Steam Next Fest – February 2022 Edition

Yes, I realize I’m late, but better late than never! The February 2022 edition of the Steam Next Fest ran from February 21st through February 28th, and featured a whopping 628 demos. Usually, I spend a few hours poring over pages of available demos and carefully curating what I want to try out. This time, I went primarily for games already on my wish list, and plucked a few gems from fellow bloggers Magi and Paeroka, and decided that would be more than enough for me this go around with everything else currently on my plate. I followed my typical pattern of playing the demos from the ones I was least sure of my interest in to the ones I was most looking forward to in order to keep myself motivated through all eight titles.

I think the idea of a word game roguelite is fantastic, but there was something about Writer’s Block that didn’t grab ahold of me. I played through the first few battles before I realized that letters didn’t need to be touching to be used, and I think that took the game from frustratingly difficult to perhaps a bit too easy. It may have been something I really got into if I were in a particular word-game sort of mood. I may have only played for a handful of minutes, but I did toss it on my wish list.

It hasn’t been too long since I was on a pretty significant simulator game kick, and I love photo-focused games, so Birding Simulator should have been a perfect fit for me. What threw me off was the heavy story-focus – not at all what I expect from a realistic sim title! I got frustrated when I was still in the tutorial section (at least I think I was) when I couldn’t manage to find the correct bird to study. For a game with so many aspects that are right up my alley, I’m afraid that this one probably isn’t going to be for me.

I realize it’s weird to say that a game I played for less than five minutes was one of my favorites, but I really liked Robo Maestro. More of a toy than a game, really, you’re really just playing around with music by pressing buttons in its main Maestro mode. In creative mode, you can really set up just about any kind of combination of sounds you like. Depending on release price, this could be a day one purchase for me.

Dragon’s Wandering Tavern feels like the sort of game I could absolutely devour, but some kind of quirky controls mean I’m not completely sold just yet. The retro art style takes a bit of getting used to as well, but I love the whole idea of wandering around a cursed forest, foraging, trading, cooking, and helping people. Hopefully, it’ll smooth out a bit as it comes closer to release, and there’ll be another demo to try. Otherwise, I’ll be waiting for some reviews to hit, but I’m definitely going to keep an eye on this one.

I like the idea of taking the life & farming sim formula and putting a science-y twist on it, but, for me, the demo for Research Story felt a little bland. The graphical style didn’t do anything for me, and I had difficult navigating the map and distinguishing the low-poly character sprites from the background and from each other. I didn’t encounter anything deal-breaking, but I also didn’t find it so compelling as to make it a must buy for me.

Stardeus is where my plan went off the rails completely. I usually try to spend no more than 20 minutes or so per demo (especially when I put off playing them all to the night before the end of the festival), and I spent almost a full hour on this one. It already feels like a pretty fleshed out colony sim, and it drops you right into the middle of a crisis – your ship has been damaged and you must set the robots to fixing it before all the colonists wake from cryo-sleep and die from exposure. If I didn’t still have two more demos to get through – and my most anticipated two at that – I could have lost multiple hours on the demo alone. This is a likely day one purchase for me.

It already has a place on my most anticipated games I’m expecting to release this year, but I probably didn’t give World Turtles demo a fair shake. I did find the building controls a bit clunky, but nothing that would dissuade me from playing it when it releases. I’ve been really craving a good, peaceful city builder, and I still expect this will fit the bill nicely.

I finished up my demo-palooza with a quick look at Fata Deum. I’m already full invested in this one – I backed it on Kickstarter what feels like ages ago. So far, the mechanics seem solid, even though the controls are still a little finicky. I expect the learning curve to be pretty steep, but honest-to-goodness god games are such a rarity, and this one seems to really get what makes them work. I didn’t want to get too involved in the demo, but I am definitely still very much looking forward to this one.

Steam Next Fest – October 2021 Edition

When virtual game festivals became the big thing last year, I jumped in with both feet. The first few, I made an attempt to try out absolutely everything that even vaguely interested me. After all, I loved the idea of having all these demos I could play right from my home computer! No crowds, no travel, no waiting in line.

