Rapid Review: 12 Games from the Steam Game Festival

The Steam Game Festival ran for about a week in early February and I tried to make the most out of it. I cast a wide net of games to play. With tons of different indie titles available to try, I couldn’t play all of them, nor could I explore the ones I did play to their fullest. With this in mind: here are the results. (If you want to check out the games, the titles are hyperlinked!)

Across the Obelisk

Genre: Roguelike
Playstyle: Deck Builder

Across the Obelisk puts the player in control of a formation of heroes as they make their way to save a princess. Certain roguelike elements allow the player to make multiple runs with new heroes and encounters – not to mention changing the cards that are available in each hero’s deck. I think my biggest learning issue with this game was the sheer amount of information players have to get acquainted to: there are loads of status effects and possible combos that go into making a deck, and most the time I didn’t know what to do beyond simply causing damage.

The art style is simplistically charming, though the sounds can get repetitive (thinking specifically of a battle I had with corrupted sheep, which almost always made the same “bahh” sounds). Partially, I’m not convinced that Across the Obelisk is improved by being a card game, but this also isn’t my normal genre, so I’m willing to blame unfamiliarity to a degree.

Dorfromantik

Genre: City-Builder
Playstyle: Puzzle, Arcade

Dorfromantik is a laid-back puzzle game where you place tiles to increase your score. It’s really that simple. Despite being simple, the puzzle elements took some time to get familiar with, but by my second play through of the short demo, I knew what I was doing. There’s something very satisfying about clicking tiles into place and watching the world you build unfold before your eyes. Overall, it’s a calming, quite hands-off city-builder. You lay down the tiles and move on to the next – no feeding villagers or invading nations or managing taxes. If you’re looking for a chill puzzle to sip tea with, take a look at Dorfromantik.

Hundred Days – Winemaking Simulator

Genre: Simulator, Shopkeeper
Playstyle: Puzzle, Resource Management

Do you like wine? Do you like grapes? Do you like managing soil pH and composition to create the best wine with the best grapes? Hundred Days – Winemaking Simulator has you covered. At first, this game seemed like an earnest attempt at a puzzle game that just didn’t connect – then I got past the first step of the tutorial. It very quickly changed.

I was absolutely overwhelmed with the amount of choice given as the game takes you through every step – and I mean every step – of winemaking. After you plant the type of grapes on the soil you want and manage them as you please, you can choose how you press them into wine, how you package them, get them tasted, and choose who you sell them to. While it needs a bit of polish, if you like detailed simulator games (or really like wine), I suggest you look into this one.

Inspector Waffles

Genre: Mystery (Detective Noir)
Playstyle: Point-and-Click, Puzzle

I’m a fan of investigative mystery, and Inspector Waffles doesn’t disappoint. Beyond the somewhat bland visuals, the game provides charming characters, and mostly intuitive investigation mechanics. Each step followed the pattern of: look for clues, advance, look for clues, talk to someone and use the clues. It’s a fun gameplay loop that provides a feeling of progress and satisfaction. My biggest gripe with the gameplay is that you basically have to click on everything. Some solutions require specific clues and resources. This means you either investigate the right way or don’t progress. Despite this, the clever solutions made investigating fun and I often reached conclusions before the game made them obvious, which felt rewarding.

The Last Spell

Genre: Arena-Game (Turn-Based)
Playstyle: Tactical, Team-builder, Resource Management

Similar to games like Fire Emblem and Final Fantasy: Tactics, The Last Spell is about making a team and killing stuff in an arena-like map. First and foremost, this game has serious depth. Each member of your team can get stronger, get new abilities, receive new equipment, and flat-out die. Managing this team against swarms of undead is challenging, tactical, and satisfying, as you make a plan and pull of combos to keep the hordes at bay.

Managing your team also comes with managing the battlefield through building walls and corridors. The Last Spell made me feel like it was my skill that made me win encounters and my shortcomings that made me fail them. Wrap it up with a fitting art style, satisfying animations and sounds, and a soundtrack that makes you feel like you’re battling against fate, and you have a winner. I strongly recommend those who enjoy Fire Emblem and even the combat of titles like Divinity: Original Sin to look into this game.

Loveland

Genre: Mystery (Horror)
Playstyle: First-Person, Puzzle

Despite sounding like it, Loveland is not a dating simulator. Far from it. This horror mystery game puts you, a paranormal investigator, snooping around Loveland Cove trailer park (which is more than just a trailer park). First and foremost, the aesthetics of this game are wonderful. The game knows what look it’s going for and executes it exceptionally well. It’s immersive, haunting, and intriguing. The gameplay itself favors thorough exploration and sometimes forces you to be bold. I’m unsure about how much depth the finished game will actually have, but I’ll be keeping my eyes on Loveland regardless.

