A Noob’s [Mini] Review – Sea of Thieves

Ahoy, me hearties! The sea is calling.

Do you ever dream about sailing away, off into the sunset where there lies promise of sun, adventure, treasure and grog? If that sounds appealing then do I have the game for you. Sure, there may be the odd storm. A ghost ship or two. The occasional battle for your ship, lives and everything you have ever owned and loved against the fearsome, monstrous creatures of the deep. But it’s not just the party that makes the pirate, and when you’re approaching an outpost ready to cash in your haul, singing shanty’s of the sea into the dead of night, you will tell tales of previous voyages, laugh, and look forward to the next.

Sea of Thieves is an online multiplayer game in which you and up to three friends captain a ship. From there, the world really is your oyster. The game provides you with a huge sandbox world, full of random events. If you would like a fight then it is up to you to stock up your ship and seek out active forts, sea battles, or even other players. If you would prefer a calmer experience then you can instead find treasure maps, using the tools and clues provided to seek out the island you need. You can also become a merchant, follow story quests, or even just pick a direction and set sail, seeing what you find along the way.

What makes Sea of Thieves special is its core mechanics. Sailing a ship requires teamwork. Correctly navigating without incident and adapting when needed is always satisfying. The sea feels like a real sea and there is a learning curve to understand how the boat moves, all adding to the immersion. You will become as familiar with your compass and maps as you will with your sword and cannons. Not to mention, the stylised art style of the game offers an impressive beauty in all weathers, at all times of day.

The overall structure of the game creates an ever changing pace which makes no two sessions alike. The travel adds a downtime that is all the more appreciated after surviving three near disasters in a row, and all the more elevated when your ship is full of treasure and you have no idea what is in the water below, or over the horizon ahead.

Developer: Rare
Publisher: Xbox Game Studios
Release date: 20th March 2018
Available on: PC and Xbox (One, Series X/S, Game Pass)

If you would like to see a silly live stream, you can here!

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A Noob’s [Mini] Review – Astro’s Playroom

Pure joy in a Video Game.

Astro’s Playroom may seem like a strange game to spotlight due to the nature of its release. This is a game that arrived with the PS5 and came pre-installed on all consoles. Because of this, anyone could be forgiven for thinking that it is just a tech demo or tutorial that isn’t worth the time. Thankfully, I would like to let everyone know with great enthusiasm that this couldn’t be further from the truth. While it does do a great job of showing off the features of the DualSense controller, it definitely manages to stand on its own two feet as a full fledged – albeit short – game.

At first glance the game may seem like it is for children due to its cute characters and colourful settings. This is accurate to an extent – it can be enjoyable for all ages – but the true genius of the design is that the parents can have even more fun than the kids. Especially if they have any history at all with PlayStation.

The concept is that this game takes place inside of your console and every time you power it up, this is the magic that is happening within. It is a giant party. We take control of a robot named Astro, making our way through wonderful and bold levels based on different components, such as the ‘SSD Speedway’ and the ‘GPU Jungle’. It is a 3D platformer so your job is to explore, hop, skip, jump, roll, glide and fly your way to your objective, avoiding and/or dealing with obstacles, taking in your environment and collecting everything you can find.

The more that you look around, the more you will get from this game as you notice all of the attention to detail. Every level is full to the brim with references of famous scenes from many different games, providing delight around every corner. Every environment that you enter is built from technology parts in ways that you would not expect. Every area makes use of a unique mechanic, showing off the potential of the haptic feedback in the controller. At the end of each section, you will be rewarded with a nostalgia that – if you are anything like me – could bring a tear to your eye. On top of that, the sound track is fantastic and completes the atmosphere perfectly.

Unfortunately, the only way to play this one is on the PS5. But, if you do have a PS5 then that means that you already own the game and it is absolutely worth the few hours it takes to play through it. It is like the most fun, interactive, joyful museum that you could ever go to, celebrating PlayStation’s past, present and future.