And obviously, it something that has been working out – at least well enough – for the developers, because it feels like these events are happening more often, and each time, there are oodles of games that had managed to fly beneath my radar. However, my demo-consumption pace turned out to be unsustainable. I went from choosing upwards of 20 demos to try out, to restricting myself to a dozen, and finally, in this iteration, choosing only a handful. One seemed to me to be broken, which left me with only five games to report on, but on the upside, all five were pretty great in their own way.

Beasties was actually on my wishlist prior to this iteration of the Steam Next Fest, but to my knowledge, this was the first time a demo had been available. It plays a bit like a fusion of the Pokemon games and Puzzle Quest – instead of your standard turn-based monster battles, you get turn-based match-3 battles instead. The demo is short – my 21 minutes played saw the available content through to the end, but I like the idea, and this one stayed on my wishlist.

Prose & Codes is a game of cryptograms – classic letter substitution puzzles. However, it takes its phrases from the pages of classic literature that is in the public domain and available to read via Project Guttenburg. In fact, there are links directly in the game that will take you right to the book in question, which is honestly pretty great. Even better, a portion of the game’s sales will support Project Guttenberg. The demo only had a handful of puzzles, but the full game is supposed to have over 350, so – at least for me – price point is probably going to be the determining factor of if I grab this one right away, or wait a bit. Nothing groundbreaking here, but it is the only demo I went back into after closing it the first time. I do like a good puzzle.

If you ever wanted to play a time-management game in the universe of Sweeney Todd, you’ll want to keep an eye on this one. You control both the husband and wife team, who have just opened up a combination tailor shop and pub. He kills customers, tosses their bodies in the basement, and repurposes their clothing for sale, while she grinds the meat, cooks the pies, and serves the customers. In its current state, Ravenous Devils suffers from some translation issues, and it was unclear from the demo what the failure conditions might be. Still, it’s definitely a unique game idea, and I’ll be interested to see the finished product.

I might have passed over this one entirely if I hadn’t read Magi’s thoughts on it in his second Next Fest review post, and I’m so glad I did because this one went immediately on the wish list. You wouldn’t think a game about identifying plants and reading letters would be quite so riveting, but I was all in from the get go. Primarily, it’s a puzzle game – you need to figure out which plant is which from customer descriptions while also unraveling a much larger mystery. Only the first few days of gameplay are available in the demo, but if it maintains the level of interesting things happening, it’ll definitely be one I’ll struggle to stop playing.

Wytchwood is a crafting-focused adventure puzzle game. You play as a witch, who awakens from a nap to find a goat has eaten her recipe book, and it just gets weirder from there. The early game (and store page) hints at some farming-sim type content, but I mostly picked up ingredients from the ground, used my special sight to figure out environmental puzzles, and wandered around, gawking at the gorgeous art work. Unfortunately, the release year for this has already been pushed back a few times, but the demo felt both playable and rather polished, so I’m going to remain optimistic that this game isn’t too far out now.

Unfortunately, I didn’t get around to trying these demos out until the Festival was just about over, however, I’m glad I found the time to play this handful of games, because every one of them now has a spot on my wish list. However, I’m hoping that some of these demos will stick around for a bit after the Festival’s official end!

Steam Game Festival – Autumn 2020 Edition

I’ve really been enjoying the opportunity to sample all kinds of demos during online game conferences, but man, I never knew they happened quite so often! For this one, I decided to choose a day, and power through all the demos I could, to better simulate that con experience, and write up a few thoughts on what I’ve tried out.

I spent most of Saturday playing demos, and managed to play twelve different ones to the point where either (a) the demo ended or (b) I had seen enough to make up my mind. In the end, five of the twelve ended up on my wish list.

Watch Me Stream My Mental Breakdown – Estimated Release Date 2020

Warning: If you’re on Discord while playing this, your friends might contact you to express some … concern.

I know I’ve been complaining about the glut of deck-building card games, but here it works. What I’m less sure of is the tone – the whole concept of making your living as a streamer is heavily ridiculed by, well, everyone in the game except the player’s character. Gameplay is fairly polished, but the balance feels off in the early game (you will go into debt – deep into debt). This one didn’t earn a place on my wish list, but I’ll probably check on it a few months after release to see what people are saying about it.

