Highlights from Steam Next Fest February 2022

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Steam Next Fest is back! Last October I also took part in this event and it was a blast. For people who are unaware: Steam Next Fest is a week-long event that happens a few times a year where (mostly) Indie developers publish demos for their games that can both be used for feedback, and gauge the interest in their titles by promoting them further. The line-up covers pretty much every genre, and most of the games have a release window of about 6 months, so the wait is usually never too long.

All of the demos I’ve played were streamed over at Twitch–about 25 in total. I would love to cover them all individually here, but I figured it would be best to stick to highlights instead. Some games unfortunately weren’t as good as others, and every game that I am going to talk about are also games that I wholeheartedly recommend. This is, of course, all to personal taste. The demos that I didn’t enjoy as much aren’t necessarily bad games, but not ones that I personally am going to buy at- or near release.

Before I start highlighting some of my favourites however, there are a few things I have to address first:

  • So first of all, and most obvious, is that I wasn’t able to play every single demo out there. Though not as clustered as last year, there were still many demos out there to play, easily going above 300. I also primarily stuck to my favourite genres, which include but are not limited to:
    • RPGs
    • Metroidvanias
    • Platformers
    • Arcade
  • Second, these highlights are in the order of when I played them and are not ranked at all. Even though I may or may not have favourites, this highlights article is not meant to be a competition between which one is the best. All of these games are high recommendations for me.

So without further ado, these are the games that have impressed me the most over the past week!


8-Bit Adventures 2

8-Bit Adventures 2 is everything you love about NES, SNES and PS1-era JRPGs – with all of the charm, heart and soul, but none of the inconvenience. Dynamic turn-based battles & pixels with personality!

There is more than one reason why I tried this game out first before any other demo–a pretty simple reason even. Back in 2015, I was still relatively ”new” to the indie scene, as most of my time was spent on console games or MMOs. But I always have these moods where I want to play a specific series- or genre for a while, and then move on again. In 2015, I craved for JRPGs–but not just any JRPG. I craved for the 8-bit variety, of which there are several but still a small amount of interesting ones. So colour me surprised when I came across a game that did everything I desired at that moment.

8-Bit Adventures came out at a perfect time, and therefore also making it a game I still remember very fondly. It has a really clever story that might give the impression that it is meta, but it is barely noticeable due to how well it is handled by telling an actual story around it. And the gameplay was also exactly what I expected from a loveletter to the 8-bit generation of RPGs.

So for me, my biggest wish for the sequel was to take the idea of the first game and expand on it even further. And by playing this surprisingly extensive demo, I can assure that this wish will highly likely come true. The story still seems to take the clever approach, and the gameplay has seen a massive facelift, taking more inspiration from games such as Chrono Trigger and Final Fantasy X–both games with excellent turn-based combat systems.

From this demo, the combat was definitely the aspect I enjoyed the most. Being able to swap party members at all time, build up an omega attack meter for some nice flashy moves, and also having augments to further establish how much you can do with each party member are all high points of this battle system. I’m going to make a tank character who takes all of the hits for every party member and nobody can stop me. And I’m going to have a good time making all party members exactly to my liking.

And like I said, the demo is surprisingly extensive, easily providing more than an hour for the curious. It is all split up in a prologue to get your interest, a dungeon to give you a taste of combat- and exploration, and a town to piece together some of the story that ends in a cutscene connecting the first game and this one together. There’s so much here that I had to force myself to stop, otherwise I wouldn’t be able to play the other demos. If that’s not a good sign, I don’t know what is.

The only feedback I could think of is that I would like to control the speed of the dialogue myself but aside from that, I’m stoked. A full release date has not been confirmed yet, but the estimation is that this game will release in 2022. Wishlist the game and/or follow Joshua Hallaran on Twitter to keep yourself updated.

This game will be available on Steam, PlayStation 4 and 5, Xbox One and Xbox Series X|S, and Nintendo Switch.


Hell Pie

Hell Pie is an obscene 3D platformer that takes bad taste to the next level! Hell Pie sees you grab the horns of Nate, the ‘Demon of Bad Taste’. He is given the honorable task of gathering the disgusting ingredients for Satan’s infamous birthday pie!”

