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Tried any good game demos lately?


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I'm going through another batch of game demos, mostly games still in development, so I take the not-quite-there-yet feel of them into account.  So far this year I've found a handful I'm keeping an eye on:


1. Farewell North - first up is a demo I just finished. It's more of a story game, but has mild puzzle and platform elements, at least the demo does.  Perhaps the full game will have harder challenges.  The art and unfolding story are absolutely beautiful. The use of alternating color and monochrome (as well as solid/whole vs. ethereal/fractured) as symbols of emotional turmoil really work in context,  and the game really connects on the nature of dogs as emotional anchors for their humans.


2. New Cycle - City Builder, Survival, Post-Apocalyptic.  In this case, the apocalypse was a massive change in the sun causing a massive solar flare that wiped out our highly-dependent technological future, and set the survivors back almost to the stone age.  The focus is on rediscovering our path to at least the late industrial age while designing a future that takes the changes of the sun and weather into account.  No zombies anywhere (at least, not in the demo, nor hinted at.) Most of the demo is man-vs-nature, or rather a nature badly distorted by the change in the sun, and threatened by future re-occurrences of what happened.  There are, however, strong indications that the full game will have greater interaction with the world around including other settlements, either friendly or hostile.  I'm intrigued by the use of A.I. for key NPCs.  While the system is currently very clunky by the creators' own admission, I found that I could converse more fluently than other games in dealing with these key NPCs.  That is, when the system was working.  The demo version only offers the tutorial, but it's clear from what is currently blocked in game that there are many other functions and environments, several of which will likely be quite challenging to conquer.


3. Aloft - taking Pandoria to a whole 'nother level.  Well, at least the floating islands.  Navigate the skies both by gliding flight and by converting small islands into essentially floating sailing ship with the included ability to raise or lower depending on your target's elevation.  There's gathering, crafting, farming, as well a secrets hidden in crazy, sometimes challenging-to-reach places.  Fighting is simplistic at first but grows ever more challenging.  There's been quite a bit added since I first played this lengthy demo earlier this year.


4. Quilts and Cats of Calico - I can't believe I actually enjoyed this competitive puzzle game.  Actually, I can't even believe I downloaded the demo, but I did and yeah, I did.  Even crazier since I avoid cats due to severe allergies, so most references to them have no interest to me.  The craziness of the theming aside, this is at its core a competitive puzzle game, taking turns against a human or A.I. opponent, each trying to create a high-scoring "quilt" according to the rules of the game.  In a sense, it has elements of other games I've played in the past.  Probably a similar comparison would be Scrabble: pulling components from a grab bag, and trying to fit what is in your hand to the board for maximum points.  Saying it is matching colors and patterns is an understatement to the challenge, especially by the time the game teaches you all rules.  I only played against the A.I. but I could see playing this against a friend.  It probably takes about as long as a good game of checkers.  There is a mild campaign mode, with some really odd characters and dialog, but I chose to ignore them and focus on the challenge their level of the campaign offered.

5. Dreadful River - This has since moved on to Early Access, but as the free demo remains available, I'll include it in my list.  I first played the demo early this year.  The game has grown hugely in 7 months and shows no sign of slowing down.  The basic concept reminds me of the old fantasy adventure games of the 1990s, but instead of wandering the countryside, this tale is done on a river and the lands adjacent to it.  Protect a king whose kingdom has been usurped as you travel a hostile river in search of the components needed to empower a McGuffin to in turn empower his fight against the usurper.  You start with a small band on a humble raft.  As you gather resources from river and land, you'll eventually trade enough to upgrade the raft, several times, increase your fighting force, as well as bring different classes to the fight, and arm them better.  But the enemy is out hunting, and they're getting faster and better as well. More explosive, too.  There's ruins, dungeons, and river caves to explore, and the growth of the game has brought in wild animals and supernatural creatures including river monsters.  At the moment, my fighting force is far down the river and numbers 30 on the raft and includes archers, crossbows, spearmen, berserkers, priests and a mage, as well as, of course, the king.

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