We find ourselves in October once again and this of course means a number of things. The full colourful throes of autumn, the otherworldly celebrations of Halloween or Samhain and of course the most momentous occasion of all: the coming together of indie games, devs and demos from all over the world for Steam Next Fest.
Running 1st – 7th October and starting the month off in spectacular fashion, gamers had their prime pick of upcoming indie gems with over 700 demos to get their hands on and plenty of dev streams and Q&A sessions to stoke the hype train’s boiler. And as the resident Steam Next fairy here at Filmhounds, I flitted around, soaked up as much gaming goodness as possible and came away with three top-notch picks. And coincidentally they all embrace the season with a leaning towards the spooky in various ways.
So grab your silver swords, ancient talismans and tinfoil hats: here are three delicious demos to stir your supernatural senses.
Hunt The Night
Regardless of our feelings towards horror and fantasy independently, many gamers have a soft spot for a juicy dark fantasy outing like Castlevania or Devil May Cry. But the Belmont clan and the son of Sparda have some stiff competition in the trade of hunting devilry. Hunt the Night, from aptly named Moonlight Games, is a pixel art action-adventure game centred around heart-racing skill-based gameplay and oozes deep fantasy lore, sometimes quite literally. Set in the world of Medhram, the day is governed by humanity, the night by grotesque horrors, and the former is facing annihilation by the latter. Enter ‘The Stalkers’, a group of humans who harness the power of darkness to bring destruction to the creatures of the Night. As Stalker Vesper, you must travel across a dying land to save humanity and battle the darkness in the world and her mind.
If you’re a fan of both pixel art and dark fantasy, then the visuals alone will have you swooning. Channelling the early NES Castlevania vibes by combining a foreboding macabre aura with a vibrant colour scheme, Hunt the Night is a beauty to behold and only strengthened by some superb animation and cutscenes that belie the retro style. The combat too is immensely satisfying: easy to learn, tricky to master and deeply extensive. Vesper can wield a wide variety of melee weapons from swords to throwing blades, fire her revolver for powerful range attacks or summon her dark sorcery abilities to even the odds. Players can seamlessly mix and match between weapons and abilities to create a build that suits their style and put down the horrors in their path. This will prove vital as enemies are both formidable and unique; you will need to learn their individual patterns and weaknesses to gain the upper hand and avoid becoming another pile of entrails on the flagstones!
And for those who love their soundtracks, you’ll be thoroughly spoiled. Adaptive to environment, enemies and even moments, this fabulous gothic score expertly compliments the action and features collaboration from the great Hiroki Kikuta of Secret of Mana fame. Cue JRPG soundtrack squees.
If you’ve had your fill of Dracula and Dante & co are rubbing you up the wrong way, Hunt the Night may just give you the delectable dark fantasy fix you’re looking for and leave you ravenous for more!
Wishlist it on Steam HERE.
PLANNED RELEASE DATE: TBA
PLATFORMS: PC, Mac, Linux, Playstation 4, Nintendo Switch
The Tartarus Key
Low poly horror games have seen a tremendous boost in popularity in recent years, as have live escape rooms—myself being an enthusiastic consumer of both. And as something gains considerable traction, it becomes more difficult for an individual to make their mark. Vertical Reach’s The Tartarus Key is one such game that taps into both of these enjoyable trends and combines them with excellent writing and atmosphere to craft an experience that truly stands apart. Alex Young wakes in a dark room in a mysterious mansion with no knowledge of her surroundings and no memory of how she ended up there. CCTV cameras monitor her every move and a portable radio with a cynical voice on the other end is her only guide. What begins as simply trying to escape soon turns into a desperate race to free her fellow captors and get to the rotten heart of this godforsaken place. And not everyone may make it out alive.
If you’re expecting jump scares aplenty and sudden loud music swells, you won’t find them here. The Tartarus Key walks a different path, one of atmosphere and storytelling that doesn’t rely on sudden scares to send chills down your spine. According to Vertical Reach, founder and artist Leonor Parra “hates jump scares and vowed to make a game that’s downright spooky without them!” This they seem to thoroughly achieve. The low-poly visuals and lighting effects evoke a wonderfully unsettling atmosphere and the sense of something ever lurking at the edges of your periphery. There’s a satisfying fluidity and intricacy to the graphics and controls, seamlessly blending old and new and inspiring players to fully explore their surroundings to find every little detail.
This will prove vital as puzzle-solving is the key to making your way through the mansion and preventing other captives from suffering a grisly fate. No shortage of quality here either as puzzles are complex and clever, requiring you to examine the environment for subtle clues and use gathered information to connect the dots. Fans of The Room series or The House of Da Vinci will feel right at home.
Looking for a different kind of horror that thrives on slowly building tension and deep-seated unease rather than shock tactics? Give The Tartarus Key a try and prepare to be looking over your shoulder long after you’ve stopped playing.
Wishlist it on Steam HERE.
PLANNED RELEASE DATE: TBA
Remember the good old days of pixel point-and-click adventure games? Remember those ‘80s kid adventure movies that gave you all the feel-good vibes but also contained scenes and characters that haunted your dreams? Unusual Findings remembers. Epic Llama’s debut game is an exquisitely penned love letter to these peerless mediums and the unique feel of ‘80s culture. Young protagonists Vinny, Nick and Tony are on a mission of the utmost importance: naked chicks on TV! Their signal descrambler has arrived and they must decrypt a pay-per-view channel to bask in its glory free of charge. But after inadvertently picking up a distress signal from an alien craft crashing into the local woods, things get decidedly weirder as a murderous conspiracy begins to unfold and the three boys find themselves thrown in the middle of it. Totally accidentally, of course.
The nostalgia is strong with this one as almost every recognisable ‘80s aspect is seamlessly worked into the gameplay and is an active part of it. From the witty dialogue to the bike riding montage segment echoing the opening to many classic movies, you’ll find yourself in a colourful time warp that will give you a warm nostalgic feeling. Which will be fuzzily ripped apart when the aliens show up. In classic point-and-click fashion, you’ll need to find items and solve puzzles to progress further in the story, making use of the “Look At”, “Grab” and “Talk To” commands of the interaction orb. Any item you come across is susceptible to these commands, some providing useful information or a new path, others providing hilarious reactions. Want to talk to a tree? Grab it? Go ahead, but don’t expect Nick and Tony to let you live it down, tree-hugger! And of course the pixel art is to die for: in the words of Epic Llama themselves “All the charm of pixel art of the past with more colors and the new effects of the future.”
Naturally too, Unusual Findings comes equipped with the best retro synthwave soundtrack you could ask for to channel your inner mullet and neon arm warmers. Having recently garnered quite the taste for synth and retrowave to relax to, this suits me to a tee. Throw in some Dead or Alive for good measure and you’ve got yourself a time warp even Doc Brown would be proud of.
Wishlist it on Steam HERE.
PLANNED RELEASE DATE: 2021