A Helpful Guide to Some Worthy Demos, Part Two

The Steam Summer Games Festival kicked off the other day and there are more demos of just about everything ever created than anyone has time to leaf through.  We’re covering as much as we can as quickly as possible but even so, there are a ton of titles that have been looked at in recent months that are hard to justify writing up again.  It’s not that they don’t deserve coverage but rather, with limited time and resources, the new ones get prioritized over the old.  Still, there’s a lot of great games that might get ignored by sticking to that process, so here’s the second half of a list of things that are well worth checking out.  And the first half is over here.

Skatebird- This adorable skateboarding game is, of course, about busting out tricks in the most stylish way possible, but more importantly it’s about doing your best.  A little bird wants to make its owner happy after a stressful day so it hops on a fingerboard, puts on a tiny little helmet, and tears through courses made up of household props.  Skatebird could easily get by on sheer cuteness but its got a good trick system running under the feathery floof, letting you look sharp while running the perfect line.  This is a new demo, noticeably updated over previous versions you might have played, with new areas to explore and everything spread out a bit more so you’ve got room to catch a breath between one set-piece and the next.  Plus it’s already in the running for Soundtrack of the Year and it’s not even due until 2021.

Ynglet- Beautiful semi-platformer with an art style that looks like it was drawn in felt tip pen.  An asteroid strikes the home of a jellyfish-like creature, scattering its friends across a sprawling 2D universe.  The worlds are made up of a series of bubbles, some huge and others much smaller, and at any point you can stop inside one for a moment for a quick-save.  Gravity is definitely a thing when outside of the bubbles, so to get from one to the next you need to fling the jellyfish through the skies, and the deeper you travel the longer it can take to stop bouncing from one obstacle or level-toy to the next before settling down.  I got to play this extensively back at PAX East, and have been looking forward to more of its odd, pretty, alien worlds.

Depths of Sanity-  A missing submarine is bad news, but there’s always hope that a rescue mission might pull off a miracle.  The odds are terrible, of course, but at the very least the commander of the mission needs to know what happened to the crew he sent deep into uncharted waters.  It turns out that things are worse than they seemed, with ancient monstrous nightmares swimming through dark caverns, but the new submarine is armed with just enough firepower to survive.  Depths of Sanity is an underwater Metroidvania, where you pilot a submarine that can go almost anywhere barring the need for new tools to survive in pitch black or fight back against vicious currents.  Alternately, when the passageway gets tiny, you can swim out from the sub for a brief time, chasing after new pickups and occasional secrets.  Depths of Sanity has been a staple at Boston-area shows for the last several years, and it’s been a lot of fun watching it grow as it aims for release later this year.

Renaine-  Aine is the Phoenix Night, which is pretty handy for someone who dies as often as she does.  Renaine is an action-platformer where an 8-bit-styled knight runs, jumps, and slashes through pixel-y levels while completing quests for the oddball residents of the villages she visits along the way.  The action feels great, with Aine being quick and responsive, but what really makes the game memorable is its sense of humor and lively writing backed up by a fun, jazzy soundtrack.  Like Skatebird this is a significantly updated demo since any earlier one you might have played, so well worth a second look.

Anew: The Distant Light-  On a remote world twenty light years from Earth, a boy wakes up alone.  There’s supposed to be a copilot with him but all that remains is a broken cryo-pod with a bloody note saying “Find me”.  A quick change into a spacesuit later and he’s off into the alien wilderness, chasing after answers to the mysteries of whatever it is that brought him here.  Earning answers is most often done by shooting through the hostile creatures inhabiting landscapes straight off a 70s sci-fi book cover, finding upgrades and the occasional vehicle to fully explore the interconnected levels.  Or a massive stompy robot with an arm made of pure laser-death.  Sometimes you need to trade the strange and mysterious for pure gratifying firepower, after all.  Anew: The Distant Light has been coming along for a while and is still an indeterminate distance away, but the demo is a promise of good things to come.

The Survivalists-  It’s dangerous to go alone.  Take a monkey!  Living the life of a tropical castaway sounds nice but there’s more to do than a single person can hope to accomplish.  Gather food, collect resources, craft tools, build a home; there’s just no way to get that many hours out of a day.  In The Survivalists the answer is helper monkeys, who imitate everything  you do.  Need a food gatherer?  Find a monkey.  Warrior to help fend off the weird goblin-like creatures?  Again, monkeys.  Build stuff?  Always more monkeys.  Or you can join a friend online and help out, working towards a base that can handle the perils of island living.  Unlike most of the Steam Summer Festival games, The Survivalists is an open beta running until June 26, so there’s still time to dig into this one.

And that’s Part 2, which barely scratches the surface of everything that’s available.  Whether you’re after the updates to a familiar face of searching for something new and unknown, there’s a huge list of options available and the weekend is nowhere near long enough to check it all out.  The best anyone can do is keep an eye open and take a few risks, because there’s always something likely to make you happy waiting to be discovered amidst the near-endless available options.