Indie Variety Hour: Summer Game Festival

Recently Valve wrapped up the Steam Summer Game Festival. The event was akin to a digital version of PAX wherein developers could showcase their upcoming games with a demo. While it can’t replace the experience of actually attending an event in person, the Summer Game Fest was a much more convenient way to learn about and experience a ton of indie games. Plus playing demos for several games gave me a much stronger impression than a trailer would.

As an aside, I had intended to write about Summer Game Fest last week while it was happening, but my computer decided it needed some new parts. As a result I’m, unfortunately, reporting to you after the event. The demos for the games featured are no longer available, but I hope my word counts for something. With that out of the way let’s dive into a rundown of my favourites.

Fae Tactics

Planned release platform(s): PC, Nintendo Switch

Unlike the majority of the other games featured, Fae Tactics is a game I’ve been following for a while. As the name states, it is a tactics game and the demo set the stage for a really enjoyable experience. The game makes use of elemental advantages in conjunction with vertical map design to add some strategic depth to encounters. Successfully navigating each map requires careful positioning, utilizing height for the upper-hand, and exploiting the enemies vulnerabilities with the right elemental attack.

There was also some interesting story nuggets dropped in the demo. It seems that most human settlements are separated and under threat by bandits and monsters. It wasn’t much to go off of, but I am eagerly awaiting the full release of Fae Tactics, more so having played the demo.

Trailer | Official Site | Steam Page

Superliminal

Planned release platform(s): PC, Playstation 4, Xbox One

Superliminal is a game I first learned about from a friend when he sent me a gif of it. At the time it was just a prototype showing how perspective was being used to change the relative size of an object. Turns out in the intervening years this concept was evolved, refined, and released as a full game.

Despite featuring as a demo in the Summer Game Fest, Superliminal is already available for purchase on the Epic Games Store. I didn’t realize that until I did a bit of Googling. Regardless, Superliminal was one of the strongest demos I played.

As previously stated, you alter the size of objects by using forced perspective. Through manipulating how objects appear you’re able to solve a number of puzzles. The premise was really interesting as were the associated puzzles, so this will most definitely be one I pick up.

Trailer | Official Site | Steam Page

PHOGS!

Planned release platform(s): PC, Nintendo Switch, Playstation 4, Xbox One

I’ve written about PHOGS! before thinking it looked like a promising game when it was showcased at PAX West last year. Having received the opportunity to play it alongside Mir I can attest that this is an extremely fun local co-op experience.

You and your partner control a two headed dog creature that looks akin to the cartoon character CatDog. Each of you is in direct control of one of the heads, but actions from the other head will inadvertently limit you. For an added bit of complexity, the game also supports sharing a controller with someone while playing so you can really immerse yourself in the joys of shared body experience. PHOGS! is defined almost entirely by the joy and frustration of having to work with another person making it a very promising co-op experience.

Also, this can happen:

Trailer | Official Site | Steam Page

HELLCARD

Planned release platform(s): PC

Here’s another neat one. For those who are already familiar with Slay the Spire imagine that, but multiplayer. That is HELLCARD.

HELLCARD is a multiplayer game where you and up to two other players delve through randomly generated encounters using a deck of cards to clear out baddies. The multiplayer aspect of the game is the key differentiating factor for HELLCARD as it changes the dynamic of the fight entirely. Sometimes sacrifices need to be made in order to support your party. In this way you’re not just focusing on how to keep yourself alive – you’re focusing on how to keep your team alive.

As someone who’s spent far too long playing other card games and has friends in a similar boat I’d be very interested in playing more of HELLCARD once it’s fully released.

Official Site | Steam Page

Patrick’s Parabox

Planned release platform(s): PC

Of the different games I played, Patrick’s Parabox was my favourite. It’s a puzzle game where you control a cube person, presumably Patrick, and you push cubes into their allotted spot. If the cubes have pathways within them you’re able to shrink down and travel through said pathways as part of solving the puzzle. Where this gets really interesting is when the block you’re moving is also the level you’re playing within, which leads to some mind melting puzzles.

Patrick’s Parabox is exactly the kind of puzzle game I really enjoy and the demo left me wanting more.

Trailer | Official Site | Steam Page

The Riftbreaker

Planned release platform(s): PC, Playstation 4, Xbox One

According to the event page I’m one of the few people who hadn’t already heard about The Riftbreaker as it was the third most wishlisted game during the event.

The Riftbreaker is a genre meld of a lot of different ideas, but largely feels like a marriage between an ARPG and tower defence. You control a giant mech suit which is capable of easily destroying alien life as you explore looking for resources to build a base of operations. You then construct fortifications to repel oncoming waves of alien attacks far too grand for you to handle with just your mech.