Milo and the Magpies – Estimated Release Date Q1 2021

Beautiful graphics, lovely music, and unfortunately, I found it really irritating to play. The demo does not explain the controls, and it doesn’t seem to behave quite like a point and click game, although I think that was the design intention. I managed to pass through the first yard, mostly due to randomly trying to make things work, and got stumped (and unable to even move) in the second. I think this game probably belongs on the spectrum between point and click adventure games and puzzle games, and having it marketed as a hidden object game is a bit disingenuous.

Zoo Economy – Estimated Release Date Q2 2021

This one is an adorable little economic simulation focused on the breeding and trading of animals. The demo includes a multi-level tutorial, which is good, and the game play loop seems solid. With both a campaign mode and a sandbox mode, my concern with this one is that the concept is too niche to be successful at a reasonable price point. Unlike a lot of zoo-focused simulations, you’re looking at lists and budgets instead of watching cute animals be cute. This one aligns closely with my tastes, so I’m adding it to my wish list, but price point is going to be the biggest factor in whether or not I pick it up.

Supermarket Shriek – Estimated Release Date October 23, 2020

I think we should just file this one under “What was I thinking?” Now, I’m not saying the game itself is bad – in fact, it looks like it could be a lot of wacky fun when played in co-op. It’s just not at all for me. I’m not a huge fan of racing games and obstacle courses when the controls are tight – this one felt super floaty (which I’m sure is great when the goal is adding to chaos), and the screaming would drive me crazy in no time. I’m just not the intended audience for this game.

Strobophagia: Rave Horror – Estimated Release Date October 28, 2020

This one is creepy and stunning and – at least as someone who doesn’t play a lot of horror – pretty damn unique. I’ve added it to my wish list, but to be honest, this might be the type of game I enjoy watching more than playing. I can see myself getting frustrated by the trial-and-error aspects of the puzzles because the game doesn’t give you any indication of what the items are you’re picking up. I knew the answer to the first riddle, I just couldn’t find the thing I needed (despite believing I had it more than once). As a freshman effort from a small development team, this looks and sounds amazing, but I’m not 100% sold on how it actually plays.

Dealer’s Life 2 – Estimated Release Date Q4 2020

I’m usually into anything that let’s you buy stuff, sell stuff, and negotiate for better deals, but I found Dealer’s Life 2 to just be underwhelming. You get a pitifully small number of transactions a day, and it all plays the same without ever giving you any real feedback on the choices you’re making. I guess it could make for a fine little timewaster, but I would rather replay something like Pickers or Barn Finders with a little bit of variety to break up the monotony.

This is the Zodiac Speaking – Estimated Release Date October 15, 2020

I really wanted to be captivated by this one, but for me, it’s just missing the mark. Everything feels ok; nothing feels great. I do appreciate the devs inclusion of a straight-up story mode for people who don’t want to deal with the stealth/combat part of the game play, but I don’t know that there’s enough left without that to pull you through the story. The demo was very slow paced, with really obvious puzzles and a rather awkward UI, and I didn’t particularly want to keep playing.

Scrapnaut – Estimated Release Date January 2021

This is probably going to be a really cool game, but it won’t be a really cool game that I play. I never realized how much movement controls factor into my first impression of a game, and although WASD & mouse-facing sounds pretty standard, it felt super awkward. I also tend to prefer a slower introductory experience, even in a survival-style game. I got stuck on every landscape feature while trying to run away from an enemy I was unprepared to fight, which didn’t quite manage to kill me before lack of oxygen did. I think I was supposed to be able to reach the quest target safely, but since I missed a directional cue (if there was one), I ended up going the wrong way. I guess I want a little more hand-holding to help me get started, and have the difficulty slowly ramp up, and I don’t want the biggest enemy in the game to be the controls.

The Tenants – Estimated Release Date Q1 2021

Despite being absolutely right up my alley, I might have missed this one if Ctrl Alt Noob hadn’t give it a spin early this weekend. Despite the name, this seems to focus a whole lot more on doing renovation jobs than maintaining your own properties (at least in the early game, which is what you get in a demo). For me, that’s perfect. I really enjoy the chill gameplay loop of clean up / build / design / furnish. The time and budget constraints seem generous, allowing you to put your own touches on the requested renovations. I can see myself losing hours upon hours to this one. It’s absolutely going on my wish list!