Developer: Team Asobi
Publisher: Sony Interactive Entertainment
Release date: 12th November 2020
Average play time: 4 hours
Available on: PlayStation 5

If you would like to see my live playthrough, here it is!

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A Noob’s [Mini] Review – SOMA

If you play one horror game in your life, I believe it should be this one.

Explaining in too much detail why you should play SOMA runs the risk of ruining the reason that you should play SOMA, but I am going to give it a shot.

SOMA is a narrative experience like no other I have ever had. While it isn’t gameplay heavy, it is a classic example of a story thats impact is amplified due to the medium and the player input that brings.

In this game we play as Simon Jarrett, an ordinary young man who has suffered the misfortune of a brain injury. Taking part in some experimental treatment, Simon arrives to get his brain scan but it does not go as expected. As he comes to, it rapidly becomes clear that all is not how it seems. 

This is a game of linear exploration. From a first person perspective, we guide Simon through an ordeal, moving forward through circumstances that are horrifying on a spectrum from deeply personal, to unfathomable.

If you are a person that does not enjoy playing horror games for reasons like jump scares, intensity and/or gore (like me), then all is not lost. While the atmosphere is indeed spooky, the most worthwhile aspects of the game come from the themes and events that can stay on your mind for weeks, as opposed to a cheap scare. To account for these people, the developers added a ‘Safe Mode’. This is how I played and it prevents any lose state, allowing you to be confident that you won’t lose any progress while you explore the environment (which I highly recommend doing to get all of the context).

SOMA is not a pleasant experience. It is haunting, dark and bleak. But, it is up there with the most thoughtful games I have ever played and I think about it on at least a monthly basis. It presents the player with choices that have no easy answer and deals with existentialism among other topics in very interesting ways. It is the only horror game that I would encourage anyone unsure to try to look past the genre, and if you are a horror fan? Turn off the lights, get fully immersed and enjoy.

Developer: Frictional Games
Publisher: Frictional Games
Release date: 22nd September 2015
Average play time: 10 hours
Available on: PC, PlayStation (4, 5) and Xbox (One, Series X/S, Game Pass)

If you would like to see my live playthrough, here it is!

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A Noob’s [Mini] Review – Return of the Obra Dinn

A grim, old timey, maritime delight.

Do you enjoy logic puzzles? Have you ever solved the clues, filled in the grid then sat back and smiled as satisfaction washed over you? If so, then Return of the Obra Dinn could be the game for you.

Not for the faint of heart, Return of the Obra Dinn is a sprawling interactive logic puzzle, set on the ill-fated ship – the Obra Dinn – in the early 1800’s.

In this game you play as an insurance inspector, tasked with deducing what exactly happened on what is now a ghost ship that has recently drifted back to Falmouth. As you explore the grisly scenes that took place onboard and the tragedy unfolds before you, it is up to you to piece together who is who and what fate befell each of them. Armed with a crew roster, portrait, and a mystical stop watch, you will enter scenes of time past. Using your observational skills and wit, you will gather the clues available to identify all 60 souls.

This game is a triumph of not only detective work, but atmosphere. The old timey maritime aesthetic is complimented by nostalgic graphics – a subtly fantastic design choice simultaneously shielding players from the finer details of brutal scenes while also allowing the player to fill in the gaps of the horrors they are witnessing. The phenomenal sound design paired with the fitting sound track will haunt you in the best possible way, bringing the still scenes that you are inspecting to life. Every scene is filled to the brim with detail, things you may not notice at first but can lead to eureka moments down the line. Finally, the none linear nature of the game structure allows for fantastic storytelling, remaining full of surprises all of the way through.

If this has piqued your interest then I recommend that you don’t read any more about this game and instead jump straight in, knowing that you have a harrowing yet fascinating journey ahead. Also, when you bear in mind that this game was developed by the genius mind that is solo developer Lucas Pope, you may feel as much disbelief as I did that such a feat can be achieved by one individual.

