#RacingGameMonth – A Story in Three Parts

Want to know more about #RacingGameMonth? Check out the Community Game-Along page!

Racing games really aren’t my forte. There are genres I am … not so good at, but I am just downright dismal when it comes to operating a motor vehicle on a computer screen. My inability to (virtually) drive is the reason I never got very far in L.A. Noire, and the only reason I can tolerate driving in games like the Saint’s Row series is that there’s absolutely zero penalty for demolishing car after car trying to get from Point A to Point B.

Still, in the spirit of community, and due to the fact that I have a handful of racing games in my library from various bundles through the years, I decided to give it a fair shake.


Part One – Table Top Racing: World Tour

I’m not sure why I thought this would be a super-casual, extra-easy-for-total-noobs racing game experience. Maybe because the it’s little toy cars, and how hard can that be?

Hard. The answer is hard, at least if you’re me.

There are six cars in the first race. Which means I came in dead last.

Now, I didn’t just come in dead last once. Nope. I came in dead last over and over, even after using the pity money to upgrade my adorable little truck multiple times. I was not getting the hang of this. Not with the keyboard and mouse. Not with a controller. Not for anything could I manipulate a toy car around this little itty bitty race track. It wasn’t even an overly complicated track.

I set it aside, figuring I’d go back and push through later in the month, but as usual, I got distracted. Since I picked this up in a Fanatical bundle way back in 2018, it doesn’t make me particularly sad to leave it mostly unplayed.


Part Two – Forza Horizon 4

Yes, I fully appreciate the flying leap I took here. But I promise, it wasn’t my idea. I picked up XBox Gamepass for PC this month, and got a recommendation from one of the Community Game-Along organizers via Twitter.

Accessible. Accessible is good. Well, I turned everything all the way down to see how I’d do. If it was a cakewalk, I could always turn things back up.

Want to guess how many cars were in the race? Did you guess 12? If you did, you would be correct.

This is me. Taking out a stone wall. Clearly, this is going very well indeed.

In all fairness, Forza Horizon 4 is gorgeous. Given enough time, I probably could have started to get a handle on things with all the training wheels fully engaged. But I figured, if I was going to wreck stuff anyway, shouldn’t I play something where at least that was the point?


Part Three – Carmageddon: Max Damage

Carmageddon: Max Damage is … the ultimate antidote to racing games!!

from the Carmageddon: Max Damage Steam page.

Why I didn’t just start with a game that rewards me for driving badly, I will never understand. I’m still playing on the easiest difficulty, mind you.

I’m a fan of alternate win conditions. Especially ones that don’t require me to stay on the track. And first race in?

Yep. Crash into the other cars over and over to profit. This I can do.

Initially, I was a little surprised how much I was enjoying Carmageddon: Max Damage because it is still actually a racing game, and let’s be real – it’s totally cheesy. But it totally scratches my mayhem and destruction itch. Usually it comes via shooting things – a lot of things – but I also can do the whole demolition derby thing.

I will likely play this well into next month when I feel the chaos itch. I assume it will get harder and I won’t win every event the first time out, and that’s okay. It’s got a 15+ hour main story, and I picked it up in the dollar tier of a Fanatical bundle almost two years ago and proceeded to forget all about it.

Finding little nuggets of gold in the back of the library is why I have one, after all.

Steam Summer Sale Shopping List

The Steam Summer Sale is expected to start on Thursday, June 25 and run through July 9.

I really should have sat down with my wish list prior to playing a whole mess of games during the Steam Games Festival because now, most of the games I’m really jazzed about aren’t coming out for months and months!

Still, I’m eager to pick up a handful of new titles, and I’m really going to try to convince myself to go for quality over quantity during this sale.

So what am I planning to buy?

The Splurge

Disco Elysium

Purchasing Price Point $29.99 or less

I really regretted not picking this one up the last time it was on sale. However, I have no idea if I’m actually going to enjoy it, so considering it’s likely to be my big splurge title of the sale, it’s critical that I try it out inside the return window. I almost never spend over $20 on a game, but more and more, I really feel the need to make my purchases count because it’s not like I don’t have huge library to fall back on.

There’s actually not too many games on my wish list that have a regular price much over $20, but other games in contention for being my splurge title this time around were Heavenworld, Dawn of Man, Megaquarium, and Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney Trilogy. With a good enough discount, I still may pick up any of these, but historically, none of them have reached my desired price point during sales.

