Two Game Expos Going Digital with Utomik

I don’t think I ever realized how many gaming expos existed until they all had to go digital due to Covid-19. Today, I received an email from Utomik to let me know about two more upcoming expos that they’re collaborating with.

Indigo (Dutch Game Garden) – June 22 through July 3

For the duration of Indigo 2020, 26 games will be available to play on Utomik, including Dreamscaper, Welcome to Beacon Pines, and Eloquence.

It’s not clear whether these will just be demos, or full games (although I fully expect they will be alpha / beta releases if so), but the games will be available to play for the duration of the event.

If you already have an active Utomik subscription, you don’t need to do anything. If you have never used Utomik, a seven day trial is available. If you’ve used Utomik in the past, but have a currently inactive account, you can use the code INDIGO20 to get 7 free days, during which you can play the Indigo 2020 games, as well as anything else in Utomik’s library.

BitSummit Gaiden – June 26 through July 11

Most of the BitSummit Gaiden 2020 content will be taking place on Twitch and Discord on June 27th and 28th, but they are also making a whole bunch of games available to play on Utomik for a two week period, including Mystic Pillars, Neversong, and Nanotale: Typing Chronicles.

Just like with Indigo, it’s not clear if these are full games or demos, but there’s a lot of things available to check out. Again, this is included with an active sub, and your can reactivate with code Gaiden20 for 7 days of playtime.

I personally think a lot of folks are sleeping on Utomik in general, so their willingness to work with these gaming expos seem like a win-win situation. The expos get to use the already built infrastructure to spotlight some new independent games, and Utomik may attract some folks who might not have otherwise checked them out.

Three Demos That Didn’t Convince Me

Not every game is going to be for me, and I am 100% okay with that. That said, I like to try things that might be outside of my comfort zone to see if I can instead expand my comfort zone. All three of these games looked to be if not precisely in my wheelhouse, at least wheelhouse-adjacent, so I decided to give the demos a whirl.

All three were interesting in their own ways, but none of them left me needing more.


A turn-based RPG that’s both sweet & salty.

Turn-based combat isn’t my favorite, but given the right packaging, I can get behind it. BattleCakes has you playing as a party of sentient cupcakes (only one of which is customizable). Fighting is not necessarily the solution to all your problems, though – you can use friendly moves in combat to see if perhaps you can win the baddies over to your side instead of beating them up.

While I appreciate the aesthetic, and the puns, and the super-snarkiness of the dialogue in the (very short) demo, the combat – for me – was lackluster. You cannot choose your class (or the class of your party members), and the abilities seem to be hit once hard, hit twice less hard, or hit a bunch of times like a Wet Noodle. I’m sure there’s strategy there, but I wasn’t feeling it.

BattleCakes is slated to release sometime in 2021.


Co-op lumberjacking in chaotic situations.

I might be more jazzed about Lumberhill if I had a bunch of friends who were also into this sort of chaotic game style. It’s reminiscent of Overcooked, in that you have a job to do, and everything (probably including the other players) seem completely determined to get in your way and keep you from doing it.

I must have fallen off the edge of the map about 5 times in the tutorial level, which was about half a dozen times less than I set myself on fire. This was not due to me trying to solo a co-op game – this was due to the movement being a little persnickety and the fire being far larger than it appears.

I did manage 2 out of 3 stars on the first real level.

Obviously, a game that’s designed for multiplayer shenanigans is likely going to be a whole lot less fun solo, so I don’t blame the game at all here. In fact, I can see this being hilarious with a group.

Lumberhill is due out in September 2020.

Paradise Killer

You are pulled from exile to investigate murder on a dead world, but nothing is as simple as it seems – or is it?

Now this one I really wanted to fall in love with. I was expecting some Danganronpa-style mystery, and I was prepared for the weirdness that would come alongside it. But this? This might be too weird. Like, this makes Monokuma look positively mundane.

I thought I had the gist of things pretty well in hand, until I started talking to people and wow. I’m sure there is some scathing social commentary here to accompany your murder mystery, but I just kept feeling like I wasn’t getting it. Which is too bad, because the investigation mechanics look really solid, and I like the idea that if you build a convincing enough case, you can convict anyone of the crime…

… but that isn’t at all the same thing as solving it, necessarily.

I’m not ruling out playing Paradise Killer in the future – it may just be that this is the type of game that requires a specific mood to really get into. I also was trying to race the clock – since the demo was timed, I wanted to see as much as I could, so I didn’t spend too much time poring over the information I’d acquired before moving on.

For me, this is still intriguing, but nothing I’m going to rush to buy on release – more likely, I’ll check out the reviews on launch and wait for a sale.

