to make inferences about the character to whom all these items belonged. I’ll be looking to pick this one up close to release, assuming I’m comfortable with the release price.
It wasn’t that I disliked Polter Pals – in fact, I found the whole aesthetic to be delightful. The actual meat of the game, however, felt weak to me. The idea of puzzling out murder was done far better in Death Coming (although that game is also not without its flaws). It felt too simple for my taste, and although I appreciated the social media humor, it just wasn’t compelling enough to earn a place on my wishlist.
Trash Sailors was the one demo that I played that I really wished I had been able to play with someone else. As a single player game, it felt like it could be interesting, but that the true joy in the game would be from trying to coordinate with your raft-mates. The game is designed with local co-op in mind, but also takes advantage of Steam’s Remote Play Together functionality, so it might be worth a pick up if I can persuade my friends to give up an evening or two to try it out.
I don’t think I’ve ever realized just how many programming focused games there are (although Neon Noodles is more direct about being a programming game than many others). Playing the demo felt a little abrupt – the introductory levels are short and simplistic in order to introduce the player to the mechanics and the programming style used. If I’m still looking for more automation style games after playing similar titles in my queue, this is one I’d absolutely pick up.
I’ve looked at this game during previous expos, but was never jazzed enough about it for it to make the cut. Growbot is super pretty, and the music in the very short demo is lovely, but there’s nothing about this puzzle adventure game that particularly excites me. Considering the sheer quantity of puzzle adventure games I already have in my backlog, it’s not anything I’ll be keeping an eye on.
This one was already on my wish list, but it came perilously close to coming off. I absolutely love the game play, but man, do I hate the aesthetic. The problem isn’t that the game wants you to torture people – I was expecting that, even if it is a bit gruesome. No, the thing that turned me off was the food & beverage production track; taking resources from the lavatory to produce water felt like juvenile gross-out humor that just didn’t sit right with me. It wasn’t enough to completely put me off the game, and I completed the full demo. More concerning is the planned release date this year, but with a Kickstarter beginning in November. I’m just not sure the devs on this one have it together yet.
Normally, I would have skipped right over Neurodeck because I’m so not feeling deck builders anymore, but the conceit was so different I had to give it a shot. The idea of fighting phobias with coping mechanisms is very cool, but it plays just like any other deck builder (and not as well as some). For someone who is into this type of game, it might be an interesting twist on the formula, but there isn’t enough here for me to get over that hump.
Innchanted might be great when played with friends, and it might get more interesting later on, but the demo made me feel like I was playing a Diner Dash knockoff. Now, I’m not saying that’s a bad thing – I’ve spent many hours with time management games. But I didn’t love the controls – a casualty of being designed to be played with controllers for local co-op – and nothing really stood out for me, as someone who’d be most likely to play this one on my own.
The Industria demo feels really really early. The opening scene oozes atmosphere, but when the demo jumps you forward in the game (I assume so you can get a feel for the way shooting works), I got myself stuck in a train. I did manage to take a few shots – the shooting feels good, but I have no idea what I was supposed to be shooting at. Also, bullets have no effect on windows. I’m leaving this one on the wish list for now, but I’d definitely want to check in on it again closer to release.
Natural Insticts wasn’t on my radar prior to PAX Online, but I find the concept intriguing. It’s (mostly) peaceful, with a strong lean towards being educational. The narrator’s voice is soothing, the graphics look pretty good, and I can see this being a game I might just boot up to chill out and take care of some bunnies. However, I think it also might be missing the mark a little bit – this would also be a great game for kids, but some parents might find mating and hunting behaviors to be a little too blatant for their comfort. It’s not necessarily a must have title for me, but I respect the effort at building something different.
On the one hand, I’m a little disappointed not to find a new title to get excited for, but at the same time, my wish list is already so long. I am still enjoying these online conventions, and the access to demos for all sorts of upcoming games, and I hope they continue in a post-COVID world for those of us unable to travel to conventions regularly.