LudoNarraCon, 2023, featured

LudoNarraCon 2023: a round-up

LudoNarraCon made its return for 2023 last weekend.

Organised by Fellow Traveller, the first of these digital expos took place in May 2019. It has since become popular with fans of the adventure genre thanks to its focus on narrative and innovative releases. The fact its free and hosted on Steam means you can forget about lengthy queues and loud noises to focus on the games.

Around 40 titles were exhibited from Thursday, 04 to Sunday, 08 May 2023, with developers streaming gameplay, panel discussions and fireside chats throughout the period. Whereas last year’s line-up seemed to include many games which had already been released, there were plenty of upcoming projects on the agenda and it was great to have the opportunity to try their demos.

The small disappointment for me was that there were fewer point-and-clicks this time around. For LudoNarraCon events in the past, I’ve made a point of picking these entries so I can play them first. Now that only one was available I realised I’d have to change my strategy. Here was a chance to expand my gaming horizons and try some adventures which were a little different.

Over the past few days, I fitted in as many of the demos as possible and you can see playthroughs of all 16 in my YouTube playlist. Only one game earned a place on my wishlist (with another already being on there) so it wasn’t as successful for as previous events for me personally, but more about that later. For now, read on for round-up of everything I managed to play during this year’s LudoNarraCon and find out which title was my favourite.


Wishlisted: no, but maybe in the future

My initial impression was that I wasn’t going to enjoy sunset visitor’s 1000XRESIST as its anime style means it’s not the sort of thing which would usually catch my attention. However, it ended up being the demo which surprised me the most from this year’s line-up. The story intrigued me: you play as a clone who worships the last surviving human as a god, when a dangerous rumour shatters your faith and forces you to expose a thousand-year lie. I might come back to this one in the future if the reviews are favourable.

Astronaut: The Best

Wishlisted: no

While Astronaut: The Best by Universal Happymaker has many positive points, it really isn’t a game for me. I don’t have the patience for management titles so I’m not the target audience and, despite giving the first episode a go, I didn’t have the desire to play the second. As the new Director of the Flaustrian Royal Space Academy, it’s your job to turn the incompetent screw-ups employed as astronauts into national heroes using training, grovelling, lying and witchcraft. The government will have you killed if you don’t succeed so no pressure.

Coffee Talk 2: Hibiscus & Butterfly

Wishlisted: full game received

After playing what I thought was a demo for over 90-minutes, I realised I’d kindly been sent a full copy of Toge Productions’ Coffee Talk 2. The decision to stop after the first three days was therefore made as I haven’t yet tried the original game. It’s one of those releases I’ll need to be in the mood for playing as there’s plenty of text to get through, but I can see myself returning at some point soon. Listen to your customers’ stories as a barista in a late-night coffee shop and serve them drinks to warm their hearts and influence their lives.


Wishlisted: already wishlisted

I added Cryptmaster to my wishlist after watching the trailer a few days before AdventureX in November. Unfortunately, I didn’t get the chance to try Paul Hart and Lee Williams’ demo at the event because the seats in were constantly occupied. It seems like this unique game has caught many people’s attention: you can either type or say words to uncover lost abilities and solve quests in a strange underground kingdom. The atmosphere reminds me of a cross between Inscryption and every 1980s child’s favourite television show, Knightmare.

Dead Pets Unleashed

Wishlisted: no

As mentioned earlier, management titles aren’t for me. I also suck at rhythm games so Dead Pets Unleashed by Triple Topping was always going to have a hard time making it onto my wishlist, and it’s another demo where I only completed the first episode. Step into the shoes of 30-year old Gordy as she tries to encourage her bandmates to give it one last shot despite their big break not happening in the past ten years. Manage her finances, career and relationships against the backdrop of an awesome punk soundtrack.

Death Trick: Double Blind

Wishlisted: no, but maybe in the future

Misty Mountain Studio’s Death Trick was the demo which had me most on the fence this year. On one hand, I really enjoyed the detective mechanics within a story set in a mid-twentieth century travelling circus where the star magician has been murdered. But on the other, there are sections which are a bit too much like a visual novel and, as I’ve written before, I don’t like having to character-switch between multiple protagonists. Perhaps I’d be willing to overlook these points if the reviews are good when the game is released.

Fall of Porcupine

Wishlisted: no, but maybe in the future

Imagine Night in the Woods but starring a pigeon called Finley who’s just started a new job as a doctor. This is the impression I got from Critical Rabbit’s prologue for Fall of Porcupine. After making sure your patients are ok, you’ll destress by spending time with friends over a beer in the pub or walk through the nearby forest. Everyone seems friendly in the sleepy town of Porcupine at first, but it soon becomes clear they might not be so honest. The same as with Night in the Woods, it took me a little while to warm up to this one.

Goodbye Volcano High

Wishlisted: no

In Goodbye Volcano High from KO_OP, players make choices which shape protagonist Fang as they and their friends face both their final year at school and the destruction of the world. Unfortunately, the storyline and gameplay just aren’t the sort of thing which appeal to me. Based on the comments received on my playthrough video, it seems the demo has divided players with them calling out the animations and voice-acting. Personally though, I didn’t notice any problems with the presentation and it reminded me of watching 1990s cartoons.

Harmony: The Fall of Reverie

Wishlisted: no

Anyone who watches our Twitch streams regularly will know I have a love-hate relationship with DON’T NOD. Their games should appeal to me considering their strong narrative focus but after trying Life is Strange, Tell Me Why and finally Twin Mirror, I still don’t get it. There therefore wasn’t a lot of hope for Harmony and it probably comes as no surprise that it didn’t earn a spot on my wishlist. I can see myself enjoying the story about deities and the fate of humanity, but the gameplay was too much like a visual novel for me.