Paradise Killer has no release date available on Steam, but is expected to come out sometime in the Summer of 2020 according to its website.

Madly in Love with Best Friend Forever Demo

In a world where there are cat people and there are dog people, I am absolutely unapologetically a dog person. I don’t have any problem with cats, but they don’t inspire in me the pure joy that dogs do. I feel like I might be a bit outside the norm for gamers, though, because you see a whole lot more cat-focused games than dog-focused ones.

I also don’t normally get super excited about dating sims, but I was prepared to make an exception for a (likely) Day One purchase for Best Friend Forever. Sure, it is absolutely a dating sim, but you also have a dog that you need to care for while trying to meet the love of your life in a new town. I was hoping would this would add just enough of a second game play layer to keep me invested.

Now that I’ve spent about an hour with the five-week long demo, I am completely and totally invested.

You’re new to a town where pretty much everyone owns a dog, so obviously, the first thing you do is go to an adoption event to get a dog of your own. You can choose from four Very Good Dogs (all of whom can be renamed after adoption). I chose Blocker, the silly mutt who couldn’t even pose right for a photo.

As with most dating sims, the majority of the game play revolves around choices you make in conversations, but you always have your best dog by your side, and sometimes, you need to pay attention to what is going on with him during conversations. Repeated clicks on your dog’s head can reassure him when he’s nervous, and if he’s pulling, you need to pull him back before he gets himself in trouble. When nature calls, you need to be right there to clean up after him.

When done properly, these tasks will improve your dogs stats, but if you neglect them, your dog will lose stats as well, so you absolutely need to pay attention. This game isn’t all about you, after all.

Because you’re a first time adopter, you will also need to perform weekly tasks to keep up with your dog’s training, or you risk losing him. Each week, you’ll be able to choose five enrichment activities, and three needs-based activities (such as brushing his teeth or rubbing him down with a towel). Some of these activities feel a little fiddly, and you absolutely can fail to accomplish the needs-based tasks, but so far, it doesn’t seem overly punishing.

You also will get the opportunity to do extra activities during the week, but those take motivation points which could be used on socialization activities or dates with the people in town. If you’ve already narrowed down the people that interest you, you might as well spend more of that time with your dog.

I am really enjoying the humor of Best Friend Forever (I feel seen), and I’m kind of madly in love with my fictional dog. The people you meet in Rainbow Bay aren’t half bad either. Although a final release has been pushed back a couple times now, I’m optimistic that the game will still be available for purchase before the end of the summer.

Touch Type Tale Demo (Steam Game Festival)

I both am and am not the target audience for Touch Type Tale. I’m not a huge fan of the RTS genre, but boy, am I a sucker for anything where the main way of interacting with the world is through typing. This is the first game I’ve ever seen combine the two, and I honestly didn’t expect it to work all that well, but so far? It certainly seems to.

You play as Paul, who is called upon to save his village by using a magical typewriter. In each scenario, you have set goals and a small map, and everything you do – from harvesting resources to building structures to deploying troops, you do by typing the words on the map for the object you want to interact with.

I can see this getting pretty chaotic – it seems easy enough to type words to mine gold, but that gold does you no good if you don’t hire laborers to haul it. Farms need to be planted, harvested, and planted again. Building a barracks will let you start auto-recruiting soldiers, but if you run out of money, the training will stop until you get some more coming in. You can split troops by using the Ctrl key (and typing commands), and cast spells using Alt (and typing commands). You’re going to also need the Shift key, because everything in Touch Type Tale is case sensitive. Trust me when I say you wouldn’t have time to use the mouse, even if it did anything for you.

The demo currently available as part of the Steam Games Festival gives you three levels to play through, and that was enough to convince me to add this one to my ever-growing, more than slightly out of control Wish List. There are five difficulty levels – I played this one on the second easiest and probably still would have been successful had I bumped it up to normal – and they are planning to have a skirmish mode as well as competitive multiplayer options in addition to the campaign mode in the full release.

There is no firm release date at this time, but Touch Type Tale is expected to come out some time this year.

Quick Look at LudoNarraCon 2020 Games

This is part one of two of my quick look at LudoNarraCon 2020.

Although I’ve always been a big fan of games with a good story, it’s only lately I’ve found myself gravitating towards some games where the story is the game. I want to be kept on the hook, so to speak, but honestly, if I’m just going to read there are comfier places to do that than at my computer.

That said, looking through the games on the LudoNarraCon 2020 sale, the ones I have already played, I really enjoyed, and there are several others that look so very very good (many of which were already on my wishlist, and more that I’m adding as I write this).

