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Steam Next Fest, October 2023: a round-up

The latest Steam Next Fest took place between 09 and 16 October 2023.

I sadly missed the summer event due to work commitments so the last time I participated was in February. Back then, I only managed to find ten demos which interested me and four were added to my wishlist, with Scene Investigators by EQ Studios being my favourite.

This month’s digital expo was better in terms of volume for me personally, although I still experienced the same issues with categorisation. Many of the 68 titles within the Point & Click tag looked like they’d been misclassified and the overall Adventure tag wasn’t much use either. This is a broader subject for another post, but I’d recommended reading this article by Pete from MoeGamer.

There seemed to be an increase in games of an investigative nature with detective protagonists. This wasn’t a problem for me as I enjoy the kind of puzzles where you collect evidence and piece together the clues to lead back to the culprit. I should point out however that releases like this tend to be hit or miss: they’re either implemented really well and give you the feeling of being a genius, or their solutions make no sense at all.

My other-half and I managed to play 14 demos during this edition of the Steam Next Fest, and there were a few more I’d have liked to have tried if we’d had longer to play. The clash with last week’s EGX expo was bad timing for us as it meant an even busier week than usual. Six of the demos were for games already on our wishlists and an additional one has now been added. Read on to find out which titles made the cut and, in the words of Pete himself, which were just ‘alright’.

Agatha Christie – Murder on the Orient Express

Wishlisted: no, but maybe in the future

I really liked the mechanics used in Microids’ project but had two big issues with the game. First, I’ve never been a Hercule Poirot fan and the interpretation of him here could end up annoying me. He pops up whenever the player makes a connection between clues to tell you how clever he is, regardless of how many times you got the answer wrong. Second, a character-switch takes place when it’s revealed that another character is investigating a murder following on from a kidnapping and it feels out of place. I’ll keep an eye on the reviews for now.

Bahnsen Knights

Wishlisted: no

Surprisingly, this was a demo choice from Pete. Unsurprisingly, I ended up enjoying it more than him due to it being a choose-your-own-adventure. You step into the shoes of an undercover agent called Boulder as he infiltrates a notorious religious cult. While LCB Game Studio’s narrative managed to pull me in quickly, I do struggle with visual novels due to their lack of interactivity. However, I can see myself watching a video playthrough of this game while I’m running on the treadmill.

Between Horizons

Wishlisted: already on wishlist

DigiTales Interactive’s upcoming release was added to my wishlist in November last year due to three elements: a science-fiction storyline, detective gameplay and pixel artwork. It was therefore great being able to get the chance to play a demo and I’m happy to report that I wasn’t disappointed. Your choices will affect how the game branches and, as there are no second chances, the story will continue regardless of whether a wrong solution is submitted. No pressure as the Zephyr spaceship’s Chief of Security then, eh?

DETECTIVE – Stella Porta case

Wishlisted: no, but maybe in the future

There are many elements within K148 Game Studio’s project which point to it potentially being one for me. As a detective, you’re given three cases in connection with strange disappearances and must locate evidence at the crime scenes in order to solve them. The problem is that the demo just isn’t very polished and the summary given for its single case didn’t fit with my interpretation of the clues at all. I therefore wonder how logical it’s going to be, and how much additional play is going to be available in the full game.

Echoes of the Living

Wishlisted: already on wishlist

The demo for MoonGlint’s survival horror turned out to be harder than Pete expected, as can be seen by the number of deaths in the video opposite. However, it still managed to retain its spot on his wishlist due to it being very reminiscent of the earlier Resident Evil instalments and making him feel nostalgic. Choose between a male and female protagonist, kill relentless zombies that catch you off guard, gather and mix herbs to replenish your health when you’re injured, and save your game using floppy disks.

Midline ‘85

Wishlisted: no, but maybe in the future

Instead of playing as a detective in Nadsat’s title, players take on the role of an emergency call-taker in the small town of Midline. It’s your job to find the correct approach for every caller, gather important information and make sure they get the help they need. I get the impression that parts of the storyline could be quite harrowing and full of pressure from what I saw in the demo. For me personally, I’m not sure these elements would make it an experience I’d enjoy – but I’m going to keep an eye on the reviews to see how the game turns out.

Paper Trail

Wishlisted: no

I can totally understand why someone would wishlist a title as lovely as Newfangled Games’ project. In this top-down adventure, you fold paper to merge two sides of the world and solve challenges, explore new areas and uncover long-lost secrets. The only problem for me is that I tend to get bored with most puzzle games after a couple of hours and so it’s highly unlikely I’d ever finish it. But I know several puzzle-loving friends I’m definitely going to suggest this one to as it seems like a very wholesome experience.

RoboCop: Rogue City

Wishlisted: already on wishlist, now removed

Pete already had Teyon’s game on his wishlist before playing the demo last week but I’m afraid to say that it has now been removed. To coin his favourite phrase once again: it was just alright. The gameplay we saw is exactly what we expected from a RoboCop title, with plenty of shooting and a few detective elements thrown in for good measure. But it didn’t feel at all polished and the facial animations are simply awkward. At least Pete got to live a childhood dream for a while – I just wish he’d stop whistling the theme tune now.