That description there? Everything about it is true. Hell Pie is quite the disgusting platformer with bad taste, but it is done purposely. And don’t let that stray you away either because this game? This game has some real character, as well as extremely satisfying platforming. Even from this demo, it already feels like it has the potential to be one of the most satisfying 3D Indie Platformers purely because of the controls, and that’s not something I say quickly.

Let’s actually not beat around the bush and go into detail why I say that. Hell Pie has a very unique mechanic where you can use that ugly naked angel as a hookshot. And no, you don’t need to be at specific locations; you can genuinely hookshot anywhere. This has the potential to make platforming so much fun, and I’m sure that will be the case. And aside from that, welcome features such as double jumping and (air) dashing are also here. And all of this doesn’t even cover what more there is to come, like the mask system and weapons.

The demo covers a level with many collectables and sidequests, as well as an extensive overworld after that level is done–that you can only explore for 15 minutes. But these 15 minutes had me hookshotting up a mountain and seeing how many places there are to go here, and swimming to far distant islands. And I really, really want to go out and explore that world. But I’ll have to wait a bit longer for that.

Even though I must admit that I’m not a fan of the disgusting part of the game, the demo did more than enough to interest me in the platforming- and character aspect, which are both most important for me at the end of the day. And watching the trailer afterwards just excites me for whats to come. The game is currently planned for release in 2022 with no confirmed date, so wishlist the game on Steam or follow SluggerFly on Twitter to keep notified.

This game will be available on Steam, PlayStation 4 and 5, Xbox One and Xbox Series X|S, and Nintendo Switch.


Kao the Kangaroo

”Inspired by the golden age of 3D Platformers, Kao The Kangaroo returns in a whole new adventure! Embark on an epic journey, master magical gloves, explore lush environments and take Kao through his most grand tale yet!”

Kao is back baby! That’s it. That’s the description you’ll get. Buy the game.

Nah I’m just kidding but regardless, this was a game that, one way or another, I was going to get anyway. I really love the platforming adventures of Kao the Kangaroo, and to see this franchise get a new entry after so many years put a smile on my face the entire time I was playing the demo. I’ve actually been following this game very closely since its announcement so yeah, probably a bit bias here.

And from playing the demo, which consists of one full level… yeah, I can say that I am highly enjoying it already. It feels really good, there are many secrets and collectables, and there is a bigger emphasis on combat than ever. It’s a relatively short demo compared to the others, but it gave me a good feel already and I am more than excited.

Compared to the other games in the article, that’s also why I don’t really have that much to say about it. If you enjoy 3D Platformers and especially previous Kao the Kangaroo games, this is a game to look out for. It’s currently stated for a release in the summer of 2022, so wishlist the game on Steam and/or follow Kao the Kangaroo on Twitter for updates.

This game will be available on Steam, PlayStation 4 and 5, Xbox One and Xbox Series X|S, and Nintendo Switch.


Souldiers

”Fight for your freedom in a sprawling fantasy world caught between the living and the fallen. Hone your skills in a retro epic featuring puzzle platforming, metroidvania exploration and crunchy soulslike combat.”

Now, I did say that I wasn’t going to play favourites… but this game here? It has the potential to be one of my favourite games of the year. And the reason for that is simple: Souldiers hits every checkbox out of what I truly desire from the Metroidvania genre.

It’s a bold statement to make and probably not one that everyone is going to agree on, but I stand by it. The demo for Souldiers made me fall in love so much and that is an accomplishment on its own. So what checkboxes does it all hit for me?

  • Levelling system with mastery tree.
  • Gear system, currency to be spent.
  • Great, difficult combat, with three different characters to choose from.
  • Large fantasy world inspired by Norse mythology.
  • Lots of secrets with see-through walls.
  • Unique exploration-based abilities.

