Demonic Invasion: Next Next Fest '24

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Manburger

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#1  Edited By Manburger

As the prophecy foretold: A fresh grip of demos appear early, presumably to catch some pre-game heat that’ll hopefully lead to exponential growth during the main event? (June 10th) I have at least already played a handful that I wanted to highlight:

KILL KNIGHT

Oh, yes. This is the good stuff. Administer it to me intravenously. If you've enjoyed any sort of game of surviving against an onslaught of enemies in a evolving arena — like a Akane, Tormentor❌Punisher, or perhaps the epitome of twin-stickin’, Geometry Wars — I recommend you give this a shot or two dozen. Feels like there's more DEVIL DAGGERS here, perhaps. The levels here do actually have a end, though, and it makes sense that the game encourages you to complete the tutorial, as there are several combat mechanics to keep in mind to fully dominate the opposition, + unique weapons to unlock. If you thought the confluence of combat systems to juggle in Doom Eternal felt like wrasslin' with a mech sim, I’d still say check this out, as I think you’d be less overwhelmed since you’re not simultaneously trying to navigating a complex 3D space. I fully got into that good murder zone with this one. (hey i do also like Eternal though)

~

Practical Peach BlizzardsTactical Breach Wizards

Seems like another banger from Suspicious Developments, creators of Gunpoint and Heat Signal, and like those games, TBW marries a great concept with actually funny dialogue and approachable, fresh gameplay. Might look a bit like yer nu-XCOM, but each mission actually consists of several bespoke tactical puzzles with a set wizard duo/squad, without feeling limited in how you solve each problem. Though of course defenestration is heartily encouraged: this is a Tom Francis joint, after all. Been in development for a while, but I think it’s coming out this year. Actually more of a Magic Spec-Ops game than Immortals of Aveum (Which I incidentally just played: @bigsocrates was right: prototypical Solid 7/10!)

~

Tiny Glade

Speaking of magic: that is what it feels like, freehand drawing walls and paths, and altering building sizes with intuitive mouse controls in this creative diorama toybox. Accompanied by gentle hints of music, and legitimately satisfying sound design. Beautiful lightning. Been following this for a hot minute, and I am glad to report it feels as lovely as it looks. No objectives, but it is fun to place different elements and discover details that emerge from different combinations and placements. The demo is a bit limited, but it should provide a good idea if this is something you’d like on your toast. Create tiny scenes to ponder and take a breath. A onsen for the soul.

~

⦿ silkbulb test: First horror game in a while to actually shake me. Has some unsettling, uncanny imagery and good bad sounds. Does perhaps layer it on a bit thick with the spookers and frightums — might be better served by a more gradual build-up of tension. Still, it legitimately got some Bad YouTuber-noises out of me.

⦿ Parking Garage Rally Circuit: Ooh, satisfying, snappy drifting! Obviously the most important aspect of racing. + some sweet, chunky Saturn-esque visuals.

~

Chuck your own Hot Reccs and/or Takes into the ring!

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#2  Edited By Manburger

Oh gods, it hath descended upon us! Fear not the demo, my friend, and let the Fest begin. Updating with some more games wot I played:

The Big Catch

Yoo! From minute one, it is immediately apparent: Yes, the Running Around is Real Good in This One. Fabulously bouncy, stretch-’n’-squashy animation and cool character design abound in this promising 3D platformer from the developers of Yo! Noid 2 (yes). Really cool style. There are some different moves and controls to get to grips with, and it feels like the skill ceiling is quite high — I imagine schmoovement sickos will be able to string together some disgusting displays.

After a brief tutorial section, I was surprised to find myself let loose in an open world to chase down errant fishies. Though I have to say, my excitement dampened a little after bumbling into some challenges I couldn’t quite come to grips with: A bit overly technically demanding for my taste, and sometimes I felt a bit uncertain if I just suck (I mean, yeah) or if the movement can actually be a bit inconsistent. Maybe it is a bit difficult to properly grok how to build sufficient momentum. If these aspects can be tightened up this could be one heck of a haul indeed.

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Sumerian Six

Could developer Artificer be the one to pick up the real-time stealth tactics torch after Mimimi? They’re certainly giving it their best shot with this occult/weird science, alt-history Commandos-’em-up.

If you’ve played any of Mimimi’s games, this will feel somewhat familiar, in several ways, down to the handy pause/plan/execute-mode. But hey, imimimitation is the sincerest form of flattery, and you do get to murder a lot of nazis. What more could you ask for?

~

I Am Your Beast

More stylish, fast-paced murder from Strange Scaffold! A FPS with short, intense levels where you run, slide, jump, kick, stomp, blast and chuck knives into skulls as fast as you can. This alpha feels a little rough around the edges, but it is immediately fairly moorish and satisfying.

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🟡Mind over Magnet (also on itch!)

Neat little puzzle platformer from GMTK (Mark Brown)! You will probably zoom right through the introductory puzzles featured in the demo, but it does seem to portend some clever puzzlin’ to come. And perhaps we can finally get an answer to the age-old mystery?

~

🟡Caravan SandWitch

Charming, laid-back exploration and chatting in this gorgeous French adventure. The on-foot movement is fairly simple, but something about the weighty jumping and mantling felt quite nice to me. Otherwise, it seems like the core gameplay will be pretty straightforward, but you get a preview/hint of some of the tools available to you in the full game, which include a hook for your van to yank cargo doors off their hinges, which I’m always down for.

