Steam Next Fest | June 2022 | Recommendations
Investigate the mysterious Mason family as a cute, chubby housecat, or find yourself (and love) as a newly-purchased android; Whatever your heart desires, we have a demo to recommend from the June 2022 ‘Steam Next Fest’…
What is Steam Next Fest? If you’re not already familiar with Steam Next Fest, it’s essentially a showcase of demos for upcoming games hosted on the PC gaming platform, Steam. It’s a great way for indie developers to promote their games prior to their full release, and it’s a fun way for players to discover interesting new titles to look forward to.
There were a lot of demos being showcased in the June 2022 Next Fest – and I already had several demos in my library waiting to be played – so this list is absolutely not exhaustive of all the interesting demos available on Steam.
Instead, this review is a curated list of all the demos I played that I found particularly intriguing, and that I recommend keeping an eye on for future updates and full releases.
It’s worth noting that adding these games to your wishlist is a huge help to the developers, as it allows them to use that data to show potential publishers and platforms that there is a demand for their upcoming game, so please remember to wishlist any games that peak your interest!
☆ Game Name: Belle Automata
☆ Developer: Jellyfish Parade
☆ Publisher: Jellyfish Parade
☆ Genre(s): Otome, Romance, Sci-fi
☆ Gameplay Style: Visual Novel
☆ Age Rating: Described as ‘sweet and safe for work’ on the game’s itch.io page.
☆ Release Date: 6th September, 2022
☆ More info: Steam, itch.io, Twitter.
“Aureve is content with making tapestries alongside her master–but when he dies, his family sells her off to a reclusive buyer. Thrown into a world of other sentient droids, she must find her place and above all, answer the question: can an android truly feel?”– Game Description (Steam)
The demo is pretty short, but even in this limited amount of time Belle Automata hooked me in and now I can’t wait to play the rest! The art style is beautiful, the premise is fascinating, and the characters all seem interesting so far… so there’s nothing really to complain about. Plus, it’s fully voiced (including MC!), and I’m hoping this extends to the rest of the game in the full version. The release date isn’t too far away, so I’m definitely keeping this one on my radar.
I wasn’t able to find any links to external websites/social media on the game’s Steam store page, but thankfully I’d already heard of this upcoming game through Blerdy Otome’s previous media coverage, and I was able to track down some more info. The developer, owl., is on Twitter, and the Belle Automata itch.io page has further information and development updates.
Even in this brief glimpse of the game, I felt moved by the story and captivated by the cast. I can already tell this is going to be an emotional journey – but in a warm, comforting way, rather than dramatically masochistic. So, if you’re looking for a sweet, moving otome game with a stunning MC and unique premise, then I highly recommend adding Belle Automata to your wishlist.
Overall Rating: 5/5 – Added to the wishlist! I absolutely adore the art style of Belle Automata, and I’m all for trying new otome games (especially when MC is this cute!). I wish the demo was a little longer so I could get a better feel for the game, but so far it seems promising, and there was nothing that I disliked about it.
Cats and the Other Lives
☆ Game Name: Cats and the Other Lives
☆ Developer: Cultic Games
☆ Publisher: Cultic Games, Maple Whispering Limited
☆ Genre(s): Mystery, Tragedy, Adventure
☆ Gameplay Style: Narrative-driven, low-difficulty ‘point and click’ interactions.
☆ Age Rating: Mature (“This game contains strong language, sex and references to alcohol and drugs.“)
☆ Release Date: 2022
☆ More info: Steam, Website, Twitter, Discord.
“Part interactive fiction, part Felis domesticus adventure, “Cats and the Other Lives” explores the reunion of a broken family from the perspective of their house cat, Aspen.”– Game Description (Steam)
There’s something cathartic about playing as a chubby ginger cat in a low-intensity, adventure-mystery game. The overall tone is melancholic, as the Mason family are flawed, problematic, and are all going through problems of their own. However, centring the story on the cat’s perspective and incorporating fun, endearing cat-based gameplay adds a light-hearted edge that complements the otherwise dreary atmosphere.
Aside from learning more about the Masons and their dubious past, I had a lot of fun roaming the house as a cat – knocking things off shelves, scratching rude lawyers while they try to go to the toilet, and scaring ravens off of ledges… you know, cat stuff. This unique way of interacting with the game’s world facilitates immersion into a distinctly ‘Cat’ perspective, that somehow perfectly encapsulates how I imagine it would feel to be a fuzzy, four-legged friend.
My favourite example of this is when the young boy, Will, brings out the laser pointer. Instantly, the game hones in on that little red dot, and the lighting changes to turn the screen red – as though that red, glowing dot is the only thing that matters. As the boy wiggles the laser pointer, your mouse cursor becomes almost magnetised towards the dot, forcing your attention to focus solely on that, and nothing else. Not only was this a fun, exciting break from the heavy story, but it reinforces the ‘cat’ element of the game in an affectionate way that’s bound to make any cat lover smile.