And I could go on for a long time. I mean, this game is literally made for me; there’s not much else to say about it. It has quickly become my most forward-looked game, and if it lives up to my expectations, it may very well become a potential favourite. Fortunately, I don’t have to wait for long as the expected release date is to be in spring 2022, so between now and a few months. No exact date has been given yet so as usual, wishlist the game and check out the Twitter account for updates.

This game will be available on Steam and the Nintendo Switch.


Coromon

”Coromon is a modern take on the classic monster-taming genre. Tame Coromon and explore a vast world filled with thrilling turn-based battles, brain-twisting puzzles, and a mysterious threat to the world awaiting defeat. Nobody said being a Battle Researcher was easy!”

Coromon was another game from my wishlist so yet again, this was going to be a game I was going to get anyway, and that I played the demo for both to confirm my interests and to showcase it to the public. Unsurprisingly with it being on this list, my interests have been confirmed.

Unfortunately it’s tough to talk about this game without talking about that one specific franchise that is well-known within the monster-catching genre, so I’m not going to pretend that doesn’t exist. Coromon is a game based after the popular Pokémon franchise, continuing in a beautiful pixel art-style and having features desired by fans that isn’t given to them by the popular series. The primary one for me is that I can select between four different difficulties such as a built-in nuzlocke mode, which is something Pokémon really lacks.

And aside from bringing in features fans want, even without them it’s building up to be a mighty fine entry in this genre. Like I said, the pixel art-style is beautiful and so are the monster designs, and the gameplay is very similar as well but replacing the PP system with a general stamina meter for the Coromon. Natures and abilities are still here to make the Coromon perfectly to your liking, but also an additional exp bar that lets you influence the stat increases of said Coromon which is brilliant. And hey, you know how much I love in-game achievements that also reward the player, so this Milestone feature is right up my alley.

Everything about Coromon has me excited. That said, I did cut the demo early for a very simple reason. The demo itself is the beginning part of the game and while that isn’t a bad thing, it results more in tutorials than me actually getting the chance to play the game and have an opinion within 30 minutes. And of course, I want to play this game completely blind when it launches since my decision was already set in stone, so I didn’t pay too much attention to everything happening to not spoil my excitement when I do get the chance to play it. So, apologies for my lackluster opinion about the demo, but that’s more a me-thing and not necessarily the demo’s fault. The game will be releasing on the 31st of March, so the wait won’t be long!

This game will be available on Steam and Nintendo Switch, and also on mobile devices.


Minishoot’

”Minishoot’ is a cute and unique adventure game that mixes up open exploration with crispy twin-stick shooter action. Fight your way from the shiny overworld to the deepest caves, improve your ship and overcome the dungeons’ bosses to rescue your friends!”

A top-down, twin-stick shooter Metroidvania/Zelda-like. Now that’s something I wasn’t expecting at all but man, am I in love with this concept. So much so that Minishoot’ ended up being one of my favourite experiences from this event.

So how does this exactly work? Minishoot’ puts you in an airship with free movement throughout a big map, with some parts being unavailable at the moment because you need an upgrade to reach them, like dashing over bottomless pits. Meanwhile you’re fighting many (sometimes) bullet-hell enemies and upgrade your vehicle from their remains. So yeah, the basics are all here, and that is more than enough for me.

The demo already gives you a feel of everything I mentioned above, including a first ”dungeon” with a boss at the end, and an upgrade to get that can be used both inside- and outside the area. I also really like how, aside from exploration-based upgrades, you can also constantly make enhancements to the firing capabilities of the ship, as well as just making them more powerful overall by going to a shop.

It was a blast playing through this demo, and it is definitely going to be a day-one purchase for me. This feels like such a unique experience that I wouldn’t get anywhere else, and that’s very important to me. That, and it combines two genres I’m generally very fond of. My only worry is that it’s going to be on the shorter side, but if that’s my only worry, I think that easily describes how strong my opinions on the game are. But that’s something we’ll see… some day, as there hasn’t been a confirmed release date yet. As usual, wishlist the game on Steam or follow SoulGame on Twitter to keep yourself updated.

This game will be available on Steam as a current exclusive.


Gematombe

”Gematombe is an action-puzzle-vs-game where you can play one-on-one matches against your friends or the computer.”