Loco Motive

Wishlisted: no, but maybe in the future

After the wealthy Lady Unterwald is killed aboard the Reuss Express, three protagonists find themselves embroiled in a murder on a train and must race to prove their innocence and find out whodunnit. I really wanted to like the demo for Robust Games’ Loco Motive as it was the only true point-and-click featured in this year’s line-up. Sadly though, there was something about the story which failed to grab me immediately and it felt as though there was a lot of backtracking from one end of the environment to the other.

Mythwrecked: Ambrosia Island

Wishlisted: no, but maybe in the future

In Mythwrecked by Polygon Treehouse, you play as backpacker Alex who’s shipwrecked on a lost mythical island after a storm. It’s home to the gods of Greek mythology and they’re having an identity crisis so it’s up to you to return their lost memories and reconnect their fractured family. I enjoyed the developer’s previous release so I had high hopes for the demo. While it was fun, it didn’t catch my attention in the same way as Röki and the gameplay feels focused more on relationships than puzzles. I’ll keep an eye on it.

Stray Gods: The Roleplaying Musical

Wishlisted: yes

A hand-illustrated roleplaying musical featuring gods, romance and murder? It feels as though Summerfall Studios created Stray Gods just for me. College dropout Grace is granted the power of a Muse to help her figure out the truth behind her predecessor’s death before time runs out. Watching the characters break out into interactive musical numbers where your choices shape their direction and lyrics made me feel like I wanted to get up on the stage myself. I can’t wait to play this game when it’s released in August.

The Invincible

Wishlisted: no, but maybe in the future

It was difficult to form an opinion of Starward Industries’ The Invincible. On one hand, I really enjoyed the art-style and voice-acting in the demo, and the science-fiction storyline line makes it something Pete and I would probably enjoy playing together. On the other though, there wasn’t enough content within the 20-minute section to really understand the premise of the narrative and get a feel for what the game is going to be like. It does look promising though, so I’ll keep it on my radar and see how it turns out.

The Palace on the Hill

Wishlisted: no

While I can totally appreciate the direction of The Palace on the Hill by Niku Games, as explained above, management titles just don’t it for me. I can see how this game would be very relaxing for someone who does enjoy the genre though. Set in rural India in the 1990s, players share a slice of life with teenager Vir while he sets up his garden, runs errands for fellow villagers, cooks Indian food and learns about history while painting. There’s also a hint of romance as you explore the ruins of a palace with Savi.

Times & Galaxy

Wishlisted: no, but maybe in the future

Copychaser Games’ Times & Galaxy is the latest game to be added to the Fellow Traveller label and was the publisher’s big reveal this year. Players take on the role of an internet reporterbot who’s sent out on assignments across the galaxy. Interview sources, dig up clues and use the Build-a-Story software to create a story your editor will be proud to publish. The premise didn’t immediately grab me despite the demo’s detective-type mechanics which I usually enjoy, so I’ll keep this one on the backburner for now and see how it’s received.

Wrestling With Emotions: New Kid on the Block

Wishlisted: no

Playing the demo for Wrestling With Emotions by Team Lazerbeam was an experience I won’t forget for a while. Although dating sims will never be my thing, getting the chance to create a wrestler and name her Mrs Mega Mystery Babe was an opportunity I couldn’t refuse. After deciding to tag-team up with Arms and diss Irresistible Steve, I found myself launched into the air and hit with a devastating Killer Concorde in the ring. As the game’s tagline says, it’s time to kick ass and break hearts.

Stray Gods was my favourite entry from this year’s LudoNarraCon event with Crypmaster following not far behind. They’re two unique games with mechanics which immediately caught my attention and, after a bit of a lacklustre year for the adventure genre in 2022, I need something a little different like this. Many of the titles in the line-up seemed to focus on relationships and conversation over the classic puzzle elements of the adventure genre. This goes some way towards explaining why fewer games made it onto my wishlist.

The other trend I noticed was how much longer demos have become. Whereas previously they were around 15-minutes, they’ve now more than doubled: the standard for LudoNarraCon was around an hour with longest for Harmony clocking up almost two. Perhaps this is something to do with the switch from real-world to digital expos and developers no longer having to get as many attendees as possible to sit in physical seats. I have a few thoughts on this subject so it’s likely to become the topic of a follow-up post soon.

Did you try any of the demos from LudoNarraCon last weekend? If so, were there any you’d recommend? Head over to the official website for news about the 2024 event and catch this year’s recordings on YouTube.

5 thoughts on “LudoNarraCon 2023: a round-up

  1. Recently played through Coffee Talk 2 – if you like the first one, this is mainly more of the same, with some new characters and gameplay tweaks. I like it personally, and would love to see the series roll on and on.

    I’m really hoping Harmony: Fall of Reverie turns out well! It’s got music by the wonderful Lena Raine, and DONTNOD can make stunning narratives. Just hope it’s one of their better ones. 🙂

    • I really liked Harmony’s story and artwork, but the gameplay just wasn’t for me. I struggle to maintain focus on visual novels because there’s something in my head which is always on the lookout for a puzzle (probably due to playing too many point-and-clicks). I quite like watching them while I’m working out though, so this one will be added to my to-watch list.

      I still need to get around to playing the first Coffee Talk game! There were a few references in the second that I didn’t get, so I’d rather start at the beginning of the series.

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