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chaser324

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#3  Edited By chaser324  Moderator

Of what I've played so far...

Tactical Breach Wizards - HIGHLY RECOMMENDED - I didn't really connect with Heat Signature, but this is very much in my wheelhouse. I really love the world-building of witches and wizards operating as Tier-1 Operators and running magic PMCs, and the writing is fittingly quirky and charming. The gameplay is immediately identifiable as XCOM-like. It specifically goes the direction of pushing you to maintain some momentum and really maximize how much you're doing in each turn, and I do personally love the variety of tactical strategy games that have that focus.

I Am Your Beast - HIGHLY RECOMMENDED - Great stylish presentation similar to this studio's prior game - El Paso, Elsewhere. The FPS gameplay is very reminiscent of Neon White and SUPERHOT where you're encouraged to get through the level as quickly and efficiently as possible. What really makes the game though is just how incredibly satisfying the impact is from everything.

Iron Meat - HIGHLY RECOMMENDED - If you're a fan of Contra, especially Contra 3 and Hard Corps, you need to check out this demo. It's not without some minor difficulty and polish quibbles, but the shredding soundtrack and visuals are already setting a very appropriate tone.

Yars Rising - RECOMMENDED - It's not fantastic but it's much better than I'd expected. It is from WayForward and typically at worst their games are at least competent. This is essentially a Metroidvania punctuated by occasional hacking minigames where you're playing some variety of Yars' Revenge with a specific objective. Above all, I just think it's funny that something evoking Yars' Revenge is even being released in 2024.

Parcel Corps- RECOMMENDED - This is sort of a fusion of Crazy Taxi and Jet Set Radio which sees you traveling around an open map delivering packages as a bicycle courier. I do think the controls and mechanics still need some more polish and iteration before they're good to go, but there's definitely something here with potential.

Test Drive Unlimited: Solar Crown - NOT RECOMMENDED - Test Drive Unlimited 2 was released on the PS3 and Xbox 360 back in 2011, and assuming you're able to get past the server issues and actually start this new Test Drive Unlimited, you're greeted with a racing game that feels like it's still stuck on the Xbox 360 or PS3. I just don't really see any reason to play this over something like a recent NFS, The Crew, or Forza Horizon.

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I checked out a couple of games last night:

WHAT THE CAR? - If you played WHAT THE GOLF?, this is exactly what you would expect. If you haven't, it's a bunch of goofy small levels where there's always a strange, sometimes genre-spoofing variant at play. The fundamental gameplay is a bunch of time attack levels, and this demo has 33 of them. I enjoyed the half of it I played just fine, but I found myself wanting to move on before then. Its biggest issue is that it feels like there's too long a break between levels; I would love quicker transitions from one to the next to keep the momentum going. That would diminish their cute world map that's used for navigation, but I would have been more engaged without breaks between races.

Dungeon Clawler - This is Peglin, except with claw machine mechanics instead of peggle. You get two claw usages per round (for the character I played as, at least), and your goal is to pick up some combination of items like shields and daggers to defend from and attack foes, respectively. You get additional items after each combat like any deckbuilder, and there's currency and an upgrade system as you'd expect. There are some neat mechanics that develop further in, the most notable being items that shrink other items (so you can grab more stuff per claw), and enemies that enlarge your items or make them jump around randomly. There's a lot of promise with this game, and I don't see a claw machine as any more annoying than the RNG of dice or card drawing. I ended up playing an entire run, ending in my defeat against the third boss, but I would definitely play again before Next Fest ends.

I also played some Zephon, but I was too tired to assess it or stick with it for long. I'll try to check that and the Riven remake demo later this week.

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#5  Edited By Manburger

@allthedinos: I actually dug WHAT THE GOLF? a lot, found it to be a severely inventive and genuinely funny game that delivers comedy in a way unique to the medium. But CAR did not hit me the same way: I also had my fill before the end of the demo. Does perhaps not have the legs (ahem) for a extended experience. Feels a bit more like a great jam game?

@chaser324: Oh dip, I really enjoyed the Parcel Corps demo, thanks for the rec! Already feels quite solid and able to provide a nice sense of flow. Yes, if they can tighten it up this could be a bit of a banger. And, haha, you're so much better at aptly & succinctly describing these games than my rambling ass!

Speaking of:

Thank Goodness You're Here!

A madly quirky adventure game starring a Little Lad whose mode of communication/expression/interaction is a gentle but firm slap. And so you lark about flavorfully british environs and go full Slap Happy Rhythm Busters on any and all wonderfully animated objects and characters to discover reactions. Slap around and find out, if you will. Encounter unexpected minigames/vignettes that break up the standard slapction. The main draw here is probably the visuals and hyper specific, peculiar humor: it fully cracked me up, but your mileage may vary. Certainly worth checking out to discover for yourself, as this is a quick snack of a demo. (10-15 mins)

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I did end up trying Tactical Breach Wizards last night, and I enjoy it. A friend sold me on it by comparing it more to Into The Breach than to XCOM (though it definitely reminds me of Chimera Squad, a game I sometimes forget exists). The worldbuilding and tone are definitely the parts that stick out to me; I could see them getting tiresome over a full game unless done extremely well. However, I enjoyed it enough to be curious about it moving forward.

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#7 chaser324  Moderator

@allthedinos: Yeah, Chimera Squad is a pretty good point of comparison with each squad member having a specific role that they're intended to fill in the missions.