Developer: Lucas Pope
Publisher: 3909
Release date: 18th October 2018
Average play time: 6 hours
Available on: PC, PlayStation (4, 5), Xbox (One, Series X/S) and Nintendo Switch

If you would like to see my live playthrough, here it is!

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A Noob’s Review – Pupperazzi

Based on what I had seen of Pupperazzi, this game wasn’t high up on my ‘to play’ priority list. I thought it was going to be a ‘meme’ game and not much more. I am very happy to report how wrong I was about that. This game is an absolute delight through and through. I expected a rough experience that would be fun for an hour, but instead it provided multiple sandboxes of endearing, silly (in a great way), exciting, shenanigans and says ‘go wild’. And wild I went.

+ Atmosphere

The atmosphere in this game is unironically electrifying. The summer vibes instantly swept over me and there was no where else I would rather be. In every direction something weird or wonderful was happening and the energy of everything going on around me was in turn feeding me and my shutter finger.

– Bugs

I was so charmed by the rest of the game that I almost forget that I got some serious bugs. I almost quit in the second area because I thought my game was completely broken. It crashed and when I came back, it had kept my ‘follower’ and ‘item’ progress, but it set me back to the beginning with requests, right back to the tutorial. Thankfully I could speed through them, but then the third time I loaded in the game all of my items were gone. Once again, thankfully I could recollect them, but it was touch and go for being game breaking for me, which would have been a travesty. I am not sure how common these issues are, but being scared to quit the game for fear your progress will be lost is always a bummer, providing a background, gnawing anxiety that I must finish the game in this session.

+/- Jank

Sometimes the photos don’t register the ‘things’ that is in the picture you took, be it a particular breed, a number of dogs, a background element etc. I have read some frustrations from others online that couldn’t complete requests because of this finickiness. Thankfully that was not my experience. Instead, it created some fantastic comedy moments, which is why I give it a ‘+/-‘ rather than a negative. If you are going completionist then it could also be problematic because it is all about taking photos of all of the different breeds and behaviours. By the time I had finished all of the story requests my Puppypedia was pretty much full so it didn’t get in the way for me fortunately.

+ Stylistic Choices

The way the dogs move is hilarious. The lack of animation in their body is perfect. It isn’t something that I thought I would like, but when you enter an environment full of these goofy dogs, you can’t help but smile. Considering they are stiff as literal boards, they still have so much personality. Their faces and responses are animated giving them a lot of character, and each breed is instantly recognisable.

When you get photo requests from clients, each dog and/or thing that you talk to have their own little Disco Elysium style character portraits. This is another touch that didn’t have to be there but gave me a chuckle when I saw them. As much as I laugh at how silly the game is, it can also be beautiful. The art style provides for some beautiful backdrops, particularly the sunsets. It would be easy to see 5 seconds of footage and think that the lack of animation is ‘lazy’, but I disagree. It only takes playing the game for 10 minutes to feel the joy that the creators have distributed throughout so many different areas. Even the player character is an unexpected but light hearted surprise.

+ The Randomisation

The levels feature a specific kind of randomness. There are dogs in different scenareos and doing different things, but the breed that you get in each of those slots is random everytime you load up the level. The fact that the dog breeds are randomised means for more unique photo opportunities between players. Sometimes it can feel like you have hit a jackpot, having specific breeds for specific moments. Other times, loading back into the level can inspire a shot that you didn’t even consider before. This was a great decision to bring even more joy to a game already filled with it. It allows for a kind of spontaneity that you couldn’t manufacture any other way.