Competitive break-out is something I don’t think exists yet? Either that or I’m not up-to-date enough. Anyhow, when I saw Gematombe, I knew it was a game I had to try out. It looks like a Puyo Puyo game in every sense of the word, but with a completely different puzzle playstyle. And I really enjoy seeing break-out in different genres, so I’m always up for these kinds of games.

That said, out of all of the games from this highlight article, this is the one I’m most cautious about still. The demo itself is no longer than 10 minutes, and the break-out gameplay in that demo is on the more simplistic side. But I do have faith in this game and have heard about there being 6 different characters with 6 different campaigns, as well as survivor- and endless practice mode for single-player, so I’m optimistic enough to give this a highlight as well. Who knows, maybe we’ll have the next big competitive puzzle game on our hands? It has a planned release date somewhere in 2022, but be sure to follow Route 5 Games on Twitter to keep updated.

This game will be available on Steam as a current exclusive.


Islets

”Take to the sky and reunite a fragmented world in this surprisingly wholesome metroidvania! Help Iko adventure across beautiful hand-painted islands, receive letters from a quirky cast of characters, and face powerful monstrous adversaries.”

A beautiful Metroidvania like Islets couldn’t just miss from this list. After all, it’s one of my favourite genres; I want to play as many as I can. And I learned quickly that Islets isn’t just beautiful in it’s Ghibli-like graphics, but in its entire design.

The main character Iko controls very smoothly, and having access to both a handy sword and a bow feels like his upgrades are going to be very versatile, as also shown in the trailer with a leading trail after the arrow that can be walked on. What I also really liked are the collectables found on the map that give you the choice between three random upgrades to your arsenal, like more arrows or stronger melee attacks. Furthermore, I was pleasantly surprised by the boss battle I encountered being a surprisingly challenging first boss, with hopes of more to come.

The demo gives access to the first island, which is this game’s unique feature: the world not being interconnected, but the world becoming interconnected. Definitely curious how that’s going to impact backtracking and overall progression, and I can’t wait to discover it in its entirety. The game is expected to launch in 2022 with no full release date confirmed, so be sure to add it to your wishlist or check Kyle Thompson over at Twitter for updates!

This game will be available on Steam as a current exclusive.


Eversleep: Lunistice Gaiden

https://i0.wp.com/cdn.akamai.steamstatic.com/steam/apps/1701800/ss_afff18cb73c4437c07851aa0edf030c7708b15c0.jpg?w=680&ssl=1

”Eversleep: Lunistice Gaiden is a 3D Platformer created with simple but fun gameplay and a cute PS1/SEGA Saturn inspired artstyle in mind. Take the role of Hana the Tanuki and jump and fight through her dreams!

Eversleep: Lunistice Gaiden is another 3D Platformer where I can say that the gameplay easily steals the show. Our main protagonist Hana is such a blast to control with not having just a double jump, but also a triple jump by attacking. The levels I was able to try also complement these controls well–especially for speedrunners. And this speedy gameplay is also exactly why I want to play the full release so badly.

While nowhere good enough to get actual world records (aside from a few that I have on Sonic levels), I’ve always taken part in speedrunning specific levels, or sometimes even entire games of Platformers–specifically of the 3D variety. Eversleep: Lunistice Gaiden does actually come with a speedrunning mode, that I tried out in the demo. And it even has different playable characters there like Toree, a bird protagonist from the same-named game that I still need to try out myself.

But that’s not to say the game is only made for speedrunning, because the levels themselves did still encourage exploration and finding collectables, which I greatly appreciate. My only small fear is that precision platforming might be a bit tough to do with this control scheme, as indicated by one of the collectables in the second level where I needed to hop between small pillars. But it did work out in the end so maybe that’s not going to be all too relevant.

The demo consists of four levels, with three of them having completely different interesting themes from each other. These levels can be played individually, or as mentioned before, together in the speedrun mode. It’s not too long a demo, but it did more than enough to convince me. The release date is currently unknown however, so be sure to wishlist the game or follow A Grumpy Fox on Twitter.

