ID@Xbox Summer Game Fest Demo Event

This past week was the official 2022 ID@Xbox Summer Game Fest Demo Event, which showcased over 30 different titles with demos available to play through on Xbox. I downloaded… well, all of them. Here is a little bit about each one that I was able to get through. I will also include a video link to my playthrough of the demo so that you can take a look at the gameplay as well. Additionally, I’ll let you know how you can follow the creators of these games for any future updates on these titles.

Let’s get to it! Click any game title below to go directly to its mini-review.

You can view the Standout Titles here or click on an individual one below.

BROK the InvestiGator

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Gameplay Videos:
https://youtu.be/-IFO9GN64D
https://youtu.be/Rfq8kpdztyA
Twitter: https://twitter.com/COWCATGames
YouTube: Cowcatgames

I started with this one because, if you play through the demo, you get a free game from the developers. This was a “point and click” style game, a genre I find largely hit or miss personally. Most modernized games handle this genre well and this was definitely one of them. I ended up playing this one for over two hours and still didn’t finish the demo! I will admit at times it got frustrating, not knowing what to do next or how to advance, but the plot itself is interesting and the character work here is great. I would definitely play the full game of this if it came to GamePass in the future. 


Strings Theory 

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Gameplay Video: https://youtu.be/Tj8sGjHqJzk
Twitter: https://twitter.com/_StringsTheory

This is a puzzle game that shows promise. It has a great system in place to introduce you to the mechanics of it as you progress, something I kind of took for granted but would see missing in future titles during the Summer Game Fest Demo Event. It starts out relatively intuitive, in a sort of “Oh, I just go here and do this, and boom, I’ve won!” kind of gratifying way, but quickly introduces new quirks to the puzzles, ensuring you need to think things through as you make your way through. The core gameplay consists of navigating a character across tiles to pick up collectibles that unlock the exit to the maze you’re currently in, but you’ll see elements like certain tiles that can only be traversed via special means, or from switching to a different character, and so forth. This seems like something I could see playing for some quick sessions on my Nintendo Switch more than sitting on my couch to play on the big screen, but it’s worth checking out if you’re a fan of the genre.


SpiderHeck 

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Gameplay Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lyA8poeMnXc
Twitterhttps://twitter.com/neverjamdev
YouTube: Neverjam

This feels like a very indie game, but it’s got a lot going for it already. You play as a Spider in versus matches (either against other real-life players or AI), and your objective is to crawl or swing across the maps to pick up different weapons that you can use — as a spider, of course — to take out your opponents. These include lightsabers and guns, each with their own intricacies to them. Each map is wildly different, too, with obstacles in play that you need to consider as you attempt to swing around while also avoiding your opponents. More than once, I lost a round (or won one) due to poorly navigating the terrain and ending up dead via lava or something similar. It makes for some fun quick matches, and this seems like it’d be a great couch co-op game as well.


Nummels

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Gameplay Video: https://youtu.be/lyA8poeMnXc?t=467 (starts at 7:47)
Twitter: https://twitter.com/plattnip
YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC3r8DrR5b8DiXHS9Z6OGXPQ

Nummels is essentially Lemmings. That’s really all there is to say about this. I played several levels and, as expected, each subsequent level introduced new challenges and obstacles to the pathways to guide your “nummels” to their goal. There’s also additional pathways you can optionally open and guide your nummels to for coins, although I didn’t learn what the coins themselves can be used for before I moved on to the next game. 


Stuffed

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Gameplay Video: https://youtu.be/lyA8poeMnXc?t=1107 (starts at 18:25)
Twitter: https://twitter.com/TheWavingBears
YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCxsPJhfjsTzERSzj_12BHVw

Stuffed is a new take on the tower defense genre. For one thing, it takes place from a first-person shooter perspective. The core gameplay consists of guarding a bedroom door (with a sleeping toddler, cuz horror and such) from ever-increasing waves of enemies that spawn from portals (mostly gnomes). Of course, you can also use portals, which help you warp around the map quickly for different points of attack. There are pickups for different weapon types, as well as upgrades you can purchase as you gain experience. You can also unlock new doors in the house for a larger play area. For me, I unlocked one door, and then that was it. It felt like it would be easier to mow down the enemies if they were in a more concentrated location than if I had a half dozen different rooms from which they were coming. I’m not sure how to get around this, though. The portals to warp elsewhere are interesting as a means to handle this but each room means more enemies coming from that newly-opened room as well. So I found myself thinking, “Well, why add more enemies spawning to my task here?” 