‘Cats and the Other Lives’ isn’t an otome game – and therefore not typically the kind of game we’d review on this site – but it is a narrative-driven game with a moving, emotional core, and a cute cat that I’m sure many otome fans (like myself) will love to play. If you’re in the mood for something different, with a compelling story and endearing gameplay mechanics, then I recommend adding ‘Cats and the Other Lives’ to your Steam wishlist.
Overall Rating: 4/5 – Added to the wishlist! It’s not an otome game and requires more interaction than a typical visual novel, but it’s still a cathartic experience that I feel many otome fans will enjoy. My only critique is that the demo doesn’t have any save/load functions, but since the developers address this themselves, I assume these features will be included in the final version.
☆ Game Name: Kabaret
☆ Developer: Persona Theory Games
☆ Publisher: Persona Theory Games, Wings
☆ Genre(s): Horror, Folklore, Dark Fantasy
☆ Gameplay Style: Visual Novel, low-difficulty ‘point and click’ interactions.
☆ Age Rating: Mature (“Blood, gore, and decapitation in certain parts of the game.”)
☆ Release Date: Q3, 2022
☆ More info: Steam, Discord, Twitter, Website.
“Welcome to the Kabaret – where monsters from Southeast Asian myths and folklores dwell. Decipher tea leaves, play traditional games, and question your humanity.”– Game Description (Steam)
The demo starts as soon as you open it, and I couldn’t figure out how to access any sort of menu to save the game or adjust any settings. I imagine these features will be included in the final release, but I couldn’t find any information confirming this on the game’s Steam store page.
That being said, the art style in ‘Kabaret’ is stunning, and I love the underlying concept. Unfortunately, the text sounded a little awkward in some parts, and I think the script would benefit from another round of editing just to tighten up some of the pacing and wording. I also wasn’t a fan of the partial-voicing, as the protagonist says the same three ‘quips’ over and over again, and some of the sound effects were grating to hear so repetitively.
Still, the story itself was deeply fascinating, and even as I learned more about the premise, setting, and cast, I was left feeling hungry for more. It’s a slow-paced game, and it takes time to unravel some of the mysteries around the protagonist, but this low intensity makes for a more relaxing player experience, and allows the story to dive into some darker ideas that might otherwise be too overwhelming in a context with more tension.
Content warnings: Kabaret contains gore and death, and the story frequently took a dark turn – often suddenly – and these darker themes were sometimes presented alongside comedic (and even erotic) tones that may be difficult to read for some players.
However, if you’re in the mood for something delightfully twisted, then you should know that ‘Kabaret’ excels at this type of macabre fascination. Even when the events unfolding became truly horrifying, they were somehow equally mesmerising, and I couldn’t bring myself to look away.
I also enjoyed learning about folklore that is largely unfamiliar to me, especially through the framework of traditional tea ceremonies and games. Thankfully, none of these gameplay mechanics were too complicated, and most of the game runs in a standard visual novel format. This meant I could easily focus on the story and use these low-difficulty interactive games to further my immersion into the mystical setting.
So long as you’re prepared for some darker themes and a lot of blood and gore, Kabaret is a fascinating game that uses a stunning art style to craft a unique, hauntingly beautiful atmosphere that’ll draw you in and leave you wanting to know more, even if you’re horrified by what you find…
Overall Rating: 3/5 – Added to the wishlist! The story and art is phenomenal, and it’s an interesting way to learn about South-East Asian folklore. However, the lack of menu, settings, and repetitive audio quips was a little off-putting. That being said, this is just a preliminary demo version of the game, so additional features may be included in the full release, which is why I’m adding it to my wishlist and keeping an eye out for future updates.
☆ Game Name: The Radiants
☆ Developer: Rose Arcana Games
☆ Publisher: Rose Arcana Games
☆ Genre(s): Otome, Romance, Fantasy
☆ Gameplay Style: Visual Novel, Stat-Raising (abilities, personality traits, talents, and relationships).
☆ Age Rating: N/A
☆ Release Date: 2022
☆ More info: Steam, Twitter, itch.io, Tumblr.
“The Radiants is a magical adventure visual novel with light stat raising & multiple endings. Choose what kind of Oracle you will become and maybe find romance along the way.”– Game Description (Steam)
I actually backed the kickstarter for ‘The Radiants’ during its campaign last year and I’ve played the demo before, but since I was trialling demos for upcoming games this week, I decided to play it again as a refresher before its full release, which is scheduled for later this year.
‘The Radiants’ is a magical, fantasy otome game where you train your newfound ‘Oracle’ abilities at an academy in another realm – one full of beings known as ‘Radiants’, i.e. those who inspired the human realm’s classic fairy tale stories, including some beings who’re actually descended from the ‘archaic gods’.
Honestly, a visual novel where you get to study magic at a fantasy school alongside magical people, who have traits relating to creatures from myth and legend, caters exactly to my tastes. Furthermore, the stat-raising mechanics add an RPG flair to an otherwise standard visual novel gameplay style, and there’s so much attention to detail that I haven’t found anything clunky or bug-y in either playthrough of this demo.
The only thing that might disappoint some players is the lack of voice acting, as ‘The Radiants’ contains no voiced lines or quips. However, other than that, The Radiants is a solid, polished game that’s bound to entertain a wide range of otome fans. The demo covers the first two weeks of the story, so it’s definitely worth checking out if you’re curious about the game!
