December 2, 2022
Steam Next Fest Highlights 2022
Missed Steam Next Fest 2022? Here's 16 highlights we think you might want to keep an eye on.

The Steam Next Fest is always a joy. A week-long celebration of what’s to come in gaming sees an avalanche of new demos hit the storefront looking to draw your attention. This October, more than a thousand games took part in the Steam Next Fest event.

It is of course impossible to get through all of the hundreds of demos made playable during a Steam Next Fest. Okay – not impossible, but improbably. But, we had a damn good try at it. We played more than 90 game demos in October 2022 during the Next Fest and have pulled together some of our highlights. From twitchy twin stick shooters to FMV dating sims, there’s a real breadth of game below.

Here’s 13 games from the October 2022 Steam Next Fest we think should you add to your wishlist.

Arto by OrionGames

A hack-n-slash game with a difference, Arto has you moving through a monotone, desaturated world in order to restore its colour. Without its hue, the world in which you’re exploring looks pretty menacing in black and white but as you progress, you bring colour back to it and reveal its underlying beauty. The part I played in the demo was set in a Cyberpunk-esque setting that really popped to life once the pinks and purples had been brought back. The combat was nice and crunchy and they was a nice challenge to it. There’s hints of a deeper narrative at play and I’ll be interested to see where this goes when Arto launches in January 2023.

Wishlist Arto Here.

The Multi-Medium by Micah Boursier

The words “hand crafted visuals” get thrown around often in video games, but with platformer The Multi-Medium it’s a very apt description. In the game you play as an explorer from the Graphite dimension who has volunteered to be the guinea pig for an experiment. This experiment will send them into the next closest dimension before returning home – only they don’t return and they continue to jump between dimensions. The kicker is that the hand drawn art style of each dimension is based on a different artistic medium. The second dimension switches graphite shading for coloured pencils. The third is based on acrylic paints. The puzzle platforming itself is really well designed and as a whole, The Multi-Medium is shaping up really nicely.

Wishlist The Multi-Medium Here.

OTXO by Lateralis

I’ve been dying to play OTXO (pronounced Oh-cho) since I watched someone play it at EGX 2022 (Greg’s thoughts from EGX can be found below, coincidentally). The most apt description I can give this game is to say it feels like Hotline Miami through the lens of Sin City. A top down shooter with an intriguing setup, OTXO makes great use of a limited colour palette – black, white and red – a trait that developer Lateralis used very well in their previous game Dogworld. That fast, twitchy feel and pumping soundtrack akin to Hotline Miami are here, but you’ve got a health bar, so it’s not as punishing. This accommodates the roguelike nature of the game as you blast your way through rooms collecting coins in order to buy abilities to make it easier to blast through rooms. Rinse. Repeat. Hopefully stay alive. It’s a play cycle as old as time, but one that’s well implemented here. I’m sold on OTXO. I spent a good hour playing the Steam Next Fest demo and only stopped because I had other demos to try.

The following is from Greg Hicks who played OTXO at EGX 2022.

Whilst I couldn’t get far in OTXO (pronounced oh-cho) because I suck with keyboard and mouse, I massively fell in love with it.
Immediate comparisons are to Hotline Miami, but with a Sin City black-and-white/splashes of red palette. A roguelite in nature, OTXO sees you going on a top-down rampage until you drop.
With a few more technical actions than Hotline, OTXO has you vaulting cover and booting doors in whilst you wreak absolute carnage. I’m all in.

Wishlist OTXO Here.

MiLE HiGH TAXi by Cassius John-Adams

Imagine if Crazy Taxi and Cloudpunk had a love child and they dressed it up to look like The Fifth Element for Halloween. That’s what MiLE HiGH TAXi is, for want of a better description. You drive a floating Taxi, pick up fares and drive them where they need to be as quickly as possible, hoping to earn as much money as possible before your time runs out. I thought that by adding that verticality to the Crazy Taxi formula might make this tricky, but some intuitive controls mean that the added height and depth of the game is easy to acclimatise too.