Sky: Children of the Light

Wishlisted: already on wishlist

If you’ve ever imagined what an open-world MMO created by thatgamecompany would be like, the demo for this game ticks every single box. It felt just like playing an expanded version of Journey. Players take on the role of a Child of the Light and use their magical cape to explore a wide world and discover others like themselves. I can see me potentially playing this with Ellen from Strength in Sarcasm and friend-of-the-blog Phil, when we need a break from fighting monsters in The Elder Scrolls Online’s dungeons.

The Gap

Wishlisted: already on wishlist

The demo for Label This’ mystery adventure was one of my favourites from the latest Steam Next Fest. The game’s story centres on neuroscientist Joshua, whose family is afflicted by a rare disorder which slowly eats away at one’s capability and mental well-being. Connections are made between objects within his memories, which then unlock new memories, and by the end of the demo I wasn’t sure which reality I was in any longer. The Gap won’t be to everybody’s taste but I’m looking forward to playing it in full this month.

The Inquisitor

Wishlisted: no

I’m really unsure of what to make of this action-adventure from The Dust. On one hand, it comes across as being really serious: as an Inquisitor, you’re required to solve cases and brutally enforce the faith in God. On the other though, it feels like it’s trying hard to be funny. For example, while eavesdropping in the town square, characters can be heard talking about someone’s ‘massive jugs’ and that wasn’t the only reference to breasts I came across. I’d be curious to watch a playthrough but won’t be purchasing it myself.

The Midnight Crimes

Wishlisted: no, but maybe in the future

This demo was probably the biggest disappointment for me – let me explain properly. I loved the setting in a Victorian city, the storyline about a retired private detective investigating the case of a missing child, the gameplay full of choices and conversation with interesting characters. But damn those camera changes. I hate it when moving from one scene to another presents a different angle to the player because I find it so hard to navigate. I might come back to DeadlyCrow Games’ title at some point in the future, depending on the reviews.

The Mildew Children

Wishlisted: yes

Other than Bramble during February’s Steam Next Fest, this has to be the grimmest demo I’ve ever experienced during a digital expo. The part where it was revealed that this village of full of children takes part in a sacrificial ritual to adhere to their belief of reincarnation was more than enough to grab my attention. I love dark fairytale narratives like this and so I’ve wishlisted The Growing Stones’ project but can completely understand why the story and text-heavy gameplay wouldn’t appeal to everyone.

Three Minutes to Eight

Wishlisted: already on wishlist

This title was added to my wishlist in June and I’m glad it’s there. I think Pete was rather taken by Chaosmonger Studio’s mind-bending point-and-click too and I can see us playing this one together. You have 24 minutes to figure out what’s going on before the protagonist dies in a variety of ways. Each time you restart the game to progress further, things get weirder: paintings in your flat change, your neighbours move to new locations in the building and your girlfriend becomes a whole different person. What the hell is going on?

My favourite demo from October’s edition of the Steam Next Fest was The Gap for its intriguing storyline, closely followed by Three Minutes to Midnight for its unique take on a time-loop mechanic. The latter may end up featuring in a Later Levels’ Twitch stream at some point in the future as it could be fun figuring out what’s happening with our mystery-loving friends. Pete’s first choice from the event was Echoes of the Living, thanks to its old Resident Evil vibe and plenty of zombies.

Did you manage to try any demos during the latest digital event? If so, which stood out for you and how much has your wishlist grown?

9 thoughts on “Steam Next Fest, October 2023: a round-up

  1. Thanks for the link! Yeah, miscategorisation of “adventure games” is a bit of a problem. Adding the “Point and Click” tag sometimes helps a bit… but not always. It’s frustrating, because LucasArts-style point and click adventures are one of my absolute favourite types of game, but it feels like it’s getting harder and harder to find them without having to trawl through stuff I’m not interested in!

    • Thanks for your article, it perfectly explained the frustration I’ve been having with misclassification for a while now. I always feel like playing point-and-clicks during the autumn for some reason but it feels so hard to find them on Steam nowadays!

      This was one of the reasons I ended up sticking to demos for games already on my wishlist or those I’d heard about during this latest Next Fest. I keep hoping the use of tags will improve but if anything, it just seems to become more diluted over time.

  2. Steam’s tagging and categorizations are worse than useless. They’re actively misleading. I ended up just scrolling through the entire list of demos, which took quite a while.

    The best that I played was Sovereign Syndicate, which is like a cross between Disco Elysium and Fallen London. I wishlisted that one. The most disappointing was Snufkin: Melody of Moomin valley, which I had on my wishlist but removed after playing the demo. Still, that’s what demos are for, I guess!

    • Going through the entire list of demos shows a lot of dedication! I ended up sticking to those for games I was already aware of once I’d realised how pointless the categories were, because I just didn’t have the patience to sift through them all.

      We saw Snufkin at the EGX expo last week and, although we didn’t play it ourselves, it seemed pretty popular as there was always an attendee in the seat. I take it that the demo wasn’t great though?

  3. Three minutes to eight definitely sounds attractive with how it plays with time (back to the future is my favorite movie so it fits right in). I’ll have to try some of these!

  4. Great suggestions, thank you, added a bunch to my Wishlist, and sent a few onto friends 🙂

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