Following Ruby’s lead, I’m also jumping in to talk a little bit about some of my favourite demos from Steam Next Fest.
Steam Next Fest, of course, is a week-long celebration of games large and small that are currently in development. Demos and short vertical slices are the core of Steam Next Fest, allowing players meaningful time with a coming crop of indie darlings. We truly have come full circle and re-emerged into a new era of game demos. We simply love to see it.
To help you cut through the noise, we’ve decided to curate a pair of lists full of games we really like. You can check out Ruby’s list right over here. There are games in this list that bend genre in ways that tickle me. Some are playing with ideas I haven’t seen before. And there are others still that are reviving genres I thought were long dead. I’ll keep my descriptions short and sweet so as not to spoil anything, and include trailers where I can.
By the time you read this, you’ll only have one weekend left to check any of these Steam Next Fest demos out, so let’s get into it.
David’s Steam Next Fest Demo Picks
It’s a build-your-own-haunted-house simulator mashed up with the design fundamentals of a tower defence game. Your goal is to build a maze that will scare your punters as much as possible before they pass through the haunted house and exit through the gift shop. Genius. A simple twist on a very familiar genre. I will lose hours to this.
Terra Nil is described as a reverse city builder about ecosystem reconstruction. You start with a barren planet and use your magnificent technology to turn it into a lush, verdant paradise. Once the planet’s ecology is thriving on its own, your challenge becomes packing up your base in a way that doesn’t harm the new environment. Leave no trace, as they say.
We have officially entered the era of the N64-like Rare shooter revival era and I for one could not be more thrilled about it. Agent 64: Spies Never Die is a sterling attempt at recreating the look, feel, sound, and gameplay of Rare’s accidental masterpiece GoldenEye 007. I don’t know exactly what is happening in this demo in terms of plot, but it doesn’t matter. What matters is that I understand, instinctively, how to play this game. Plug in a controller for the full effect. Love it. Can’t wait for more.
I love escape rooms, so anything that recreates the experience digitally is an instant wishlist for me. Escape Academy is exactly that: a digital escape room simulator you can play solo or with a friend. You are a student of the Escape Academy, training to become the ultimate Escapist. Each room presents a different kind of challenge, and each member of the faculty can provide you with new tricks and tools for puzzle solving. I love this stuff. More, please.
Melatonin is a rhythm game about dreaming. Its hand-drawn art and chill soundtrack combine to create something that is incredibly chill and goes down very easily. Unlike other rhythm games that prefer an on-screen metronome for keeping you on the beat, Melatonin uses other visual and aural cues to keep you on the two’s and the four’s. Smart design and a unique take on the genre.
An extremely dadcore pitch that makes me smile and nod like that Robert Reford gif. This is literally a brewery simulator. I get to hang out in the garage, blast some boomer tunes and brew up a case of crispy boys. Extremely dad hours on this one, love these vibes.
If you’ve been reading the site this week, you’ll already know how in love with the Metal: Hellsinger demo I am. It’s a rhythm shooter that plays like a love letter to Bethesda’s Doom and adds a little extra flavour of its own. Highly recommended for metal fans and rhythm game fiends alike.
Fashion Police Squad is like if a hyper-aggressive version of Tan from Queer Eye got his hands on a gun that could dress people in an instant. The city is under siege from people in boring suits and guys wearing socks and sandals. This cannot be allowed to stand. Take matters into your own hands and keep your city fashionable.
I feel like the developers of Moviehouse and I are kindred spirits because we were apparently the only people to play and enjoy Lionhead’s The Movies. Moviehouse is a little friendlier than Lionhead’s famously difficult studio sim and keeps things relatively simple. The entire goal is about reading the desires of your critics and fans and trying to make a movie that will please them both. Achieving that goal leads to major monetary gain, which can be poured back into future films.
The Mystery Cleaner feels like a mash-up of something like Viscera Cleanup Detail with an immersive sim where, beyond simply cleaning up, you must use the detritus you find to solve a larger mystery. I love the genre fusion at play here. It feels like someone writing an extremely dark House Flipper fanfic, and I’m excited to see how far the developers can push the concept. I couldn’t actually find a trailer for this one on YouTube, but there’s one on the Steam page linked above that you can check out.
VergeWorld is described as a futuristic combat racer. I would describe it as Lylat Wars/Star Fox 64 with PSOne era graphics. You have a gunship, you’re on rails, there’s all kinds of crazy shit coming at you and you have to shoot it down or evade it as best you can. It’s fast, it’s fun, and it’s full of proc gen levels so no run is ever completely the same. Extremely here for a flying rail shooter revival.
Outmode is a synthwave racing game full of neon visuals and pounding, 80s-inspired electronic music. It’s a pure, immaculate vibe and that is the end of my pitch.