+ The Gameplay

This is a photography game that is actually about the photography. You arent going to be learning to use a DSLR or taking photo of the year, but everything in the gameplay loops back to it. The game is structured around taking photography requests in different areas. Doing so earns you money that you can spend on lenses, filters and other items to increase the tools available to you, allowing you to take more of a variety of photos. Exploring the environment will net you new toys, which you can then use to provide new interactions and yet more photo opportunities. A few other games feature a camera as a way of gathering collectibles, but it is often a means to an end. A way of cataloguing things as opposed to getting creative with the photos. This was the first of it’s type that really made me excited about taking good pictures, by giving me everything I needed to play.  The only thing I wish was that film wasn’t also tied to that progression. On one hand, only having limited photo slots forced me to not go overboard and keep them organised. On the other, I would have enjoyed the freedom of snapping away as much as I desired.

+ Using the Camera

I really like how easy it is to jump into the camera. Right click to open camera, left click for photo, mouse wheel for zoom, wasd to move and tab for menu. Nice and simple. If you need to open the menu right as you have got a shot lined up (for example to change your filter or lens) you can do it easily and the action freezes perfectly. You can view the scene while altering your settings and it is exactly how you left it, ready and waiting for you to close the menu to get your shot. I was very grateful for the pause as I would have missed many opportunities and it would have put me off using the filters if it wasn’t so easy.

+ The Extra Things

There are some fun surprises in the game. I am not going to spoil what they are but I appreciated the additions. The final level that I unlocked was the first level at a different time of day, and despite spending a lot of time there, when I went back there was something new that made me smile. They can be small details but they make the game feel complete.

One of my goals this year is to properly learn to use my camera. This game has genuinely made me more excited for this. I have tried having photoshoots like this with dogs in real life in the past, and I am so ready to try it again.

I want to express how sorry I am for judging a book by it’s cover, but I already feel forgiven by the warm love that I felt from all of the wonderful doggos on my screen. If you enjoy dogs, taking pictures, summer vibes, silliness and/or charm, then I recommend giving this one a go. A bite-size delight.

+ Atmosphere

– Bugs

+/- Jank

+ Stylistic Choices

+ The Randomisation

+ The Gameplay

+ Using the Camera

+ The Extra Things

If you would like to see more images check out posts Hot Diggity Dog and Gone to the Dogs in my Game Photography section!

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A Noob’s Review – SUPERHOT

SUPERHOT broke me. It tried to break its way into my mind, but instead, it just broke it. Let me explain.

In case you don’t know, Superhot is a first person shooter. Anyone that knows me will be thinking ‘Noob? Playing a first person shooter? Wut?’. As it turns out, there is a little more to it than that. In this game, time only moves as you move. As a consequence, every move you make has to be deliberate and precise. Stay still and watch bullets moving towards you at a snails pace. Panic though and it’s game over as they speed up and hit you before you can blink. This unique mechanic allows the game to present as a corporeal puzzle game as much as it is as a shooter, which is ironic considering the incorporeal theming involved.

+ Innovation

This is a game concept that makes so much sense. Even if you have never thought about it in your life, you hear the explanation of what this game is and think “wow, of course, how come I didn’t think of that?”. And it works! There isn’t another game like it, at least gameplay wise. It is one of those titles that creates something completely new and showcases it to its full potential.

+ Aesthetic

What can be seen as a simple aesthetic actually serves to be a great asset in the gameplay itself. There are three colours. White, red and black. Red = enemies. Black = objects. White = anything else. This completely eliminates any visual clutter aiding even further in the idea that the gameplay IS the game. It is distinctive, it is thematically appropriate and it is everything that it needs to be.

– Hitboxes

The hitboxes weren’t quite as precise as I would have liked considering this can be a game about millimetres. It could be technical limitations, it could be a choice to be discourage using cover, but bullets being stopped in the air by an invisible corner is frustrating when you feel you have otherwise made a good play.

+ Fast Pace

Levels vary in length but they rarely outstay their welcome. The short bursts that the game gives you allows for going ‘all in’ – getting creative without fear as dying will only set you back a couple of minutes. This can go two ways. On one hand, you can bash your head against the level until you nail it. It isn’t a problem because once you have died you are already back in the game trying again before you even have time to finish any outbursts it may have brought on. As soon as you complete it you forget the struggle, feeling like the baddest ass in all the land. Or alternatively, you nail it first time and truly are the baddest ass in all the land.