MiLE HiGH TAXi is on this list of quality Steam Next Fest demos because I love the vibe that this game is going for. The game does need some work before it releases however. There needs to be a better visual indication of the invisible walls that pen you in and stop you from going too low or high. Right now, you just drive into them and the game says “Nah, not happening”. It would also benefit the game if there was a bit more variety in the towers with more identifiable features. One of the cool aspects of Crazy Taxi was learning the map over time, so you know where you’re going to get around certain obstacles. That’s not something I think I could do with MiLE HiGH TAXi because the tower blocks you drive around are all so similar. Even if these aspects aren’t improved before release, I imagine I’ll still have a good time with MiLE HiGh TAXi. If these aspects are tightened up though, it could be really special.

Wishlist MiLE HiGH TAXi Here.

The Knight Witch by Super Mega Team

I’m calling it now: The Witch Knight will be a dark horse GOTY contender for 2022. That’s a bold statement to make based purely on the back of the Next Fest demo, I know. But this demo, folks… this demo. It was superb. To put it bluntly, The Witch Knight feels like the halfway point between Metal Slug and the Ori games. It’s a slickly designed shooter-’em-up with all of the hallmarks of a Metroidvania, presented in a gorgeous art style. And I love it. There were hints of a deeper story at play here too – in the game you play as a trainee Witch Knight that wasn’t powerful enough to partake in a great battle that happened years earlier. Now, the original villains have returned and are taking out the Witch Knights one by one. Roll on November 29th, 2022 when The Witch Knight hits PC and consoles.

Wishlist The Witch Knight Here.

Dredge by Black Salt Games

I’ve been keeping an eye on Dredge for quite some time and was very happy for developers Black Salt Games when they signed a publishing deal with Team17. One the surface, Dredge looks like a fishing boat simulator. You play as a sailor answering the wanted ad for a fisherman to help keep a small community in supply after something untoward happened to the last one. There’s sinister things and macabre secrets beneath the waves however. In tone, Dredge feels like a far more approachable Sunless Sea. There’s weird stuff going on and I personally can’t wait to dive in (figuratively of course – I’d never go in that sea, there’s grotesque fish down there) in 2023.

Wishlist Dredge Here.

Scars Above by Mad Head Games

Despite being early in development when I first saw Scars Above, this game was my personal highlight from the initial slate of game coming from publisher Prime Matter. A sci-fi shooter and survival game, Scars Above has you play as a character waking up on an alien planet. Her crew is missing and she’s seeing alien ghosts that are drawing her to extraterrestrial structures. Think Returnal meets Technomancer and you’ll get the gist. The Next Fest demo confirmed to me one really important thing – Scars Above is avoiding the Eurojank pitfalls. The demo was polished, thrilling and demonstrated a strength of game and narrative design that really shone through. For example, ‘Knowledge’ can be obtained from little pick ups which eventually culminate in a skill point to spend. What’s interesting is that a lot of those ‘Knowledge’ pick ups are off the beaten track, rewarding players that go exploring at their own risk. And there is risk involved. The hostile aliens can be deadly if they catch you off guard. Scars Above is shaping up to be something really interesting.

Wishlist Scars Above Here.

Forever Skies by Far From Home

“Subnautica, but instead of under the sea, it’s up in the sky!” is pretty much the pitch I’d use for Forever Skies. A survival game set on a version of Earth that has been destroyed by a viral pathogen, you play as a character that has returned to the planet in the hope of finding a cure. The tried and tested play cycle is here – loot stuff to keep your hunger, thirst, etc under control while also attempting to craft items which will progress you further while making survival less of a chore. These aren’t typically my type of game but I have to say, I had a damn good time with the Forever Skies demo, floating around on my high-tech shop harvesting chunks of metal as they float on by. It’s surprisingly cool and a real looker.

Wishlist Forever Skies Here.