There’s a handful of games I don’t yet own that have really caught my eye. If I don’t pick them up this go around (and a couple aren’t even out yet), they’re definitely going to be on my short list of ways to be spendy in the future.

Beyond the Veil is a text-based narrative horror game, with a focus on character-driven storytelling. Kara, an unemployed college dropout, has no choice but to move in with her Dad when he decides to relocate to New Orleans. Kara has no discernible skills, and no direction. It’s her exploration of this city, and the friendships she makes there, that will mold her into the woman she will become. These choices are yours. So step up to the threshold- from here, there is no turning back.

Beyond the Veil – releasing some time in 2020

First off, look at that screenshot. Look at it. So gorgeous.

Secondly, New Orleans is a fantastic setting for a horror game.

Thirdly, I love the idea of a horror coming-of-age story, so to speak. The developers state that your choices throughout the game will not only affect the story, but your character’s core personality.

I’m totally into the whole package that is Beyond the Veil, although the price point and expected play length are probably going to be the biggest factors in whether I pick this up on release or wait for a sale or bundle.

Best Friend Forever is the world’s first simulation game to combine pet care and dating (just not necessarily at the same time). Train, pat and play with your very own dog to form a bond that will last the ages. With your four-legged companion by your side, meet, woo and cherish the many cuties of Rainbow Bay’s thriving singles scene.

Best Friend Forever – Coming Soon

Although dating sims have yet to sweep me off my feet (pun absolutely intended), the dual nature of Best Friend Forever makes me want to try again. I am a sucker for anything dog-centric, and it just sounds so chill and adorable, it’ll be hard to pass this one up when it comes out.

In the late 1970s, the charismatic Isaac and Rebecca Walker lead the Collective Justice Mission. Labeled radicals and feeling persecuted by the US government, they relocate their followers to the one place they believe they can create a socialist utopia: the jungles of South America. There they build Freedom Town. But relatives left behind in the US become worried: what exactly is going on at this compound in the jungle?

You play as Vic, an ex-law enforcement officer who has snuck into Freedom Town to check on their nephew, Alex. Whether you choose stealth or violence, you must infiltrate the commune, find out what’s going on within, and locate your nephew, before it’s too late.

Church in the Darkness – Available Now – On sale for $9.99 (50% off)

Church in the Darkness looks like it’s going to give you a fantastic story, maybe even many fantastic stories, although the game’s length will dictate whether or not I personally would give it multiple play throughs or just try to get the “best” ending the first time.

Sadly, I am rubbish at stealth games, and I expect that “doing it right” will require quite a bit of being stealthy. It’s not a game I’m likely to just buy, but something I’d absolutely play if it showed up on a subscription service or in a Humble Choice.

Step through time as you use our device to eavesdrop on conversations from past crime scenes. Every clue, every move, and every motive will be presented in the form of audio. Rather than controlling any one character, you only need listen to their conversations, following along as the story evolves. Use the information you hear to match names to voices and determine how everything (and everyone) is related. Can you discover the truth?

Unheard – Available now – On sale for $4.19 (40% off)

The coolest thing about this game is also – at least for me – it’s biggest flaw. I’d love to play it, but it’s going to require a chunk of time where I can be assured that I can focus on what I’m hearing (and honestly, this is the main reason I haven’t already picked it up).

But I do love detective games and solving puzzles. And with the current sale – which is even better for me picking it up as part of the Surveillance Stories bundle – it might be time to give it a spin.

Disco Elysium is a groundbreaking open world role playing game. You’re a detective with a unique skill system at your disposal and a whole city block to carve your path across. Interrogate unforgettable characters, crack murders or take bribes. Become a hero or an absolute disaster of a human being.

Disco Elysium – Available now – On sale for $29.99 (25% off)

Ah, Disco Elysium – huge commitment, huge temptation. There’s no denying that this odd but ambitious game has become quite the indie darling, winning a whole bunch of awards and captivating almost everyone who plays it.

Even if it’s only a fraction as open ended and customizable as the store page would lead you to believe, it seems like it would allow for so very many playstyles, and the concept wrapped around those choices seems like something that would really draw me in.

Still, I have never spent a lot of time with long-form narrative games, and I worry that at some point, no matter how good it is, it would start to feel like a chore to do that much reading, and that’s the main thing keeping me from clicking add to cart right now.

Part two of my Quick Look at LudoNarraCon2020 will focus on the games I’ve already played and my thoughts on them. LudoNarraCon2020 runs through April 27th, although many of the demos & sales are available until May 2.

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 –

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.