– Difficulty Curve

This is where my troubles began. I would say the difficulty throughout the game is sprinkled. Naturally, it starts off simple, but there were some early levels that tripped me up in the same way as some later levels, while there were some later levels I did easily in one try. For some, this will provide an interesting pace. For others, it may be a little more frustrating as it can be difficult to tell if you are improving at the game.

The final level, however, is something else. It is long. Mercifully, it is checkpointed, but that didn’t save me. The previous levels contained more strategically placed enemies, highlighting the puzzle element that I mentioned earlier. This level though is – for lack of a better phrase – on another level. Personally for me, it felt different from all the rest of the game. Yes, it felt climactic, but also it lost a lot of what I enjoyed about the previous sections. I don’t want to say specifically why as that is spoiler territory, but my strategies weren’t working and I couldn’t find a set answer to get through it. This, sadly, marked the end of my Superhot experience. The frustration outweighed the potential pleasure of succeeding and I had my first ever on stream rage quit. As it turns out, I had been probably around 15 seconds from completing the game, but unfortunately I have no desire to return.

+ Story

I like the story this game is telling and more so the way it tells it. It is brief, it is memorable and it uses the medium well. As you progress an unsettled feeling creeps in and the further you go, the more it grows. It plays with ideas of control and reality, and it was always welcome to check back in at the pc every few levels.

Upon putting it down, I vowed never to go back to this game. As much of a shame that it is that it ended this way, I still had fun in the lead up. The short snappy levels were great fun and when something works out well, it truly feels superhuman. Punching an enemy in the face and catching their gun to then shoot them in the face isn’t something that you get to do very often and while it may be a novelty, it doesn’t lose its appeal for the duration of the game.

SUPERHOT wanted me to complete the game, so in a way, technically, the fact that I quit actually means that means I won. So with that in mind, to conclude.. SUCK IT SUPERHOT. I BEAT YOU.

+ Innovation

+ Aesthetic

– Hitboxes

– Difficulty Curve

+ Story

If you would like to see ALMOST the full game then you can here!

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Indie Showcase – Steam Next Fest February 2023

It is Steam Next Fest time! That’s right, it is once again time to celebrate the indie games being created day in day out, all around the world! I love to take this opportunity to play as many demos as possible, trying out as many as I can in my never ending quest to see what passionate developers are creating.

If you are looking for coverage of all genres I’m afraid you won’t find it here. Racing games, rhythm games, deck builders, challenging games, shooters and horror (with a couple of exceptions) are absolutely not my genres. Personally, I am not terribly interested in combat or anything too fast paced. I very occasionally dabble in management games, survival games and simulators but they aren’t my biggest focus. The types of games I am looking for include interesting narratives and ways to tell said narratives. I like exploring interesting spaces and moving in interesting ways. Level design, world building, art direction, story and atmosphere all matter a great deal to me. Whether that is a cozy time gathering materials to craft objects, or a thrilling time investigating a grisly murder. An epic adventure across lands unheard, or an intimate story one can only experience by playing for themself. I game for feelings and I game for escapism. I game for different perspectives and I game for art. Finally, as we all do, I game for fun.

Now that you have an idea of my tastes, shall we begin the search for my Noob Picks of the Steam Next Fest February 2023!? Let’s go!

Wishlisting a game on steam helps the creators by aiding in discoverability as well as keeping you informed, so if you see something that you like then don’t be shy about hitting the Wishlist button.

And that is a wrap on the Steam Next Fest February 2023! You can find my 10 favourite demos below and if you are interested in seeing more, I have created some YouTube Shorts.

