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Steam Next Fest is upon us once more, and with it; a whole smorgasbord (which I learned is a Swedish buffet as I typed this) of game demos. I’ve been making my way through as many demos as I can over the past few days and have collated a few that I think people should absolutely play. If there’s more that you think I should check out, make sure to hit me up on Twitter and I’ll make sure to give them a play too. Happy Demoing!

Driftwood

Let’s start off with Driftwood, a game that is the current frontrunner for my totally real ‘Best Vibes’ Award this Next Fest.

‘Eddy’

Driftwood is a downhill skating game where the player traverses down a stunning forest highway while accruing points by drifting around corners, having near-misses, and landing jumps. The gameplay is pleasantly simple and invites a really delightful state of flow. It also provides you with a really well-realised sense of speed as you quickly become one of the most aerodynamic sloths I’ve ever played as.

Oh did I forget to mention you play as a Sloth? You do. His name is Eddy. Need I say more?

Driftwood is currently planned to release in 2023.
You can check out the demo here.

Radio the Universe

In this vicious and visceral top-down, action platformer, the player wanders around a maze of brutal architecture while defeating incredibly aggressive robotic enemies. At the same time, the UI and Camera both experience a bombardment of retro-computerised effects that will undoubtedly make you question what’s real, and does it really matter?

However, the main reason Radio the Universe is on this list is actually because of just how actively hostile it is. The combat is shockingly difficult, and while the checkpoints are fairly forgiving, the whole world has this dripping feeling of antagonism!

That might sound like a negative, but the game flaunts its harshness in such an atmospheric and compelling way, it’s left me wanting to experience more of its surreal story and world. 

Radio the Universe currently has no release date.
The demo is available here.

Increment (VR)

Increment is a VR idle/clicker game where you make the numbers go up but in VR. Yeah, you read that right, it’s an idle game in Virtual Reality. Does that sound silly on paper? Yes, but the game knows that and has the player performing actions often enough that you’re never truly idle (OK, now that sounded really backwards). The demo is a bite-sized 20 minutes and features a solid amount of buttons to push, levers to turn and pumps to…well, pump. All of these make the imaginary numbers go up, which is great because then my body releases dopamine into my brain.

With a very VR-friendly runtime and a final punchline that wouldn’t be out of place in The Stanley Parable, I highly recommend giving this one a go if you have a VR headset laying around.

Increment does not currently have a release date.
You can play the demo here.

Plan B: Terraform

If Satisfactory and Opus Magnum had a baby, it would be Plan B: Terraform. This grid-based city builder had me shouting INDUSTRY! while looking proudly at my wildly inefficient mining network, but also gave me the promise of something greater. Unlike those above contemporaries, Plan B: Terraform isn’t just about removing every bottleneck in a mesh of connected systems and conveyor belts, the goal is to turn a rocky, desolate planet into a lush and habitable home for the denizens of your (city? Town? planet?) to hopefully live.

If you are a fan of management city-sims like Frostpunk or Surviving Mars, I recommend checking this one out. It’s launching into Early Access on the 15th of Feb, so if you miss the demo it’ll be available shortly after Next Fest ends.
You can play the demo here.

Desynced

If you played the previous game and felt like you wanted a bit more automation and computers in your resource management strategy game, then Desynced is the game for you!

Set in a sci-fi future full of robots, mining equipment, and a sarcastic corporate AI, Desynced has you exploring and expanding across an alien world, in the hope of achieving the goal of all modern-day corporations; complete and total colonisation.

Where Desynced really shines is in its customisable automation. Each robotic unit the player controls is impressively customisable. It utilises a drag-and-drop module system, that allows the player to decide which job each unit performs. It’s both easy to use and engaging to solve, all while boasting conditional systems and upgrades. Understanding these systems and how they connect together really elevates the whole experience.

Robots doin’ robot stuff

Once I got my head around all of these mechanics and how they duck and weave together, one of the most quietly impressive things that I noticed is that the game provides you with all of the information and options, in a clean and approachable User Interface. At no point did I feel like I was overwhelmed with menus and options; it’s clean and readable in a pinch.

I think this game does a lot of things really well, and I really would recommend this game to anyone with any interest in the strategy genre.

Desynced is planning on releasing into Early Access later this year.
You can play the demo here.

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Managing Editor of MiniMap. Contact me: Jeremy(at)minimap.com.au