Overall Rating: 5/5 – Backed on Kickstarter and added to the wishlist! ‘The Radiants’ features many tropes and themes that I love, so I’m looking forward to the full release later this year. I do think adding some voice acting would make it more appealing to a wider range of otome fans, but otherwise, this game is the one I’m most looking forward to on this list ❤
☆ Game Name: Spirittea
☆ Developer: Cheesemaster Games
☆ Publisher: No More Robots
☆ Genre(s): Folklore, Fantasy, Slice-of-life
☆ Gameplay Style: Resource-management, RPG, simulation.
☆ Age Rating: N/A
☆ Release Date: Coming Soon
☆ More info: Steam, Website, Discord.
“Hey human, we’ve got problems! This town is crawling with troublesome spirits, and you’re the only one who can see them. You’d better get that old bathhouse up and running, maybe that’ll help them chill out!”– Game Description (Steam)
‘Spirittea’ is essentially ‘Harvest Moon’ meets ‘Spirited Away’… and I love it! You arrive in a quaint, country village (you choose the village’s name) that has a supernatural problem–the local spirits have been neglected for so long that their bathhouse is in shambles and they’ve forgotten who they are.
After you drink tea from your antique teapot, a cat-like spirit appears to you and asks for your assistance in restoring the worn down bathhouse and helping the lost spirits find themselves again. This preliminary demo covers your first full day in the village, including a tutorial of the basic mechanics behind restoring and maintaining the baths.
The town itself seems fairly quiet and sleepy, but managing the bathhouse was surprisingly intense. It was definitely satisfying to see the dust get swept away, and I imagine this will only be more rewarding with the full release when you can watch the bathhouse regain its former glory.
However, I’ll likely have to set aside my perfectionist streak and just send the spirits home at some point, because the customers just kept on coming and I didn’t have enough time in the day to tend to all of them and explore the village (which has a karaoke bar, by the way!). Still, the game seems generally relaxing and low-stakes, and I’m sure there will be plenty more opportunities to delve further into the game and its lore once it’s fully released.
Overall Rating: 4/5 – Added to the wishlist! While I did find the controls a little awkward at first, I can easily see myself getting absorbed by ‘Spirittea’ and the catharsis of watching a neglected bathhouse and village gradually come to life again. I love ‘Spirited Away’ – and I love games like ‘Harvest Moon’ and ‘Animal Crossing’ – so I’m definitely keeping ‘Spirittea’ on my radar.
Witchy Life Story
☆ Game Name: Witchy Life Story
☆ Developer: Sundew Studios
☆ Publisher: Sundew Studios
☆ Genre(s): Fantasy, Slice-of-life, Romance, Comedy
☆ Gameplay Style: Visual Novel, resource-management, crafting.
☆ Age Rating: N/A
☆ Release Date: 2022
☆ More info: Steam, Website, Twitter, Instagram, TikTok.
“You have two weeks to save the harvest festival! Tend your garden and collect plants for spells and rituals to help the villagers of Flora. After all, if magic isn’t for solving everyday problems, what’s the point of a village witch anyway? A cozy story filled with chaos, friendship, and romance!”– Game Description (Steam)
‘Witchy’ Life Story features an adorable, magical aesthetic that immediately caught my attention. Once I got into the game, I couldn’t help but spend way too much time browsing all the character customization options. There are just so many cute outfits that I couldn’t decide what to wear!
If, like me, you also struggle to create your MC, then don’t worry because once you’re shown to your house, you have a wardrobe that you can use to adjust your look, name, and pronouns at any time. I was sorely tempted to pick a new outfit each day, but I ended up being so excited to tend to my garden and fulfil my orders that I completely forgot to revisit the wardrobe.
There are so many cute touches to this game that I had a blast just clicking on things and exploring. The garden is beautiful, and the resource management aspect of maintaining said garden isn’t so cumbersome or time consuming that it detracted from the rest of the game. Instead, I could peacefully tend to my plants, and strategically use my fertilizer to ensure I had everything I needed to fulfil my orders for the day.
I also loved the inclusion of a workbench, where you can decorate your desk with crystals and flowers, and do tarot card readings with a variety of spread options. Plus, the tarot deck used in the game features beautiful flower-based artwork, which I’d honestly be interested in buying IRL.
All in all, ‘Witchy Life Story’ is an endearing game with a colourful, quirky cast and a storyline that gives you plenty of options to tailor the experience and choose your destiny. The tone is generally comedic and heart-warming, and overall, it’s a relaxing, entertaining, narrative-driven game with a whole lotta charm. This review didn’t even delve into the cast of villagers, but rest assured there’s a variety of intriguing characters to get to know (including Devin, the shy, awkward musician and my absolute fave!).
Overall Rating: 5/5 – Added to the wishlist! There wasn’t anything I disliked about ‘Witchy Life Story’, and I personally appreciate witch-based themes that aren’t inherently evil. I loved the demo so much that I was sad when it ended, and I can’t wait to play more once the full game is released!
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