Sherlock Holmes The Awakened

Developer: Frogwares

Release Date: Q1 2023

Sherlock Holmes The Awakened was added to my wishlist the second that it was announced. Last year I streamed both Sherlock Holmes: Crimes and Punishment and Sherlock Holmes: The Devils Daughter, and while they weren’t perfect games, we had a lot of fun with them. I have yet to play Sherlock Holmes: Chapter One, but when I saw a demo for The Awakened I was tentatively excited. This game is a reimagining of the 2008 game of the same name. I have no experience of that version so I can only talk in the context of the previous titles that I know.
The game plays similarly to Crimes and Punishment and The Devils Daughter, but also feels noticeably different. Firstly, this takes place in a Lovecraftian world, so naturally it is going to have a different atmosphere. But beyond that, based on the demo, I am thrilled by the changes they have made. There are too many to list but it feels tighter. The mechanics simultaneously feel easier, make more sense and yet feel more tricky. The demo did drop us in the middle of the game so I can’t speak for the story, except for how much I loved what I played. It had the drama that I have grown to expect from both the cinematics and the character alike.

+ Made in Ukraine.
+ I really like what I have seen from this version of the character.
+ The environments look great.
+ The Lovecraft influence lends very well to the timeframe and setting of Sherlock Holmes.
+ Fun detective gameplay.
+ Drama.
+ The end of the demo. If you know, you know.
+ An optional environment scan to highlight clues you may have missed.
+ New added mechanics like pinning clues to your HUD, which in turn effects the clues you may find.
+/- The new systems have a chance of making the game more difficult.
– Facial animations and hair textures aren’t quite as good as everything else is visually.

Highly recommend this one, here is the Steam page.

Lakeburg Legacies

Developer: Ishtar Games

Release Date: Q2 2023

Lakeburg Legacies is the city building management game that I had no idea that I wanted, but now that I have tried it, boy do I know it. The unique mechanic in this game is that you are recruiting individuals with specific skills, interests and desires to live in your village. You then play matchmaker, finding an individual that is compatible to be their partner while also hopefully having the skills you need to fill in your job market. As time passes and you build more resources, the city grows, as do the number of residents and their families. You are free to choose where they work where the more skilled they are, the more they produce.

If you enjoy management games and/or city builders but often find yourself overwhelmed, this could be the game that you are looking for. I didn’t find it too difficult but I did find it very satisfying. Not to mention the attention to detail is great. The sheer number of ways that a character can look means all of my villagers are individual, and their outfit changes depending on the job that they have. This individuality makes the happiness meter feel like more than just a number like it often feels in other games of its kind, and instead something that feels a lot easier and more interesting for me to engage with.

+ Really fun management loop.
+ Attention to detail.
+ Nice to look at and easy on the eye.
+ Huge variety in portraits.
+ Lots of choices to make without too much micromanaging.
+/- Not too difficult (again, whether this is a good thing or not depends on what you are looking for).

If this interests you, you can find out more here on Steam.

Mika and the Witch’s Mountain

Developer: Chibig, Nukefist

Release Date: 2023

My initial impression of Mika and the Witch’s Mountain was if Death Stranding and A Short Hike had a child. I don’t think I was that far off, but I would perhaps replace Death Stranding with Lake. In the Demo, we play as Mika, who must climb to the peak of a mountain to prove she can be the witch that she desires to be. As misfortune has it, all she has to her name is a broken broom. Thankfully, there is a job opening at a local delivery service in which her ability to fly makes her the perfect candidate. We proceed to deliver packages in the village, swooping and diving, on a mission to buy a suitable broom for the journey. Combining fun, unique movement mechanics with a delivery game feels like the next step for a sub-genre that appears to be growing, particularly in the indie scene.

+ The cutscenes are adorably animated.
+ The world is full of critters, bringing it to life.
+ Movement is fun.
+ A sense of freedom.
+/- Seems to have a progression loop of – do jobs to get better equiptment, which allows you to do more difficult jobs, to get more equiptment.

