Dem-OH! July Round-up
Another month, another tower of demos to test drive! And this time there were two events presenting plenty of new titles to work through in what I initially thought was going to be a relaxed July.
I also thought it might be good to start pointing out my favourite three demos each month (not including those played as part of an event or previews), to highlight the cream of the crop. You can find the selection for the first ever Dem-OH! Stand-Outs in their very own section below, and how best to kick off this new segment than with a trio of games that completely blew me away. I recommend you get downloading immediately.
Black Skylands [Early Access] – Demo on Steam
A top-down action adventure game like no other. By mixing the resource gathering and building loop from titles like Terraria with both air and ground combat (that can feel like a ‘lite’ Enter the Gungeon), Black Skylands offers an addicting and engaging system that will siphon an entire weekend away before you know what’s up. Free your people by taking back and defending occupied locations. Power up yourself and your ships. Learn new abilities that can be used to access new areas and progress story beats. And work together to figure out what can stop the unending hordes of The Swarm.
Die After Sunset [Beta] – Early Access coming soon on Steam
It may have the same visual design as Fortnite but this title is more like Risk of Rain 2, being a third-person rogue-lite shooter. Spend the limited time you have in each area by fighting off baddies, using the money you find to open chests full of useful items and upgrades, and accomplishing random missions that open up around the map, before having to face the stage’s boss. The beta only showed gameplay up to the end of the second area, so I can’t say how long a run will take, but no doubt there’s plenty more cool things to see and a significant difficulty curve to overcome, as to be expected from an entry in this genre.
Stand-Outs (Top 3, in video release order)
Buck Up and Drive – Demo on Itch.io
An arcade racing game chock full of unexpected mechanics like the flip tricks and grinding you’d see in a skating game and a bunch of combat abilities usually only found in fighters! The challenging race to the end of each section demands great control of the boost drifts, timing attacks to smash through traffic, and fighting off the police. Totally addicting, incredible looking, and fantastic feeling fun.
This isometric strategy rogue-like took me by complete surprise. Drawn in by its amazing pixel art, I had no idea what I was in for when it beat me down over and over until I started to figure out the mechanics and enemy patterns. Whilst it has a battle system similar to Crypt of the NecroDancer, Evertried focuses more on the challenging puzzle of taking on many enemies in a claustrophobic environment and moves away from the rhythm stuff. This is one I’ll be jumping on right away on release. Heck, I might even return to the demo for a taste every now and then until that time.
Bittersweet Birthday – Demo on Steam
Another demo that completely blew my mind – Bittersweet Birthday is a narratively-driven 2D action game with puzzle elements and fantastic yet simple combat that will push you to the edge of your sanity. Well, it seemed like that’s all it was until a flashback shows us how these two main characters from the intro are connected and opens up a whole new world of classic RPG exploration and comedy. This one is something special and I’ll be on it immediately.
Let’s Go Nuts! 2– Demo on Steam
A simple side-scrolling platformer, presumably made for kids, Let’s Go Nuts! 2 is carefree and cute. There may not be much to the gameplay but, on the other hand, squirrels are freakin’ awesome.
School of Magic – Prologue Demo on Steam
It has some issues but with a little work School of Magic could fill a glaring gap in the booming rogue-lite market with its Diablo-style Action-RPG dungeon crawling. There’s a long way to go but it’s nice to see good progress being made and a few unique twists on powering up and gathering new abilities with it’s risk/reward almost-gambling system.
The Night is Grey – Demo on Steam
Lost in the woods. Surrounded by wolves. This beautiful point & click adventure game puts you in the role of Graham who, trying to escape the forest himself, stumbles upon a young girl whose mother hasn’t returned. Solve puzzles and try to find a way through the danger before things get bad. And, from the look of the trailer, they get REALLY bad.