Go Home Annie: An SCP Game by Misfit Village

The far reaching influence of PT continues as there appears to be at least a few nods to Kojima’s horror demo present in what I’ve played of Go Home Annie: An SCP Game. The hallmarks are all there; It uses sound to ramp up the tension in a location that could be considered ‘normal’ if it wasn’t for the creepy goings on. The kicker here is that you’re following a series of clues left on video tapes. By watching them on a handheld camcorder, these video tapes conjure up bizarre hints towards what has come before you, like visual breadcrumbs leading you further down the rabbit hole. It’s a cool demo, for sure, and I’ll be interested to see if the game can maintain the chills throughout when Go Home Alice launches in the future.

Wishlist Go Home Annie: An SCP Game Here.

illWill by Slava Bushuev

I’d not heard of illWill until I downloaded the Steam Next Fest demo. Half an hour later and I’ve decided I need this game in my life. The art style is what won me over. It’s like the stop motion artists at Laika decided to create a first person shooter. The world and its inhabitants have an odd type of menace too them that doesn’t rely on gore or grotesqueness. Instead, they’re like they stepped out of a children’s movie – and now you’re going to turn them into bloody gibs. They’re tough too – the game play trailer doesn’t do them justice because they can soak up some real damage and they feel difficult to put down. I’m impressed with everything I played in illWill and I’m looking forward to how the finished product plays on December 1st, 2022 when it launches on Steam.

Wishlist illWill Here.

Ten Dates by Good Gate Media

Paul Raschid is at it again. Having knocked it out of the park with The Gallery, his next project is a sequel to one of the most creative things to come out of 2 years of pandemic isolation – the FMV game Five Dates. Early signs are that this follow up might be just as good. Maybe even better. Ditching the digital dating for speed dating, the set up to this game is slightly different. You can play as a man or woman this time around and you initially meet a whole host of characters you’re attempting to woo with your chosen singleton. As the player, you guide the conversations of your character and the events play out like a movie on screen. Hit it off with one or more of them and you can go on subsequent dates, maybe leading to love. That’s not how it went for me in the Next Fest demo. I managed to royally mess it up and ended up alone. C’est la vie. I’ll have to wait until Valentines day 2023 to try and improve on this performance when Ten Dates lands on PC and consoles.

Wishlist Ten Dates Here.

Gun Jam by Jaw Drop Games

The rhythm shooter genre continues to blossom with the likes of Metal: Hellsinger and BPM laying the (beat, and) foundation. Gun Jam feels like the logical next step for this genre. While every other game doing this type of thing lets you play to your own pace so long as you’re performing actions to the beat, Gun Jam slaps you upside the head and forces you to pick up the action and attack. You’re only given a limited amount of time in each section, matched to the music, which means you’ve only got so many beats to hit to do the killing you need to do. Those that have been waiting for a more electronic/dance/EDM styled rhythm shooter will likely be happy with the tracks on offer here. Those available in the Steam Next Fest demo had me bopping my head like crazy (which, I swear, made me a better player, honest.).

Wishlist Gun Jam Here.

Varney Lake by LCB Game Studio

The Pixel Pulp series from LCB Game Studio started really strongly with Mothmen 1966, a game I described as having “a fast paced and engrossing story”. The follow up, Varney Lake, is entirely different in tone and aesthetic, but is just as intriguing. In this game, you follow a trio of kids who’re enjoying their vacation at the titular destination when they come across a vampire that’s trapped by the sunlight. The trio of youngsters help the vampire and change the trajectory of their summer. The tone of Varney Lake is excellent. What I played of the demo wasn’t traditionally scary but it manages to conjure a unsettling feel in its brightness, kind of like the movie Midsommar before you know how messed up things are. The Pixel Pulp games appear to be progressing at pace now – we’ll be able to play Varney Lake in early 2023 and the third in the currently announced trilogy (Bahnsen Knights) there after. If you like bite sized narratives, keep an eye on these games.

Wishlist Varney Lake Here.


Did you play a demo during the Steam Next Fest that you want to bring to our attention? Hit the comments section and let us know.

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