Going Medieval – Estimated Release Date Late 2020 for Early Access

Full disclosure: this one was already on my wish list, although I don’t recall how I first discovered it, or honestly, even putting it there. Granted, my time with it was short, but I definitely got Rimworld vibes from it. For me, that’s a good thing, but I also have some concerns about the scope – it’s easy for developers to shoot for the moon, and very often, they miss. What they have so far looks promising, and this might even be an Early Access pick up for me, depending on the launch price.

Palindrome Syndrome Escape Room – Estimated Release Date October 14, 2020

I really like the concept of this one – it’s a sci-fi spin on The Room series style of game. The demo is very short, but I found every puzzle within it both satisfying and logical, and am intrigued by the smallest hints of the story. I’m always interested in a solid puzzler with no time limits and some nice window dressing, so I’ll definitely be checking this one out when it releases in a few days – whether I pick it up or not depends on if I feel the launch price is worth the 3-5 hours of play time the developers anticipate.

Tree House Survivors – Estimated Release Date TBA

I had saved this one for last, because I was probably the most excited about it, but it is – at best – half-baked. I actually think the graphical style is fantastic, but the tutorial is lacking (in fact, the store page tells you more than the tutorial seems to). The sheer number of people you have right off the bat is overwhelming, and no one is happy. It’s a frustrating place to have to start from. It looks like this is a solo dev project, and no where near being ready, so I’ll check back on it at a later date – possibly well after release – to see if they’ve managed to pull it off. Right now, it’s stuffed full of things that just don’t work right yet.

The Nope List – Steam Game Festival

With the impressive number of demos on offer during the Steam Game Festival, there was just no way to play everything that looked good, but boy, did I try. All told, I managed to download and play 30 demos during the 6 day long event.

The games in this post are ones that intrigued me enough to try out, but for one reason or another, didn’t quite grab me the way I had hoped. With one notable exception, I didn’t think any of these games were so deeply flawed as to be irredeemable – they just weren’t for me.

I previously wrote about the demos for BattleCakes, Lumberhill, and Paradise Killer, but decided to keep the rest all together in this post.

Anomaly Hunter – Estimated Release Date Q4 2020

A time-travel hidden object game that had me stumped more often than not. You’re tasked with finding the things that went wrong and fixing them, jumping back and forth in time to do so. Definitely could use a more robust hint system, especially at the start of the game when it relies far too much on the player comprehending how everything works. I like the idea, and there’s plenty of time for the devs to put some more polish on it.

Potentia – Estimated Release Date November 2020

I have been known to play a post-apocalyptic action adventure game a time or two, and I liked the look of this one. The environmental graphics so far are gorgeous, but the actual people inside the world are a little on the blocky side. The voice acting is downright awful, and the controls are not as smooth as I would like them to be. I died more times in the demo than I care to admit (apparently, fire hurts), but the saving grace for me is a piece of music that was part of a cut scene for the intro level was so beautiful and perfect. I’m not sure if I’ll buy the game, but I’m damn sure going to keep an eye out for the soundtrack.

Model Builder – Estimated Release Date Q4 2020

I am absolutely not the target demographic for this one, but I just had to see it. Virtually building models is an idea that has so much potential for the right audience, and it seems to capture that pretty perfectly. You need to cut the pieces from the sprues, then put them together piece by piece, just like you would an actual model. It looks like the modeling desk enthusiasts would kill for, and I can see this just being a meditative experience for folks who love this sort of thing but don’t have the time, space, or money to be able to do the real thing.

Imagine Lifetimes – Estimated Release Date September 25, 2020

This one felt like more of an experience than a game, despite the inclusions of some clever mini-games in between making choices. I think the play through I did got stuck at the end, as all I could do was click the light on and off, but there didn’t seem to be any sort of progress after that point. Although the demo is supposed to have 9 different endings, I lacked any enthusiasm to go through the early stages of just blindly picking things more than once.

Grounded – Estimated Release Date July 28, 2020

I didn’t actually expect this one to blow my skirt up, but it’s absolutely visually stunning, and absolutely not the game play style I gravitate towards. If you’re a fan of first person melee combat, base building, and survival mechanics, though, this looks like it’s going to be a winner. I just got eaten by bugs because of course I did. I do have to give bonus points for the relatively in-depth accessibility options and the arachnophobia warning.