Gearshifters – Demo on Steam
A rogue-lite top-down SHMUP unlike anything else. As you’re driving a car instead of the usual spaceship, there’s a lot of thematic changes that really make Gearshifters special. Having to get behind other vehicles for safety, or use your abilities to drift and hit them from an angle is vital, and that’s only the top of the iceberg. With a skill-tree bound to be full of crazy ideas and a classic upgrade system using permanent currency, you’re always going to be getting stronger, unlocking new powers, and tackling wild obstacles and bosses.
The Tower – Demo on Steam
What starts as a simple first-person adventure game quickly takes a dark turn as the Tower is attacked by unknown military forces, full of high-tech equipment. With the help of your own ‘Al’, it’s up to you to Die Hard the building and figure out just what was going on in this high level facility anyway.
Faraday Protocol – Demo on Steam
An interesting first-person puzzle game about redistributing different forms of energies to activate equipment and tunnel further into this ancient alien facility that seems bizarrely. Fun tests of platforming and problem solving wrapped in an engaging drip-fed story.
Dark Fracture – Prologue Demo on Steam
A fantastic attempt at an incredibly complex and direct first-person horror adventure game that maybe goes a little too ‘all-in’ early on to keep the tension and release scare cycle going. With constantly changing (and messed-up) environments, ghastly apparitions, and a glimpse into hell itself; Dark Fracture is on the verge of being deeply haunting but it needs a little more work on how it ramps up and cools down in order to better manipulate players into false securities and frightening themselves.
Boxed-In – Demo on Website
An incredibly simple block-pushing ‘strategy’ game about kiting enemies around into traps you’ve set and then locking them up. No doubt created as little more than a test for pathfinding state machines.
Dreamreaper: Grey Skies – Demo on Website
Claw your way through spectral enemies in this weird, nostalgic 3D action title. Get a little taste for the oldschool combat and strange world as you discover just enough about what your are and why you’re here to keep you wanting more.
A narratively-driven side-scrolling beat ’em up about two students that were framed for dealing drugs. Now, a year later and released from juvie, they will fight their way up the chain of command, discover why they were targeted, and exact their revenge. All whilst continuing to attend school. Interesting design and lots of systems to play with for levelling up and learning new abilities/fighting skills, as well as building relationships with the friends you meet along the way.
SYNCHRONIZERS: UNDEAD MARINES – Demo on Steam
A strange and unique take on tower defence mechanics. Gather resources, fight hostiles, and destroy the enemy bases all within a 3-laned track full of obstacles and battles. Plan the use of your currency well and strategise the organisation of your units to best tackle each individual lane, or you may just run out of supplies altogether.
Chains of Fury – Demo on Steam
A first person action shooter about blasting your way out of an alien prison. With an old-school flat design and a visual palette that reminds me of Void Bastards, this demo provides only a glimpse of what the developers hope to build out with a Kickstarter coming at some point this year.
Frincess&Cnight – Demo on Steam
A silly but challenging puzzle platformer about controlling two characters with wildly different skillsets through to the end of each stage. This one quickly becomes a brain-burner as each stage seems to question new and interesting uses of each ability, often requiring them to be used together to escape. I’m looking forward to seeing how far this one pushes the envelope and how the nonsensical, comedic story unfolds.
Lumione – Demo on Steam
A lovely 2D platformer that will push you to your limits. With just a single jump and a small flying ‘dash’, Lumione demands perfection and some quick solutioning to get through the trickier trials this demo puts out. Whilst some of the design choices can blur the lines of certain hitboxes, also making the wall-jump a little clunky, the action itself is often well designed and challenging. I’m curious to see just how hard some of those later stages are going to get!
Primal Dominion – Demo on Steam
A third-person shooter about fighting off both an unknown military attack and dinosaurs at the same time. Are the dinosaurs part of the opposing army’s weaponry or are they a third faction thrown in for the heck of it? We may never know, as Primal Dominion still has a lot of work to be done before it’s ready for release.