Nine Noir Lives

Genre: Mystery (Detective Noir)
Playstyle: Point-and-Click, Puzzle

The second anthropomorphic cat detective game on the list, Nine Noir Lives stands out from the other in both visuals and gameplay. Nine Noir Lives has sleek visuals and great voice acting, with gameplay that feels more weighted towards puzzles than investigative work. Playing as a detective felt more like an aesthetic choice than a design one, as solving the puzzles do the investigation for you. My biggest gripe with Nine Noir Lives was the dialogue which, while great, and often humorous, simply didn’t know when to stop. A fun, vibrant world to explore through solving puzzles makes Nine Noir Lives promising.

Potion Craft: Alchemist Simulator

Genre: Simulator, Shopkeeper
Playstyle: Puzzle, Resource Management

Potion Craft: Alchemist Simulator puts you in charge of a potion shop, making potions. In most games, the act of finding the potion ingredients would be the gameplay, but this game focuses entirely on the brewing of potions itself (gathering resources is nothing more than click on them in your garden). Through grinding potion materials, mixing them, diluting them, and heating them, you can craft a wide variety of potions a number of different ways. After your potions are brewed, you sell them. You choose which clients to turn down, who you haggle with, and what you buy from wandering traders.

Something that surprised me was the fact that the potion-making is at your own pace. There was no countdown timer before shoppers walked away, making it a relaxing game with an artisanal feel. The puzzle mechanics are easy to understand and widely variable. If you unironically enjoy the flash-title Papa’s Pizzeria or any shop-keeping game, be sure to check out Potion Craft: Alchemist Simulator.

SkateBIRD

Genre: Sports (Skateboarding)
Playstyle: Third-person, Combo

SkateBIRD is a creative twist on a genre that has rarely gone outside its comfort zone. You’re a bird. You skateboard. The game was still in a bare-bones state during the demo, so keep in mind that many issues I had with the game would hopefully be resolved on the final release. The controls and animations are a little clunky, making performing tricks not as smooth as they should be – the number of tricks also felt somewhat limited. Despite this, the gameplay has promise for a polished final product.

The visuals may need a second-pass, but the lo-fi bird-themed soundtrack was unexpectedly groovy. Levels have NPC-birds which give challenges that change each time, giving variety to how you explore. Beyond all of this, the setting is hugely promising. By making the characters birds (and bird-sized), creative and unconventional maps, obstacles, and tricks can be freely implemented. The demo version gave me hope for SkateBIRD to be an engaging and innovative game.

Undying

I forgot to get a screenshot while playing, so this one’s from the game’s steam page.
Genre: Zombie, Story-driven
Playstyle: Survival, Exploration

Though the zombie game is past its prime, Undying looks to innovate on the genre in unique ways. The game itself doesn’t feel or look new, admittedly, but it does play different from most others in the genre. First is the story-driven aspect. Usually, games are story-driven or exploration-driven, not both. In Undying, you play as Anling, a mother infected by a zombie bite. As you play, you explore for resources and upgrade the home base, managing your infection, energy, thirst, and hunger.

At the same time, you must also work towards teaching your son, Cody, how to survive. The heartfelt mother-son relationship – and watching as Cody’s competency increases both in story and in game mechanics – is part of what makes this game unique. As I played, Cody got more and more comfortable with fighting zombies so that he wouldn’t freeze up when things got intense. I stopped needing to rescue him. UNDYING balances story and gameplay in a genre that tends to pick one or the other.

Windjammers 2

Genre: Sports
Playstyle: Fast Paced, Action, Arcade

Windjammers 2 is the sequel to the 1994 game Windjammers for the Neo Geo arcade system. In a fictional disk-throwing sport, players engage in a competition to send the disks into the opponents net or prevent them from catching the disk. The fun visual style and simplicity of the fictional sport’s mechanics make it easy to slide into. Being a sports game, Windjammers 2 is naturally competitive in a wholesome, earnest way.

As the game’s pace modulates, players adapt their rhythms in hopes of causing a slip-up or a breakthrough, quickly recomposing for the next round. If you want a game for co-op games night to go along with Super Smash Brothers, give Windjammers 2 a look (it is planned for release on Nintendo Switch).

You Suck At Parking

Genre: Driving (Golf?)
Playstyle: Time Trial

You Suck At Parking is a parking game, not a racing game: the objective is to actually stop your car from moving. This is very difficult when you can’t reverse, have limited fuel, and fail if you stop moving outside of the parking square. It’s kind of like a golf game, but you can’t stop hitting the ball or you lose. The simple visuals and concept make it easy to get in to, but the whacky variance of each level keeps you playing. Surprisingly challenging and simply fun, this game is extremely promising. I recommend everyone, especially fans of games like What the Golf, look into You Suck At Parking.

Leave a Reply