Check out the Steam page for more information.

Mineko’s Night Market

Developer: Meowza Games

Release Date: Coming Soon

When you think of crafting in video games, I think it is quite natural to think of gathering resources to create weapons, tools, better resources, armour, alchemy and sometimes furniture. It’s not very often that you would think of hand crafts, like paper crafts and flower crafts. That’s where Mineko’s Night Market comes in. Set on a Japanese Island, it didn’t take long to get a sense of a cute and hilarious culture that I would like to spend more time in. The demo was very short with no sense of how the ‘Night Market’ side of the game will actually play out, but it charmed me so much based on exploring and chatting to the townsfolk that I am already sold on the game. All I want to do is help this village become again what it once was. In addition, the 2D/3D design blend together to craft something as beautiful as you would hope that a game about crafting would deliver.

+ The art style means that every frame looks like it could be a still painting in a very distinctive style.
+ The character design is fun, they all have character.
+ Made me laugh more than once.
+ The location feels culturally wonderful.
+ Feels seamless and well made.
+ Cats.
– My only complaint is that I didn’t realise that I could run till the end of the demo, if there was a prompt I missed it and one area is quite big, making the walk speed feel very slow.

Wishlist it on Steam here.

Boxes: Lost Fragments

Developer: Big Loop Studios

Release Date: Coming Soon

In Boxes: Lost Fragments, we are solving puzzles to open intricate boxes, locked by mechanisms that are even more complex than the puzzles themselves. Although I admittedly haven’t played The Room – aesthetically, it feels very similar. I feel fans of one could certainly find enjoyment in the other. Each box that you open is contained within its own level, but the process of opening it is a journey in itself. The fun and elaborate designs make opening a lock exciting as you don’t know what wild mechanical process it is about to set in motion. The gameplay is smooth, it looks great and while what is happening on the screen can look complicated, the beauty of the demo was in its simplicity.

+ The way the boxes change as a result of your actions is satisfying.
+ Lovely graphics.
+ Smooth as heck.
+/- I found the puzzles quite easy (I have no idea whether to expect them to get more difficult or not and whether that is a good thing or not depends on the individual).

You can take a look for yourself on Steam here.

The End of the Sun

Developer: The End of the Sun Team

Release Date: Q4 2023

In The End of the Sun we travel to the past, guided by fire to aid in peoples fates. This is a walking simulator in which we identify what is going wrong and figure out ways to fix it, following the journey of a couple throughout their life. The game is gorgeous, and the Slavic mythology and design really bring the atmosphere to life. I want more, to learn more about both the lifestyle of these folks and the folklore surrounding them.

+ Gorgeous scenery.
+ A fun, unique idea for a walking sim.
+ The atmosphere.
+ The way that you can feel the culture and time period in the environment.
+ The mythology.
+ The game directs the player without explicitly telling you what to do.
+ Guardian Angel Simulator?

Check it out here.

The Star Named EOS

Developer: Silver Lining Studio

Release Date: Coming Soon

From the creators of Behind the Frame: The Finest Scenery is this relaxing point and click puzzle game. Or at least, the demo was relaxing. During my 30 minutes with the game I solved an escape room style puzzle in a beautiful art style along side some very chilled out music. Throughout this time, we get to know a little about our character and his relationship with his mother. The section played gave off the energy of love, creativity, and mindfulness. I assumed that this is how the rest of the game will be too, until the end. As I reached the abrupt finish, I am left wondering whether this is after all going to be a chill, peaceful experience, or is it going to break my heart instead?

+ Art style is nice to look at.
+ Fun puzzles.
+ I like the positive messaging so far.
+ Chill vibes.
+ Taking photos can reveal more story and flavour.
+/- Unsure whether it is going to stay chill.
+/- The demo wasn’t about the finding a good angle or correct lighting side of photography.
+/- Can be played entirely with the mouse. All movement is click and drag.
– There is some vaguely hint-y text as you explore, but I personally would have preferred a dedicated hint system.