Mirror Land – Demo on Steam
An isometric puzzle game reminiscent of Monument Valley. Unfortunately it doesn’t seem to be quite there yet but the mirror-based reflection puzzles and simple design in a fine jumping off-point. Lots could be done within the concept, so let’s hope they manage to piece some better designed brain-teasers together as development continues.
Spirit of ARX – Demo on Steam
A top-down rogue-like action game that brings heavy Enter the Gungeon vibes with its bullet-hellish combat and pixel art design. Whilst the inspired foundation is all there, there are certainly some tweaks I’d like to see in how the game feels; in terms of shooting, dodging, and ‘platforming’, before I’d get too excited about this one.
After Shadows – Demo on Steam
This one’s different – a 2D rogue-lite platformer with elements of stealth and ‘metroidvania’ map traversal. Active several special machines throughout the area and retrieve your reward form a magical tree monster, all the while evading The Beast; which can appear at any time, ready to strike. Learning routes and removing obstacles is a big part of this one, although dying to platforming elements that randomly break felt really cheap and very much soured the experience.
Paint the Town Red – Demo on Steam
Although the demo is basically just a first-person beat ’em up, this ‘game’ is actually more of a platform that allows for much more dynamic systems than displayed here. Whether community-made or as part of the core game, there are bundles of modes, experiences, and mechanics at play over a wide selection of titles and genres.
An adventure puzzle game with action and RPG elements surrounding a deep narrative about hunting a killer and saving souls. There’s a lot of things I really loved here but because of how many systems were at play we only got the shallowest glimpse at each of them. Hopefully the full title with be able to compellingly stitch them all together throughout their Kickstarter-fuelled development.
A classic-feeling point & click adventure title set in a world of wizards and magic, full of comedic hijinks and perfectly preposterous puzzles. This one sent me right back to my childhood in the early 90s – they nailed the nostalgia – and I have no doubt that that alone will pull in many a player. The fun gameplay and simplified mechanics are but the cherry on top.
Twilight Tunnels – Demo on Steam
A first-person shooter/puzzle game about navigating mazes and using weapons with special abilities to blast through obstacles. Unfortunately there’s not much else to this one but with an estimated release date of 2023, there’s a long runway to build on this interesting footing.
Nina Aquila: Legal Eagle, Season One – Demo on Steam
A Phoenix Wright-style detective game built entirely in RPG Maker, full of great characters and great writing that’s brimming with jokes. I seriously didn’t know what to expect with this one but came away surprised at how much I enjoyed it and wanting to know where the story goes next.
Reverie Knights Tactics – Prologue on Steam
An adventure turn-based tactical RPG full of deep lore. This is a beautiful game that boasts a battle system rife with An adventure turn-based tactical RPG full of deep lore. This is a beautiful game that boasts a battle system rife with potential. Unfortunately there were a few issues with this one that kept the full experience at bay. Being worried about how the combat would fail me as I made my way through the prologue, I put this one down early.
Tetragon – Demo on Steam
An interesting 2D puzzle ‘platformer’ wherein one must navigate through each challenge room using abilities to raise/lower columns and entirely spinning the chamber around, where possible. With a bit of a narrative hook and the occasional bonus collectible to struggle for, this one feels like it’s going to be offering quite the brain-buster by the end.
CubeCube – Demo on Steam
In this souls-like 3D action game you play as a glowing cube (not joking). Although there is an interesting combo builder system, the main fighting and navigation mechanics feel awkward and half-baked. Hitboxes are all over the place and recovery is irritatingly slow, making for pretty poor engagement. There’s a lot of work to be done here.
Parasight – Demo on Steam
This 2D action RPG feels a bit like an unfinished Metroidvania title with heavy Undertale influence. The Steam page boasts more than 40 bosses, so there’s clearly a lot of content already there, but I hope the devs look at how combat functions before its full release and go a little easier on ‘kooky’ character dialog. He he he ho ho ho.