What I enjoyed so much with Riftbreaker was the flow of combat. The impending threat kept a sense of urgency in the moments where there was a respite from the onslaught. This made exploration and resource gathering feel more important and prevented both activities from ever becoming tedious. I wanted to get as much value as I could out of my free time before I’d have to return to defending. Hopefully the full release has additional curve balls to keep the experience fresh throughout a full length campaign.

Trailer | Official Site | Steam Page

Children of Silentown

Planned release platform(s): PC, Playstation 4, Xbox One

Here’s something I bet no one was expecting to see. Yes, a point and click adventure game left a strong enough impression that I am interested in playing the whole game. Let that sink in. The guy who blogs largely about twitchy action games and games with complex systems wants to play a point and click adventure.

Children of Silentown has all of the standard point and click rigmarole, but what really stuck with me was the atmosphere and the horror elements. Some kind of terrible cursed monster is tormenting the town’s folk and within the demo the developers showed they had a good idea of how tease the threat of said monster without totally playing their hand. I’m really interested in playing the full release and unraveling the mysteries of Silentown.

Trailer | Official Site | Steam Page

Renaine

Planned release platform(s): PC, Nintendo Switch

Of all the platforming games I played I was most impressed by Renaine. At first glance I thought this would be another indie leaning fully into an older, clunkier style of platforming because of the art. Boy was I wrong. Renaine controls buttery smooth and allows for players to rip through the levels at break neck speed if they so desire. One of the other interesting tidbits I noted was the existence of multiple pathways through levels. Similar to Sonic the higher paths demand more from the player, but are quicker while lower paths move at a slower pace.

Plus the music was great. Out of nowhere there was some smooth jazz sounding tunes playing in the background. I don’t know if that totally fit the tone, but I enjoyed it none the less.

If you’re into platformers keep an eye out for Renaine. I think it might be something special.

Trailer | Steam Page


There you have it. Eight games out of the thirty or so that I played which really impressed me with their demos. Also, special shout-out to Ring of Pain, which I wrote about earlier in May. It had a new demo showcased for the Summer Game Fest, but after Twice Different announced that they were planning to release the game fully in Fall I decided to abstain from playing the most recent build. You can check out my impressions here if you’re curious.

Was there anything showcased in my article that is now on your wishlist? I know some of my fellow bloggers took part in the Summer Game Fest and I’d be interesting in hearing about which games you all enjoyed the most, especially as I wasn’t able to play all of the demos I’d have liked to.

4 thoughts on “Indie Variety Hour: Summer Game Festival

  1. I am unreasonably hyped for Superliminal. I saw a short .gif somewhere on the Internet a while ago and immediately was intrigued.
    Patrick’s Parabox looks like it can go one of two ways: A typical “different for the sake of being different” game that loses its steam after about an hour (how long did you play the demo for?) or a new puzzle gem, like Baba is You. Is it a pure puzzle game a la Baba or is there some sort of story and/or narration like in Thomas was Alone?
    Children of Silenttown and Renaine are on my wishlist now, too, simply because they look cool and I trust your judgment.

    Are you going to release a contrasting post about the games that you didn’t like and why? A few other bloggers have made them, and I have enjoyed them almost more than the “I liked those” posts.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Seems you had a very similar experience to learning about the game that I did. Though me thinks you saw a gif a lot closer to the game’s release than I did.

      I’m of the same mind. Parabox’s demo was about 30 minutes long featuring 29 puzzles. Some took a couple seconds to solve, others took longer. It was nothing but puzzles. The end of the demo said the full game would feature around 250 of the things, so I’d expect a rather concise experience. I don’t know that it’ll hit Baba levels of mind breaking, but I still think it’ll be fun for what it is, at least that’s the impression I got from playing the demo.

      Nice. I’m glad I’ve won over at least one person.

      I was not planning on it. I noticed that when I was reading Krikket’s posts about the event yesterday (still working through the posts dedicated solely to specific games). I didn’t want to do a negative slanted post in association with the event, nor did I actually keep track of the games that failed to capture my attention. The other problem I’d have with that is that I was playing demos and those can fail for entirely different reasons that wouldn’t be as big of a deal in a full game. For example, some demos elected to hit players with a non-interactive wall of text for the first 10 minutes of their runtime and that made me check out every time. I’d have a little more patience for laying the ground work of a story in the full release of a game, but I don’t find that works as well in the context of a demo. Demos should be used to immediately capture your attention with whatever the hook of the game is. Silentown managed to do that by teasing the big bad in the forest. Other games…not so much.

      Liked by 1 person

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