For more information check out the Steam page here.

Planet of Lana

Developer: Wishfully

Release Date: Q2 2023

Planet of Lana is a side-scrolling, puzzle adventure game that takes you on a journey through a sci-fi narrative. Many games of this type are going to be compared to Inside as it is a classic and a staple of the genre. I am pleased to say that this game really feels like its own fresh take while still having a somewhat familiar style. The colours are vibrant, giving the world life in a surprisingly soft way. While we are only told the story through the world and haven’t yet seen much of it, I am sold on the idea that this is a world worth protecting. As appealing as the environments are, there are dangers both big and small, bringing a nerve-wracking contrast to the peace and beauty. Finally, a key detail that separates this game from others like it is that we have a friend. Not only do we control Lana, she then controls an adorable little chinchilla-monkey critter. Having two controllable characters in puzzles creates moving parts that you can’t really create in a single character scenario. The game may take your breath away with the vistas, or cause you to hold it in intense stealth moments. Either way, it is sure to be quite a ride.

+ Stunning backdrop.
+ The little friend adds to the narrative and the gameplay.
+ The contrast of the enemies is effective.
+ The eco-system makes the world feel alien but alive.
+ Something new for Inside fans.
+/- I get the impression that there is going to be quite a bit of stealth.
+/- Some of the enemies in the demo were based on fast moving spiders, it will probably work well for most people but this is just a personal bummer as I don’t hate spiders and am starting to fatigue of how they are treat in media (and as an extension in society) as a whole.

Try it out for yourself here.

A Tower Full of Cats

Developer: Devcats

Release Date: 2023

A Tower Full of Cats – a continuation of A Building Full of Cats and A Castle Full of Cats – is a hidden object game where you have to find, wait for it, cats! Depending on your personality type, you may meditatively scour the environment, precisely clicking everytime you find a little fury delight. Alternatively, you may furiously click everything you see (or don’t see) in a slightly different kind of meditation. Either way, this game provides a little humour and observation training in an easy to use, well presented package. I would love a game like this on mobile to play on the go using touchscreen. The best part? The game is developed entirely by 5 rescue cats.

+ Cats being cats.
+ The doodles are very charming.
+ Search your way through different themes.
+ The music is great and themed to each location.
+ The way colour is used.
+ Therapeutic.
+ Adopt don’t shop.
+/- There is not a whole lot to it, it’s like an interactive Where’s Wally.
– I imagine I will get frustrated if I have used my hint and have a single cat left to find.

Wishlist here on Steam.

Voltaire: The Vegan Vampire

Developer: Digitality Games

Release Date: 27th February 2023

While Voltaire isn’t a game that I will personally continue, I have to give it a shout-out. It is quirky and whimsical while being cute – but not in an overbearing way. It would be easy to think this game was like Cult of the Lamb based on the fact this has base building aspects in the rogue-lite genre, not to mention the art style. But when you start playing you realise that it isn’t really like that at all. Rather than dungeon crawling – slaying any enemies in your path through procedurally generated areas – the enemies will come to you. Expect tower defence as you are protecting your home and land. Hunger is your biggest currency and you have to divide your attention between growing plants to satiate that, and deciding which plots to give up to protect the plants, ensuring that you still have a yield by the time the sun rises. There is a learning curve that is a bit beyond me, but if you enjoy tower defence then you should certainly check it out. The awesome opening cutscene set up the charm that follows and I really hope that this game finds it’s audience.

+ Great animated opening cutscene.
+ Charming concept and execution.
+ Lots of decisions to be made.
+ Randomised perks were exciting.
+/- Tower defence/base building rogue-lite.
+/- Complexity.

More info here on Steam.

This is the second festival that I have covered under the Indie Showcase name, the first being October 2022 where I created a magazine. If you would like to check out any of my previous coverage please take a look at the links below!

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