Dem-OH! May Round-up

Hitting the Summer time half-way through 2022, E3 is upon us (or should I saw all the events that have grouped together to puppets its corpse around), and there’s another Steam Next Fest on the horizon! What a perfect time to lean back and try something – and we have just the thing!

Lots of incredible Stand-Outs this month, a preview that has me jittery with hype, and 63(!) other demos just waiting for you to explore…

Stand-Out Demos

(in recording order)


HAAK Demo on Steam

Although a popular genre, it’s not easy to make a good metroidvania. It takes an interesting world as well as constantly evolving abilities, challenges, and environments. The level design needs to accommodate different levels of skill and upgrades overlapping in the same location. And it needs to feel as smooth as can be. HAAK has it all. Armed with a sort of dagger on a rope and a slew of mobility powers, there’s plenty of secrets to discover, story to learn, and trials to overcome as you explore the outstandingly beautiful post-apocalyptic surroundings. With excellent controls, interesting characters, and so much to do, HAAK aims to be a contender with some of the all-time greats.

Nova Island Demo on Steam

This demo ruined one of our streams. An event where we usually manage to get through 8-12 games was cut short to a meagre 3 because I just couldn’t pull myself away from the bafflingly simple yet worryingly addicting exploration/gather/build loop of Nova Island. It doesn’t do anything particularly new but the boiled-down, refined manufacturing and automation systems give the feeling of playing something like Astroneer but in a much more streamlined and casual manner, and of course from a top-down 2D perspective. It’s a relaxing experience full of constant little dopamine hits from skill trees, upgradable items, new materials, and more. I can’t wait to get my mits on the full version, but I’m worried I’ll end up needing a day off from work just to satisy my obsession.

Eternal ThreadsDemo on Steam

I’ve never played anything like this – a fully immersive first-person mystery investigation game that uses time-travel mechanics to allow the player to change minor decisions each of the previously-deceased protagonists make in order to save them all from a grizzly fire and discover the trust behind the disaster. Fantastic writing and voice acting really bring the scenes to life as you watch like a Marty McFly on the wall, just waiting for the right opportunity to put the butterfly effect to the test. How did the fire start? How can it be prevented? Was it merely an accident or an act of malice? And just what is Tom doing down in the basement? Nothing everything is as it first appears to be…

Circadian DiceDemo on Steam

The sad truth about Circadian Dice is that it has already been out for two years, receiving non-stop updates and expansions. The problem being that it was released on Itch.io, a fabulous and DRM-free indie platform that unfortunately just doesn’t garner the attention it deserves.

But man am I happy it’s coming over to Steam, for otherwise I might never have had the chance to try it for myself. This game deserves serious attention and is one I’ll definitely be putting 100+ hours into over the next couple of years. As deck-builders continue to increase in popularity, Circadian Dice is the first example I’ve seen of someone digitising the boardgame mechanic of dice-building. And being digital allows it to go absolutely haywire with abilities, combos, and upgrades in a way that no physical game could rightly handle. The stress of rolling and re-rolling to hit the faces you need is exactly how to make randomness in a game appealing without being unfair, as with enough mitigation and planning anything is possible. Still, even then it feels like winning the lottery when you get exactly what you need and get to wipe an entire encounter. With a tremendous amount of content in the form of unique characters, stages, upgrades, and equippable pasives, you can’t let the admittedly gauche design put you off of this one. It’s an absolute killer.

SIMULACRA 3Demo on Steam

This one is a mystery horror puzzle game based entirely based around using a mobile phone. By looking through its media, reaching out to informed contacts, and following the clues left within an array of different apps, it’s up to the player to solve the recent disappearances of superstitious townsfolk. Pulling at the threads left by the previous investigator slowly unravels the dark lore of otherwordly beings said to roam throughout the village and how they may be capable of more than just the odd haunting. This need to build connections and timelines of people and events reminds me a lot of Isklander, a real-time online detective/escape-room experience, but here one has the freedom to go at their own pace. And, in the creeping fog of night, lose themselves in the horrifying truth they must uncover.

