2020 may have sucked so far, but that doesn’t mean there’s not some bright spots amongst the gloom. Case in point, the Steam Fall Festival featuring hundreds of demos of upcoming games from many different creators has been live for the past few days now! But these demos are only up until tomorrow, so you’ll need to be quick.
Not sure where to start? Here’s what we recommend checking out!
Pumpkin Jack is a game that has been on my radar for a while, and with Halloween right around the corner, it’s the perfect thing to get you into the spooky spirit. And no, to answer your first question, it’s not connected to The Nightmare Before Christmas. Different Jack, same Jack O’Lantern namesake.
This demo gives you a slice of insight into this freshman offering from solo French developer Nicolas Meyssonnier, being published by Headup Games. Playing as the eponymous Jack, you battle your way through a 3D action platformer and make your way through the Boredom Kingdom. While the combat admittedly has some kinks to work through, the visuals are fun and colorful and the atmosphere hits that Halloween sweet spot.
Pumpkin Jack fully launches soon, on Oct. 23.
Unbound: Worlds Apart
Look, it’s fun with portals! Only this time, in Unbound: Worlds Apart, the portals are actually fun, instead of being a sick and twisted mind game designed to torture the player character. And for a bonus, you look like Vivi from Final Fantasy IX stole one of the red cloaks from Magicka and got stuck in it; absolutely adorable.
I may be biased, because the beginning reminds me a bit of Lost Words: Beyond the Page, but Unbound has such an intriguing premise and portal mechanic. At first I was hesitant; I’ve seen a lot of “unique” mechanics backfire in puzzle platformers, some so badly that they’ve made me give up on a game. But the portals in Unbound are simple and easy to use, while still presenting a challenging puzzle to get through the world. Interesting mechanics and a fun aesthetic are the primary draws of Unbound, and I can’t wait to see how the rest of the game turns out.
Unbound: Worlds Apart is slated for a Q1 2021 release window.
Arietta of Spirits
This game has been on my radar since the last Steam Festival, and no, it’s not because the title reminds me of The Borrowers nor the Studio Ghibli movie. Action adventure and a journey through the Spirit Realm? Absolutely my cup of tea, and Arietta of Spirits fits in that wheelhouse.
The word that first comes to mind when playing Arietta is “charming.” From the pixel art to the story—which picks up after the death of her grandmother—to the slightly wonky sound effects, the game has personality. You don’t start immediately in the thick of the plot nor the combat, but fighting wasps with a wooden sword gives you a decent grounding in how the game works. For those looking for a wholesome, fun adventure with some spirits riding along, check out Arietta of Spirits!
Environmentalism is a recurring theme in games and media lately. From Beyond Blue to Paperbark, many developers are trying to bring awareness to the devastation that nature is currently facing around the planet, and Natural Instincts is the latest example of that. Developed by Poland-based DreamStorm Studios, you get to try your hand at playing God in order to save the animals.
Sandbox fans, this one is for you. Instead of a typical tycoon game where you take a business/safari/theme park from zero to hero, here, you get to do it to the environment. You help the animals survive and try to save them from the many harms that come their way. While the demo is just that, a demo, it’s a nice look at a slice of the upcoming game. Combine that with gorgeous visuals and you’ve got a game definitely worth playing!
RAN: Lost Islands
Considering the popularity of battle royale games lately, seeing a new take on the genre isn’t surprising. Published by Zodiac Interactive, RAN: Lost Islands favors a medieval-like setting and a pirate-y theme, combined with melee combat.
Taking place in the “age of steel and gunpowder,” RAN features 100 outcasts vying for treasure. There’s ninjas and samurai, as well as more traditional Western classes such as cavalry and spearmen. Admittedly, a demo is not the ideal way to show-off an online battle-royale game, but you get enough of a flavor for the play style anyway. The game also features an emphasis on the loot you collect, furthering the pirate vibe. Besides, who doesn’t want to use grappling hooks as your primary mode of transportation?
Morbid: The Seven Acolytes
Another one for the Halloween fans, Morbid: The Seven Acolytes is described as “horrorpunk.” Taking inspiration from Lovecraft and David Cronenberg, among others, it’s a fresh takes on the Soulslike genre, from developers Still Running and publishers Merge Games.
While you don’t get to fight any of the titular seven acolytes in the demo, or at least, not in the parts that I was able to get to, it’s still fun. I don’t have much experience with Soulslike games, but the horrorpunk and pixel graphics aesthetic sold it for me. With a solid tutorial system set up, it’s easy to come to grips with as you explore the world and get to know your protagonist. Looking for excessive amounts of gore? Morbid has got you covered.
Morbid: The Seven Acolytes is planned to launch some time in 2020.
What demos do you recommend checking out at the Steam Game Festival? Let us know in the comments below!