Game demos used to be a thing of the past, or at least that’s what it feels like. Getting to try a small portion of a game before making a purchase has always been a pro-consumer strategy, but these days it seems to be relegated to only smaller indie titles. If it’s a big AAA game your best bet is to get into a beta test (that too mostly for multiplayer games), often sold as a bonus for pre-ordering the game. That’s why I’m such a big fan of the annual Steam Next Fest tradition. For one week straight, hundreds of developers take part in the fest by offering free demos of their games on Steam. Next Fest 2022 was no different, and I got to try a handful of cool-looking games during the period.
Here are my thoughts on the PC game demos I tried at this year’s Next Fest.
Anger Foot is exactly the kind of game you’d expect a publisher like Devolver Digital to get behind. It’s extremely stupid, extremely in your face, and just a lot of mindless fun. It’s a first-person shooter in a stylised universe where people(?) use their feet more than their hands. The game wastes no time in putting you into the heart of the action, where your objective is to get through the residential levels as fast as possible while pulling off as high a kick-to-shoot ratio as possible. Ok, that second part isn’t strictly an objective but you do get a nice score multiplier if you try it!
There is a basic story here that you uncover as you progress through the levels thanks to flashbacks, but let’s be real — you’re not playing Anger Foot for the story. You’re playing it because it’s fun to kick red barrels at enemies and then shoot said barrels while chugging down beer and other drinks.
Picture this-you’re waiting patiently for Sony to finally cave in and announce the now leaked existence of Returnal on PC. Well, if you don’t want to wait any more then you can just jump in and try Earth’s Shadow, which is kind of a shameless Returnal clone, but on PC. I wouldn’t say it’s a complete rip-off, but it’s damn close to it. The game has some distinctive qualities like its art style, but everything from its shooting mechanics to movement, to even the UI feels like a cheap version of those found in Sony’s much more expensive Returnal.
Earth's Shadow is basically Returnal but indie and on PC (until Returnal gets ported). The demo has a linear game mode, with rogue-like modes coming in full release. Shooting, movement, enemy+environment designs & even the UI is similar to Returnal. Make your own conclusions 🤷♂️ pic.twitter.com/ejSFN8zMV2— Rahul Majumdar (@darthrahul) June 19, 2022
Except unlike Returnal, Earth Shadow also includes a mode disabling its rogue-lite mechanics, so you can rest easy knowing that your progress won’t get erased every time you die. That’s the only mode available in the demo, while the final game will include the time-loop structure in its main mode. Honestly, it’ll do until we get Returnal on PC. I hope developer WRF Studios adds more of its own mechanics to differentiate itself as much as possible from Housmarque’s PS5 adventure. They don’t have much time to do so given the game releases in August, but it’s possible we’ll see it go through some big changes even after it launches.
Naiad is the kind of game you play when you’re taking a break from playing something way more serious, like Doom or God of War. It’s a zen puzzle-solving game with some serene music, simple but beautiful visuals,
NAIAD is a relaxing, kinda-puzzle-solving adventure with some beautiful music. Great for when you're taking a break from more hardcore games. It sorta reminds me of Journey, definitely keep an eye out for this! Looking forward to it @HiWarp @NaiadGame#SteamNextFest pic.twitter.com/EPfgjWnihV— Rahul Majumdar (@darthrahul) June 19, 2022
The game is targeting a late 2022 release, and I wish developer HiWarp all the best for its first release.
Another cool game you might want to try out in between your hardcore sessions is Melatonin. It’s a rhythm game with dreamlike visuals and challenging levels, but the one thing I like more than anything was the upbeat music.
Melatonin is a cool rhythm game by @halfasleepgames with some great tracks. Really easy to get immersed in with a simple but pleasing visual design, and it's easy to run on any PC. It's releasing soon too! #SteamNextFest pic.twitter.com/R0ieL4fmpe— Rahul Majumdar (@darthrahul) June 20, 2022
If it’s not the level design that makes you come back for more every time you fail, it’ll be the music. Have a listen in the tweet above!
Arguably the star of this year’s Steam Next Fest, Metal: Hellsinger is basically Doom but rhythm-based. And it’s not just a gimmick — shooting to the beat is the core design principle here. After a certain point, if you don’t follow the beat, you’ll probably find it really hard to progress. Of course, that part is hard to judge from just a small demo, but from the little, I played it’s clear that the game really wants you to put on the best pair of headphones and headbang your way through hell.
Of course, I couldn't talk about Steam demos without tipping my hat to Metal: Hellsinger. You know the drill - it's like Doom but rhythm-based (kinda). It proudly knows what it is and is unapologetic about it.@MetalHellsinger releases in just three months too!#SteamNextFest pic.twitter.com/2qrig6o9k6— Rahul Majumdar (@darthrahul) June 20, 2022
Shooting feels quick and snappy just like Doom, but the writing is (perhaps intentionally) cringey. Of course, you don’t play a game called Metal: Hellsinger for the writing,
Continuing the themes of doom and gloom from Hellsinger, Perish feels like an early 2000s dungeon crawler, but with a 2022 glow-up. This co-op-ready FPS is set in a mysteriously ancient setting, starting players off with just a crude axe with guns added to the mix later. It’s the only game on this list with support for both ray tracing features and Nvidia DLSS. Speaking of the former, Perish supports ray-traced global illumination, reflections as well as shadows. The game itself is fine, although it’s hard to judge much here given it’s a demo.
Perish is a co-op-ready FPS with an old-school but cool aesthetic by @Item_42. The demo supports ray traced shadows, reflections, and global illumination along with DLSS. It does take a little long to get into the heat though.#SteamNextFest pic.twitter.com/vsAKoYiDhL— Rahul Majumdar (@darthrahul) June 20, 2022
Steam Next Fest may be over, but its games are still on the way to your gaming PC! If you tried any of the demos mentioned here, or on your own, do put them on your wishlist to keep indies happy.