This game will be available on Steam as a current exclusive.


Dandy & Randy DX

”Dandy and Randy are a couple of archaeologists who are in a huge pickle. They owe a ton of money to their bank and unless they can’t figure out a way to pay it back, they’re done for! Luckily, they have just received the information about a mysterious, fabled precious stone showing up in a far away island.”

Unsurprisingly to most people, I really like overhead Zelda-like games. I can’t get enough of them, and from what I’ve played from Randy & Dandy DX, this one won’t be missing from that collection either. Play as either the bunny- or bird and solve puzzles through their own arsenal of items, and slay monsters by throwing whatever you can find at them.

This is admittedly not the most high-end game on this list; it’s pretty simple and absolutely won’t blow you away. But for me, that’s fine. As long as I play a genre I like and I’m having fun, that’s what matters to me. And what is nice about this game is that you can play it co-op with a friend! I have doubt I’ll ever get to experience that myself, but having that option in such a game is a treat.

The demo consists of one level and a boss, which played similarly to how a Zelda dungeon feels like; go through it and solve puzzles, then find an item that will be essential to that place. Pretty straightforward, and that’s also why I don’t really have much else to say about the game. But if you are like me and are interested in these kinds of games, then you’ll definitely want to wishlist this and/or follow Asteristic Game Studio on Twitter.

This game will be available on Steam as a current exclusive… I think. Couldn’t really find out much else.


To end this highlight showcase, I wanted to do a quick round of games that looked interesting or had potential, but that I either wasn’t fully convinced about, or that still need some more time in the oven.

  • LumbearJack – It was a pretty funny game with how you control a bear who destroys everything man-made with a small axe and slaps sense into humans to restore the environment. It’s good for a few laughs for sure, but I’m mostly curious how long the game can keep it going. The demo was mostly the same for the entire run, only once differentiating to golfing instead of slashing everything. It’s a cautious recommendation, but only because I want to know more.
  • Tanks, But No Tanks – This kind of faces the same issue as LumbearJack. I actually had a really good time with the game and the music is like, genuinely great, but I don’t know how the game will keep being interesting after the first hour. Cautious recommendation again, but if you enjoy games such as Wii Tanks, this demo will be a joy to play!
  • Kingdom Shell – Here we have a solid Metroidvania that felt a bit clunky and had several spelling errors in the demo, but showed potential otherwise. The only reason why this isn’t a highlight is that it doesn’t really do anything new- or better than other Metroidvanias on the market. Not that everything needs to be the new next hit of course, but that makes it a game I’m also not in a hurry to get. But hey, it was just a demo so maybe I’m being too pessimistic about it.
  • Hatchwell – Hey look, we have a cute 8-bit Zelda-like! And I hoped that I could give it more praises than that, but the demo left a bad first impression. The gameplay itself was good and I like that there’s a companion fighting alongside me, and three buttons assigned exclusively to weapons- and items is neat, but halfway through the dungeon I was just unable to progress, constantly questioning myself if I’m just dumb or not. Given that I haven’t seen anyone else being able to progress past that point either, I’m convinced it was something related to the demo.
  • Witchcrafty – A game that came out on the same day this article went live, Witchcrafty is another Metroidvania starring a cute witch who learns magical spells to make it through parts of levels she previously couldn’t have gone through. And yeah, it definitely works! Also surprisingly difficult too. I can recommend this game for sure if you enjoy the Metroidvania genre, but I wasn’t really sold on it so to say. Can’t really explain why, but that could have been because the other Metroidvania games I’ve played blew me away.

And that’s all from me! It was great participating in this Steam Next Fest again, and I’m looking forward to the next one. Not sure when that will happen just yet, but given the last time was in October, I can imagine the next one will be somewhere at the end of summer. I also had a great time communicating with the developers themselves, and with the audience looking at me streaming all of the demos over at Twitch. Definitely hoping to be able to participate again next year!

About author

Nepiki

A gamer and writer at heart who wants to combine his hobbies into one. I am 25 years old and I'm from the Netherlands. Having played many games over the years, I wanted to express my love for them, however obscure they may be!

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