A Helpful Guide to Some Worthy Demos, Part One

The Steam Summer Game Festival kicked off today and there are an estimated two hundred and fifty four thousand, nine hundred and three demos all released at once.  A couple of games jumped the gun a bit and came out over the weekend, but even so there’s more content than a single person could ever hope to play.  While there will be a good number of bigger pieces coming up looking at as many of the new games in depth as possible, many of the demos we’ve covered in various stages in the past and there’s just no way to give everything its due.  So, in the interest of efficiency while trying not to let too much slip by, here’s part one of a two-part list of games that I’ve talked about in the past and can easily recommend as worth your time.  It’s by no means comprehensive (no RPGs, strategy/management, or visual novels in here, for example) but still a good place to start.

Everspace 2-  The world used to be enough space, back when open-world games were new, and then everything just kept growing.  Why be stuck with on a simple planet when the universe is so much bigger?  The original Everspace was a level-to-level space-shooter roguelike, complete with semi-permadeath, but its sequel plans on traveling the open-universe RPG path.  True, the “RPG” part is more Diablo than Skyrim, with tons of loot in an action setting, but it’s got the progression and storyline to hold its own in the genre.  Plus as pretty as Everspace was, Everspace 2 even in its earliest form is a space-fantasy stunner.  The demo has plenty of shooting, a nice variety of places to fly to, and even a few secrets tucked away in odd corners.  For a more in-depth look, here’s the preview from last year’s Kickstarter demo.

Phogs- While certainly playable in single-player, Phogs is at its best when you and a friend try to control a head apiece of the two-headed doggy.  The goal is to work together towards a single objective but it’s amazingly easy to end up chasing after separate tasks, one player holding a switch while the other sees if there’s anything hidden in the scenery.  Each level is a series of mini-puzzles, very few particularly tricky for a single player but requiring coordination for two, and all of them are colorful and friendly.  Phogs is an incredibly likable all-ages playground where a single body tries to keep up with two heads that may or may not be barking after the same objective, and it’s a pleasantly silly bit of multiplayer fun.  Here’s a more detailed look from PAX East.

Disc Room-  “Simple” is a misleading idea, in that “don’t get hit by flying discs” is an incredibly simple objective that, on the surface, doesn’t seem like it would have much depth.  Right up until there are dozens of sawblades flying about, many of which move in different patterns, and you’ve got potentially conflicting goals to work towards.  One the one hand you’ll want to live as long as possible, but on the other dying to just the right type of disc might result in a new ability or path opening up.  Managing goals is a little easier seeing as surviving each single-screen room is mostly impossible and a long run might be thirty seconds, plus restarting is instant.  There are no barriers to restarting so trying again happens almost before the brain has a chance to register the break in gameplay.  For more on Disc Room check out over here, but it’s probably faster just to play the demo.

Paper Beast-  This came out on PS4 back in March and the Steam demo is its first appearance on PC.  Basically it’s a VR puzzle game where you need to figure out how to use the strange origami creatures of an alien environment to advance to the next area.  Each type of critter has its own behavior, some helpful and others notably less so, and the trick is to figure out how to use the environment to get them where they need to go.  Sometimes it’s as simple as feeding them fruit, other times you’ll need to carve channels into the waterway and then freeze the surface solid so the creatures have a place to walk.  The main game is supplemented by a sandbox mode as well, where you can create your own biome and populate it with whatever creatures you see fit, building a little VR garden that’s uniquely yours.

Something Ate My Alien-  A mining adventure in the spirit of Steamworld Dig, except you’re sending an endless supply of friendly blobs planetside in search of loot for the pirate who’s taken over the ship.  The pirate has specific minerals he’s after, so you get to keep some of the things brought back to the ship and use them to buy new upgrades.  In addition to the more free-form mining areas there are puzzle sections that need to be solved in a specific sequence, with a nice reward for getting through.  Something Ate My Alien is actually out in just a few days and the demo came out back in April, but it’s worth a second look if you missed it back then.

Skellboy-  This is the PC version of the Switch game that came out at the tail end of January.  When a necromancer raises the kingdom’s dead he accidentally brings forth the mighty hero Skippy, except now he’s just a walking, fighting skeleton.  Skippy quickly reassembles his bones, finds a prop sword from a nearby stage, and sets out to save the kingdom again by beating on every monster he can find.  While new weapons are nice when they turn up, one of the advantages of being a skeleton is that there’s not a lot holding the bones together so they can be swapped out for parts found along the way.  A handy hay bale soaks up more damage than a ribcage, bat feet are faster than bone feet, etc.  The game could have ended up being fairly morbid but the art style makes everything look like cardboard cutouts, and even the darkest dungeon feels lively and playful.  It’s been a bit of a wait for Skellboy to migrate from Switch, but hopefully the demo indicates it won’t be too much longer.

And that’s part one of two, with plenty more to follow up.  These little quick-hits are specifically for games I know I’ve enjoyed, but there’s enough waiting to be discovered that I actually ended up creating a spreadsheet to track everything that caught my interest.  What’s a Break Point?  No idea, but I’m hoping it’s going to be fun to find out.  There’s a lot to dig through so hopefully this will help you get started.