For the first time ever, Xbox hosted its first Summer Demo event. This Xbox event was under the greater Summer Game Fest season under Geoff Keighley. It is a part of the idea that in a post-covid world, Geoff Keighley wanted to have a summer event that was more than just series of live streams. One of the misses that comes from having digital only events, is that it misses out on the interaction, the ability to get hands on with the games. Steam has done demo events in the past, but this is the first for Xbox. Xbox hosted a special section of demos for unreleased unfinished games coming soon. This was meant to be a small replacement for the show floor aspects of E3 and other physical events. Many indie games rely on the show floor to get people to try their game, especially the ones small enough that their game may not make into to the larger keynotes.
(GameInformer playing through Summer Game Fest Xbox Demo Event Games)
Xbox hosted over 70 games, all in a pre-release state, for games yet to come out. This is an exciting and rare opportunity to play smaller titles that don't get "traditional" betas, and for players to play indie games for free. My only qualm was that while I loved all the indie games I played, the event was lacking in AAA demos. We all know E3 has big demos there that attendees get their hands on, and the fact that out of 70 games there was only Destroy All Humans in the AAA category, a game that was releasing days after the event. It would have been amazing if Cyberpunk 2077 or Avengers were present at the event. Because of the significant lack of AAA presence I give the event a solid B. The indie games were amazing, but AAA could have brought the event to more eyes, and gave it more weight behind it. I picked these 7 games as their trailers or some other detail about them jumped out at me; as well, I thought they represented a diverse choice of game genres and styles that might appeal to a wider audience of readers. I won't be doing traditional X/10 scores because these are unfinished games; I will be listing off games that I had the chance to play as Pass, Good, Must Play. Pass games aren't necessarily bad, they just didn't land with me. Good games are games that I enjoyed and feel have potential. Must Play will be the games that I can't wait for release, and recommend keeping on your radar. I will also pick a Game of the Event.
Hellpoint: The Thespian Feast - PASS
Hellpoint jumped out at me for a variety of reasons. Ever since 2010's Dante's Inferno from Visceral Games, I have always been interested in video games depiction of Hell. I find the sub genre fascinating. I also like third person action adventure RPG style games. However, the current state of Hellpoint just didn't land with me. I found the movement and combat clunky, the enemies lackluster, and the world felt flat to me. While others may enjoy the game, and I wish the developers the best of luck, this one was a pass for me.
Genesis Noir - Pass
I want to preface that I love weird artistic games probably more than your average gamer. I don't mind when a game has a weird aesthetic or gameplay center. However, Genesis Noir was a little too weird for my liking. I just didn't get it. A black and white man in a suit (or trench coat?) was traveling and peering through windows at people. There was a weird mechanic where you tried to get what looked like an audio line to match the frequency to what the game wanted, however it was unexplained how you did that and felt random. It was weird, and I didn't get it. It was a pass for me.
Freshly Frosted - GOOD
Freshly Frosted is a puzzle game where you attempt to oversee donut manufacturing in an attempt to get the donuts topped and to the correct exit on an assembly line. I thought the puzzles had a decent balanced of level of challenge and easy bite solved nature. As you progress through the demo, these were puzzles you could quickly solve in a quick session without being too easily that their solution was always immediate at first glance. Puzzle games need to have that balance. They need to be solvable quickly to entertain those who have minutes to play, not hours; while at the same time, challenging for those who want to think. I also loved the bright and colorful art style. I will worn you, it will make you want to have donuts. I gave it a good rating because I liked it a lot and definitely plan to play the whole version at release; however, I can see how its simple mechanics and puzzle genre may not be for everyone. I also think the game may be better at home on other platforms such as mobile or switch instead of Xbox.
Destroy All Humans - MUST PLAY
Destroy All Humans carried all the weight of AAA in this demo event and it was definitely fun to see. I will say that it sucked that this was the same demo we saw major news outlets playing and uploading to YouTube months prior. If you are a fan of the franchise or someone eagerly anticipating this game, anyone who saw the demo play throughs, Destroy All Humans demo may have been familiar. As the only AAA game to be added to this Xbox Demo Event, it would have been nice to have an alternate demo than what we've seen. That being said, I still enjoyed playing it for myself. The goofy 1950's alien aesthetic to everything lead to an incredible parody of sci-fi and alien enthusiasts. I will say that while I think this game is a must play, I do hope that the short demo wasn't representative of the only degree of difficulty in the game as it presented absolutely no challenge. You scan some cows, throw a farmer across the map, and use a laser to shoot harmless tanks. My 4 year old nephew could have finished the demo. I'm not looking for soulsbourne-cuphead difficulty but it needs some in the final game. That being said, it is funny, and I had a lot of fun.
Deleveled - Must Play
Imagine a puzzle platformer...that has no jump button. Seriously, that is the only clue I am going to give you. Check this one out.
Cake Bash - Must Play
Cake Bash made me smile so big, and probably gave me the best laughs and enjoyment of the entire event. It was just pure innocent childish fun. Players take control over cartoon style pastries: cupcakes, donuts, cake slices, muffins, etc... and play in a variety of small map competitions. Whether it is collecting candy, outrunning pigeons or falling knives, it is a blast to play. I had so much fun by myself that I can only imagine playing this one with friends. I never good quite get the hang of roasting marshmallows though. Question, in a world wear small sugary snacks are alive, does roasting marshmallows take on a whole new meaning?
Cake Bash is awesome and became one of my hotly anticipated indie titles. It would have gotten my Game of the Event had it not been for the next game. I think it had the best "stupid fun" factor, and might be a game with more replay value than the next one. The next game just beats out for a little more maturity and art.
Haven - GAME OF THE EVENT
Haven gets my Game of the Event. It is made by The Game Bakers, and is an absolutely beautiful game. It is a third person action adventure where players can take control of two characters, a male and female character who are in a romantic relationship. In the demo they seem to be trapped on an alien planet, living in their ship, obviously on the run from someone. Early in the demo, the ships damaged which forces them to go out an explore the world. The planet they are on is vast and beautiful. The color pallet of this game is bright and beautiful. I enjoyed the various wildlife across the vast grasslands. I enjoyed the style of movement the developers went with, in giving the characters some type floatation abilities that allow them to fly around the map. I felt traversal was really fun and creative. If there is one small critique I had in this early demo, is I do hope we get to see more and denser sections. The vast beauty of empty grasslands can be beautiful, but after a while feel empty. The game will eventually needs some ecological diversity. Also, while in the ship, the characters didn't move, the player moved around in a free camera. It made me feel like a ghost watching them, rather than one of them specifically. I think they should attach the camera to a character in the final game. All in all this was my favorite experience in the entire event, and I cannot wait for the final product.
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