Paper TrailDemo on Steam

Although I missed many of the Cerebral Puzzle Showcase demos due to stream scheduling conflicts, there were a couple that I refused to lose my chance with, Paper Trail was the first-and-foremost. The gorgeous design alone pulled me in but as soon as I saw a piece of the game world folded back over itself to expose a new pathway I knew immediately there was something special happening here. Then when I realised the folds aren’t just corner-in, but also corner-to-corner, or side-in at different lengths, and so on, my mind was completely blown. The possibilities are stunning! There are so many ways to play around with the maps that it’s exciting just to discover what’s on the back of them using the different origami techniques available before even attempting to solve what’s in front of you. By manipulating the very ground on which you walk the player must create alternate routes to cross gaps, move boulders onto switches, reach secret collectibles, and save poor trapped townfolk. The trick is that it’s not possible to fold over where the protagonist, who looks like a cute little matryoshka doll, is standing. This means having to shift objects around and fold the different sections of the arenas constantly, in order to squeeze around the platforms. It’s wonderfully tight both mechanically and spacially, which makes for some seriously devilish puzzles that I can’t wait to start tackling.

Escape AcademyDemo on Steam

Anyone who knows me at all knows I love puzzles, so to be locked in a room full of them sounds like heaven. Shocking that I’ve never been to a physical escape room, but I have played just about every digital and boardgame version available. Escape academy corrects what so many other first-person escape room experience attempts fail at by doing away with annoying physics issues and inventory problems, instead letting the player get right down to the delicious jammy centre – the solving. Tie all the locales together via an interesting narrative about attending a school of fellow escape trainees and how could it not join the big dogs at the top of my watchlist.

Previews


Metal: Hellsinger Demo on Steam

Check out the Preview here!

What do you get when you mix thrash metal and fast-paced demon-blasting FPS action?! Well, you get Doom. BUT, mix that gorefest up with some rhythm mechanics and you get Metal: Hellsinger – a game I’ve been looking forward to since it’s very first announcement two years ago affnd I’fm terribly glad to announce it has lived up to those unfair expectations. This is already a day one play for me, get it on the wishlist immediately.

Demos


OTXODemo on Steam

Sunken RealmsDemo on Steam

Monuments FlipperPrologue on Steam

4D Miner (Second try) – Demo on Steam

RavenDemo on Steam

Dem-OH! Dashes


Even after skipping a week of demos to stream Dread X Collection 5, we still managed to hit a cool seven Dem-OH! Dashes for the month and with a great selection of genres new and old, our wishlists grow ever-worryingly long! What’s you’re favourite looking demo this month? Let us know over on Twitter!

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. A zero represents that the game is too non-functional to really get a feel for it. It is essentially a non-rating.

No. 1

  1. Gobby Island (1)
  2. HAAK (5)
  3. Nova Islands (5)

No. 2

  1. Worm Slayer (2)
  2. 20 Minutes Till Dawn (3)
  3. Beast Whalers (2)
  4. Dunjungle (3)
  5. From the Brink (3)
  6. Just King (3)
  7. One Btn Bosses (2)
  8. Land Above Sea Below (2)
  9. Sigil of the Magi (3)

No. 3

  1. The Grip of Madness (3)
  2. Witch Slide (2)
  3. Zigglox (3)
  4. The Past Within (4)
  5. Apollo: A Co-Op Game (3)
  6. IT Simulator (2)
  7. Beat The Clock (4)
  8. Duline (3)
  9. GigaSword (3)
  10. Explosion™ (3)

No. 4

  1. Railbound (4)
  2. Quetzal (3)
  3. Baladins (3)
  4. I AM BUTTER (1)
  5. Witchbane (2)
  6. Circadian Dice (5)
  7. Doomsday Hunters (3)
  8. SIMULACRA 3 (5)

No. 5

  1. Touken Ranbu Warriors (2)
  2. Infinitype (1)
  3. Hexfactory (1)
  4. Rainboy (3)
  5. BRUTAL JOHN (3)
  6. Shape Puzzle (4)
  7. Bako (3)
  8. Stalked (1)
  9. DEEP FOG (3)
  10. Dreams of Pain (2)
  11. Loopmancer (3)
  12. Emorrior (4)

No. 6

  1. Rytmos (3)
  2. Jack Move: I.C.E Breaker (4)
  3. Star Stuff (4)
  4. Slopecrashers (3)
  5. XEL (2)
  6. Sokobond Express (3)
  7. Slot Shots Pinball Collection (2)
  8. Red and White (1)
  9. Exodemic (4)
  10. Super Bullet Break (3)
  11. Night Racer (1)

No. 7

  1. Crush the Industry (3)
  2. Hole in the Clouds (2)
  3. Tearstone: Thieves of the Heart (3)
  4. Indies’ Lies (4)
  5. a pet shop after dark (1)
  6. THE ORIGIN: Blind Maid (1)
  7. Escape the Ayuwoki DEMAKE (2)
  8. The Bridge Curse:Road to Salvation (3)
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