Smaller Purchases

Normally, I’d be spending the days leading up to one of the big Steam sales picking through my wish list, debating the likelihood of future Humble Choice or other bundle inclusion, and figuring out what I’m most likely to play right away. This time, I’m finding myself pretty stumped.

I expect I’ll pick up an Early Access title or two which drop in price enough during the sale that I feel I’ll get my money’s worth, even if a completed product never manifests. I’ll grab a title or two with an insane discount and mixed to bad reviews (or even more telling, nearly no reviews at all). I’ll likely round out my purchases with an inexpensive puzzle game, something small and super casual, something I’ve played in the past but no longer have access to, and an insanely cheap “completely your collection” that might hold my interest for an hour or so.

This was not the shopping list I planned to talk about, but probably far more realistic.

Gifting

Although there are a lot of genres I rarely if ever play, I like to think I have a pretty good handle on what is good, what is not so good, and what one might like based on other games they’ve enjoyed. One of my favorite parts of these big sales is running around, finding the perfect game for friends.

Sometimes, I buy something from their wish list, but mostly? I send gifts that I really think the recipient will enjoy. I won’t say I’ve always been 100% successful. Most years, someone gets a copy of Psychonauts, and someone else gets a copy of Ghost Master, because those are two games that have made me really happy in the past, and I like the idea of sharing a bit of that with someone else.


It seems like every major Steam sale, there are more and more folks lamenting the glory days gone by, and sure, the cessation of things like flash sales mean the prices don’t dip quite as low for the AA and AAA games. However, more and more, I am feeling as if the future of games isn’t in those titles, but the deep back catalogs and independent developers. Where I find myself conflicted is in my desire to get the best bargain and also to give not just lip service, but actual support to the little guys in game development.

I plan to enjoy this semi-annual event, but I am also looking towards the future of actually ponying up full price for the upcoming games I’m most excited about.

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 Itch.io 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.

Ten Thousand Coins Demo

If you ask me, there aren’t enough games that revolve almost exclusively around buying low and selling high, and it’s super-rare that you see one that’s as story driven as Ten Thousand Coins. I was intrigued right from the start – there’s a lot going on with this tale of a young Foxeen woman, learning the merchant trade while hiding her true identity from a world that’s actively hunting her kind.

You spend the tutorial chapter traveling back and forth between two settlements, picking up axes in the first, and bartering them to the lumberjacks in the second. It’s a simple enough concept when only two settlements are available, and they both happen to have what the other one needs. You learn right away that unless you are in desperate need of coin, it’s always more profitable to barter than to buy and sell, due to the tax system on coin transactions.

If that’s all Ten Thousand Coins had to offer, even with a robust world design and story, it’d probably wear thin pretty quickly. However, travel time comes with its own challenges and choices to be made. There is a hunger mechanic, so foraging for food while traveling quickly becomes a necessity if you’re going to run a profitable business – eating the stock has an opportunity cost. Also, the woods aren’t safe – you will encounter hazards, creatures and bandits in the woods, more so at night.

Combat is turn based, but plays out like a mini-game. Attacking requires you to click at the right time, and blocking incoming attacks is done via mousing over the area where they’re intended to land. Neither is particularly difficult, but it’s miles away from traditional stat-based RNG combat (as well as the real-time action combat) you may be expecting.

So far, the game plays far more like a strategy game than an RPG, and if I weren’t so interested in economic-based game play, I’d likely be disappointed. Sure, there’s a quest log, and you can do things like upgrade your wagon and hire on crew, but it lacks that core feeling of becoming more powerful through progression. Sure, you get stronger, but in the sense of moving quicker or being able to hold more goods at any given time.

I expect it’s the kind of thing that’s going to start out comfortably easy, but really test your trading mettle as the game progresses, and that’s the kind of difficulty ramp up I am here for.

For a game not slated to release until the end of the year, it feels pretty polished up already. Movement in towns is a bit persnickety, but that was the only time I didn’t feel like I was playing a finished product.

I really enjoyed the hour I spent with Ten Thousand Coins, and after playing, I went to the website and signed up for beta testing. It’s another one for the wish list – refreshingly different and a delight to play.

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.

WHAT IS THIS EVEN?

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.

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.

BattleCakes

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.


Lumberhill

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.