Fomalhaut Flowers – Demo on Steam
An incredibly simple 2D platformer with a theme that reminded me of Electronic Super Joy. Sadly there wasn’t much to garner from the gameplay of this short experience and there doesn’t seem to be any narrative hook.
KindFolx – Demo on Steam
Sadly we couldn’t progress too far in this rogue-like deck-builder that uses real-time combat and a turn order system due to numerous game-breaking bugs but from what I saw, the cartoony nature and silly theme seem like they could be a real hoot. Hopefully the card play will be able to live up to that.
Paper Planet – Demo on Steam
This top-down 2D rogue-like shooter sent me right back to the Flash days, playing on Shockwave, Miniclip, and Newgrounds. Battle off alien ships before they hit Earth using your mega cannon that can move around the planet and instantly teleport to the opposite side, so you never have to leave yourself open. Power-up with new traits and stat upgrades to take down a selection of unique and challenging bosses as you duck and weave through their shots, block what attacks you can, and protect the earth!
Flippin Kaktus – Demo on Steam
Playing as a nopal, your goal is to take out the cartel that that destroyed your home in this 2D action platformer. However, it’s only possible to wreak any sort of destruction unless you’re pumped up, so there’s a meter that must be managed if you want a chance at making it though alive. Honestly this weird merge of systems felt more awkward than interesting and nothing really pulled me in with this one – here’s hoping there’s more to be discovered as you progress deeper into the experience.
Summoners Fate – Demo on Steam
Whilst the tactical turn-based combat was a ton of fun in this top-down 2D adventure game, the narrative choices and Dungeons and Dragons inspired ‘d20’ system really got me interested in this one. It’s almost like playing a DnD campaign on your own – selecting your summoner and their magical archetype, strategising your way through challenging combat, managing your rests, and even playing with some deck-building for magical abilities that can be used to turn the tides of a fight. I’ll be keeping my eye on Summoners Fate.
Made to be Crushed – Demo on Steam
Whilst the tactical turn-based combat was a ton of fun in this top-down 2D adventure game, the narrative choices and A 2D action platformer party game about taking out all the other players in an array of trap-filled maps. Whilst it was a silly fun time, a lot of extra content is going to be needed here to stand out among it’s predecessors like Duck Game, Towerfall Ascension, and Rounds.
Unfortunately we only get the tutorial as the demo in this top-down shooter action RPG, so it’s hard to paint a decent picture of what the full game might look like but right away I could see me and a group of friends playing this together. Just by getting a quick feel for how it plays and from playing similar-looking titles in the past, I hope this one challenges team with waves of interesting enemies and strategic decision making that leans into each class’s unique abilities.
Monster Harvest – Demo on Steam
Is mixing the farming, dungeon crawling, and character interactions of Stardew Valley with the combat system and monster collecting of Pokemon the greatest idea ever? Probably, if your goal is to be filthy stinkin’ rich. I can’t imagine this game doing anything but succeed, but I hope that the dev team keep up with the community throughout it’s life to curate and polish the feel and design (starting with the terribly handicapping stamina bar!).
As more shows head online, whether as part of a health initiative or to simply expand their event presence, we all get to benefit with more coverage, competitions, and, most importantly, DEMOS!
For this one I pretty much just grabbed anything and everything that caught my eye and found a couple of home-runs among a solid set of games.
NOTE: Ratings are basically representative of how much I enjoyed the demo and the likelihood that I’ll come back to the title in the future (or even would liked to have continued playing it right then), with regards to gameplay, quality, and (of course) personal preference to genre, etc.
Wow! This one came out of nowhere right at the end of the month, spurring an impromptu stream to see what we could find amongst the slew of new demos available. Many of them I’d managed to cover before but there was still plenty of shiny new ones to try out. And try out we did.
Note about Quick Ratings:
Ratings are basically representative of how much I wanted to just continue playing the game right then, with regards to gameplay, quality, and (of course) personal preference to genre, etc.