A Little Shop in Squirrel Town – Estimated Release Date August 6, 2020

This one gave me some Stardew Valley vibes, and I would have liked to check it out, but sadly, the demo wasn’t available in English (although according to the Steam page, the final game will be).

UEDI: Shadow of the Citadel – Estimated Release Date Q1 2021

I didn’t not like this one, it just felt kind of average. The movement controls were a little less tight than I wanted, the shooting was good enough, and I liked the aesthetic. But the writing (or translating, I’m not sure) wasn’t great, and there was nothing that made me desperately want to play more. I just felt like I was playing some pretty but generic shooter, and I didn’t much care about what was going on.

Unforgotten – Estimated Release Date Autumn 2020

If I wasn’t sure before, I am now – I am so very much over the Tinder-style swiping in games. It makes even less sense when there’s a lot of “cards” that are exposition instead of choices, and timed events where you have to make a decision almost as quickly as you can read the card. The story seemed interesting enough, but the vehicle they chose for it is a huge turn off for me. To top it all off, the translation work was mediocre at best.

Lord Winklebottom Investigates – Estimated Release Date Q1 2021

Probably not a game I would pick up for myself (and I strongly doubt the comparisons to the Danganronpa games that Steam is implying in the “similar to games you’ve played” area), but looks like a delightful comedic point-and-click mystery. I felt clever when I figured out the puzzles (ah, adventure game logic), but as the demo still lacks a hint system, I didn’t get very far at all. I loved the look and sound of the game, and I can see it being a hit with adventure game lovers.

Just Die Already – Estimated Release Date Summer 2020

At least for me, this one is just too much. Super gory sandbox with a neat (if dystopian) concept – perform challenges to finance your retirement living expenses. Pretty much the first thing I did was decapitate myself on a ceiling fan, and it didn’t get less messy from there. This one would probably be more fun as a sort of perverse party game, but I think I’ll stick with the devs earlier title – Goat Simulator – if I want pure mayhem.

Lovingly Evil – Estimated Release Date Sometime in 2020

Nope, I still mostly don’t care for dating sims. Sure, it’s cool you get to chat with Satan, and I appreciate the inclusion of a few mini-games, but I’m just not that into the idea of a super-villain conference where I can learn how to be more evil and try to pick someone up. It seemed polished enough and probably will be good for fans of the genre, which I keep forgetting that I am not.

Mr. Prepper – Estimated Release Date Unknown

This one feels a little too possible, especially if you’re living in the U.S. right now, and I was vaguely uncomfortable with the meme-y-ness of it. That said, the game play felt pretty solid – follow your plan, turn household items into materials to build your bunker, or trade and forage for supplies. Basic crafting & placing of objects was serviceable. Movement was a little janky, but having to remember to hide the evidence of your subversive activities was a nice addition. If I’m completely honest, I might have been more jazzed for this one had I played it earlier in the week – as is, I am content to say it’s interesting and move on.

Nuts – Estimated Release Date 2021

The idea of a squirrel surveillance simulator is intriguing, but the game play is kind of tedious. I think I’d have more patience with it if the day time color scheme was a little less headache-inducing, and/or if there was a “return to trailer” button once all your cameras were placed. It’s still got a while before the planned release, so maybe they’ll add in some alternate color schemes, which would solve my biggest issue with this one.

Freshly Frosted – Estimated Release Date 2020

An adorable if somewhat simplistic puzzler about automating donut production. The demo features only one relentlessly happy tune which started to grate within the first handful of puzzles. This game was designed for controller input, but feels like something better suited for touch screen on a mobile device. Without knowing the price point and the total number of planned puzzles, it’s hard to say whether or not it would be worth the purchase, but I have plenty of simple puzzlers in the backlog already.

What I Wish Listed – Steam Game Festival

With the impressive number of demos on offer during the Steam Game Festival, there was just no way to play everything that looked good, but boy, did I try. All told, I managed to download and play 30 demos during the 6 day long event.

The games in this post are ones I either added to my wish list or that I confirmed belonged on my wish list after playing the demo. These are just quick looks – there was no way I could do a full post even on the my favorites of the festival.

However, I did manage a few more in-depth looks – here’s a list, in case you missed them:

For the rest, I wanted to at least write a quick paragraph about why they made the cut for me.

The Eldritch Zookeeper – Estimated Release Date TBD

This one has been low-key on my radar for so long, I honestly thought it was one of those really cool concepts that ended up dead in the water. I was absolutely thrilled to see it show up with a demo. That said, a five minute video tour, no matter how cool it looks, is not a demo. Still, I know this is a game I will like, and it was enough progress to hold its spot on my wish list for awhile longer. I’d really like to see this one go into early access if that’s what’s needed for the solo dev to get it done. 

LOVE: A Puzzle Box Filled With Stories – Estimated Release Date 2020

Gorgeous art, gorgeous music, and a heartbreaking tale told through photographs. The demo only had one puzzle, but it brought tears to my eyes. The fact that the developer contributed their previous game (Word Forward) to the Bundle for Racial Justice and Equality just makes me more eager to throw some money at them.

Cartel Tycoon – Estimated Release Date Late 2020

I’m kind of a sucker for tycoon games in general, as well as economic-focused city builders, and Cartel Tycoon definitely has aspects of both. Its logistics are kind of fiddly at the moment – when placing buildings it’s hard to tell where you need to connect the roads in order for them to function appropriately. The foundation in solid, and with months to go before the estimated release date, I expect the fiddly bits will get cleaned up quite a bit. It’s not so unique that I feel like I’ll need to buy it immediately on release, but it looks well thought out.

Circadian City – Estimated Release Date July 24, 2020

This game was on my wish list already, but actually trying out the demo wasn’t necessarily a good thing. Character customization isn’t implemented yet, and a lot of the basic systems (like working in your office or at your home) are completely non-functional. I know the devs are planning an Early Access period, but it doesn’t even feel ready for that. I’m a little disappointed – the concept is enough to keep on keeping an eye on it, but the reviews are going to have to be pretty good to convince me to pull the trigger. If they don’t have a whole lot more going on that what you get in the demo, that’s unlikely to happen. If the game isn’t ready, I hope they at least push back the EA release.

Sovereign’s Will – Estimated Release Date Fall 2020

I’m grateful to Paeroka for pointing this one out – it totally flew under my radar. I found it interesting enough to keep an eye on, especially since the demo was clear that the English translation isn’t yet final. As it stands right now, I found too much of the text to be poorly worded, and it kept me from truly being immersed in the game. However, I do love a text heavy strategy game, and this one has a lot of potential if they can hammer out the finer details.

Sayri: The Beginning – Estimated Release Date 2020

An absolutely gorgeous puzzle adventure that is focused on helping and healing instead of killing and looting. After crashing on a foriegn planet, you must explore the world and help the creatures you come across to learn about your new home. In a lot of ways, it reminded me of Ode, which I loved despite being so far outside of my normal comfort zone, and I think I’ll love this as well. There seems to be no fail state, and the themes of friendship and cooperation make me think this is going to be the ultimate feel-good game. The demo recommends a controller, but I had no issues using keyboard and mouse.

The Final Earth 2 – Estimated Release Date Q3 2020

This was the very last demo I tried, because I was afraid that if it wasn’t timed, I’d lose hours to it. It’s an absolutely delightful little city builder, oozing charm, and easy to learn. With both story mode & sandbox mode planned, this is going to be the perfect chill out and play game. Provided the price point stays reasonable (currently, the dev is estimating around $10 USD), this will be a release day pickup for me.

Ruinarch Demo (Steam Games Festival)

If you’ve played Rimworld in the past, and thought it was entirely too kind and gentle, you might want to take a look at Ruinarch. This demonic invasion sim is delightfully evil, and packed full of different ways to reach the end goal of wiping out entire villages.

Ruinarch is less about building things – the build mechanics are super simple – and more about inflicting torture and insanity on the people in the world. Sure, you can just flat our murder them, but if your threat level increases too much, you’ll find yourself facing down a host of angels bent on sending you back to the hell dimension from whence you came.

It would seem that it’s far more beneficial taking the subtle route when possible. There are multiple ways to turn you villagers against each other – make notes of their relationships to one another, and you will soon be able to sow enough discord to have them taking each other out. Steal items from one villager, and plant them in the home of another. Whisper in a villager’s ear what his neighbor is up to. Click on tables to poison the food there.

Or if that’s not your style, summon demons to attack villagers directly, drop meteors on their houses, and set oh-so-many things (including people) on fire. However, make sure to watch your energy and pick up chaos orbs or you’ll find yourself without any powers before you know it.

It’s hard to judge how balanced things are while learning mechanics in a short demo, but if Maccima Games can get that right, I can see getting hundreds of hours out of a game like Ruinarch, After only 20 minutes of play time, it’s gone from something that wasn’t even on my radar to something I hope to be picking up as soon as it launches into Early Access.

Ruinarch is currently expected to enter Early Access sometime in August 2020.

Trainwreck! – Streamer Life Simulator

Ok folks, I don’t even know where to start with this one. So I’m going to state the obvious – impulse buying is bad! Impulse downloading of free demos can also be bad. However, neither of those is likely to be quite as bad as the Streamer Life Simulator demo.

Become one of the most popular people in the world, starting from scratch. Improve your character and buy yourself new equipments. Move from your bad neighborhood and settle in new neighborhood with stronger internet infrastructure. Create the computer with the features you want and start streaming. You can chat with your followers and collect donations. You can invest with the money you earn and increase your money. By following the new games and events. Buy new games. By playing the right game at the right time. Let new people discover you. Prove yourself to people and win tournament prizes by participating in tournaments of popular games. You can interact with your environment and do some different work to earn additional money.

It sounds ok, doesn’t it? I wasn’t expecting the all-time best simulator ever, but I am just boggled here. The little bit of the core mechanics I played around with were fine – set up your desk, put your PC together, set up your streaming account, and buy your first game. A little fiddly, but no big deal. Possibly also a whole heck of a lot of copyright infringement, but … eh, satire, I guess?

While waiting for my newly purchased game to download on the world’s slowest internet, I decided to go exploring outside a bit, and well, now I understand why the internet sucks.


Apparently, something very very bad indeed has happened out here, and I no longer care about Steem or starting my career in streaming, I want to know what’s up with the world because I am no longer expecting the microphone and camera I ordered to ever show up because this is some post-apocalyptic nonsense right here.

Since nothing in the outside world is interactable, and after looking around the whole neighborhood, my game is STILL downloading, I decide I’ve probably seen more than enough.

Better late than never, I take a glance at other games put out by the same dev, and it all makes just a little more sense now.

Hey, I understand that not all art is created equal, and I although I might criticize details, I hate calling any kind of art bad. But the Streamer Life Simulator demo was definitely some kind of trainwreck, and it was one I had to escape by force closing the program through Task Manager.

Quick Look – Barn Finders Demo

When we started subscribing to PhiloTV, we indulged in a lot of reality TV we didn’t have access to previously. That included way too many seasons of American Pickers – sure, it was mostly background, but it was also really fascinating to see what kind of junk people hold onto, and how valuable it can actually be.

I am not going to tell you that Barn Finder is “American Pickers: The Video Game”, but it comes pretty darn close. You get leads, explore abandoned properties, bid on storage unit auctions, and then do your best to scavenge every bit of value out of the trash other people left behind.

Each location shows you a progress bar of how many collectibles you still have left to find in a given location, which is immensely satisfying to the completionist in me – no questioning if you’ve moused over absolutely everything in a given location. While you’re out looking for treasure, you might as well recycle the valuable trash you come upon – it’s not a lot of money, but at least in the early game, three dollars is three dollars more than you had. In fact, I wasn’t able to even go to the first scavenging site until I managed to sell more than $50 worth of valuable trash on my home lot – which mostly consisted of the beer bottles hanging around in my room.

Although you won’t be haggling with the owners of the items you’re scavenging, you do get to bid on auctions, and haggle with customers in your shop. You’ll also need money for tools (which can be upgraded), additional display space for your shop, and building cleaning, repair and assembly stations. Overall, Barn Finders feels like living the picker life, even if it’s a little heavy on the caricature.

… and then the aliens show up.

The demo includes a couple of days worth of play, but if you like it, it is available for purchase now. Barn Finders currently has a 30% price cut through July 9, but even the $20 base price isn’t outrageous for an expected 12-15 hours worth of content. This is the second game I’ve played during the Steam Games Festival I’m planning on picking up in the very near future.

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.