Overpass 

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Gameplay Video: https://youtu.be/lyA8poeMnXc?t=2317 (starts at 38:36)
Twitter: https://twitter.com/onemrbean
YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/user/onemrbean

This is a rhythm-style game, where the camera flows through a landscape and you need to press buttons as you go through in a timely fashion. I found this game very tedious, as the buttons to press weren’t very clear. I expect this game would largely be better suited for mobile, in which you’d probably just tap the screen. If adapted for a console (ie Xbox), the buttons to press should correspond to the actual buttons on the controller. Mostly, it was pressing left or right at correct times (which I presume would correspond to swipes on a screen), but I didn’t last past the first level before wanting to move on. This isn’t something I’d sit down and play on my television.


BattleCakes

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Gameplay Video: https://youtu.be/lyA8poeMnXc?t=2629 (starts at 43:49)
Twitter: https://twitter.com/volcanobean
YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCVxd8E-6aziDPMW70VYBL_Q

I had no idea what to expect with this title, other than the cute art that I saw. And it truly was cuteness overload here. You play as a cupcake(!) in a town of other cupcakes and sweets. An RPG, I eventually embarked on a quest (or two) and met several characters. Of course, being an RPG, I had battles to fight, too! These were classic turn-based RPG battles (think early Final Fantasy) but here’s the greatest thing: while you can certainly attack (and destroy) the enemies you encounter, you have another option during battles to befriend them! Now, I have to admit, I’m not sure what this actually does in the game. I did this in my very first battle and it was referenced in later dialog (which I very much appreciate), but I didn’t see any real difference beyond that one example of dialogue from if I killed or befriended enemies. I’d love to learn a bit more about this system — perhaps an in-game tutorial for your first battle? Either way, this was fun and I’d definitely play it on GamePass in the future. This was the first title that I played all the way to the completion of the demo. 


Tinykin

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Gameplay Video: https://youtu.be/lyA8poeMnXc?t=3919 (starts at 1:05:19)
Twitter: https://twitter.com/SplashTeamDevs
YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/c/tinyBuildGAMES

I did not expect to play this game for as long as I did! It was so much fun, and among the standouts from everYouTubehing I played. It’s a Pikmin-style game, where your character gathers little “tinykins” to help them perform tasks. You’re actually miniaturized in a house, and these tinykins (of different types) can help you move items, pick things up for you, or even explode on command to clear your way or unlock new shortcuts. I played the entire demo here and, even though it was just the demo, I found myself compelled to try to collect all the things as I traversed the house. I would have kept playing if there was more of it! It’s very addicting, and I’d love to play the full version (and learn more of the game’s story) of this in the future.


Overrogue

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Gameplay Video: https://youtu.be/FVkvamuIfBk
Twitter: https://twitter.com/KEMCOGLOBAL
YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/user/KemcoGames

From KEMCO, who churn out mobile RPG after mobile RPG. This one was no different. I don’t mean to say that it was bad; it wasn’t, there’s a coherent story here and a lot going on, but it definitely felt like one of their mobile RPG titles ported over to Xbox. Again, that’s not inherently a bad thing, but I feel it worth noting. The characterization was a bit odd to me (in an off-putting way), but the core gameplay consists of making your way to “labyrinths” that are randomly-generated, then fighting battles one after another using cards and choosing your path to the next fight from there. It’s basically Slay the Spire, but with an 16-bit RPG aesthetic behind and between those sessions of battles. I did end up playing this demo to its completion, but I’d say it’s hit or miss that I’d play through the whole thing. Like I said, the characters (their personalities, how they treated each other, etc) were off-putting. This lacked the charm of a BattleCakes and the characterization of Brok. It’d be good if you dig Slay the Spire style gameplay, but then you’d probably be annoyed at the parts between battle sessions.


Musynx

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Gameplay Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qYUHxbw-NLI
Twitter: https://twitter.com/MUSYNC_official

This game was absolutely atrocious. Even the Game Card for the title has only a single screenshot and no video for it. It is also another rhythm-based game, but it doesn’t really tell you that. A lot of issues here, including a largely-Japanese presentation not particularly translated well for presentation stateside. I know I complained earlier about Overpass not being explicit about which buttons to press, but this is exponentially worse. There are no indications whatsoever of which buttons to press at any point, leading me to fumble around hitting random buttons on my controller until I could see the input accepted at a particular rhythm point. To give you an idea of this in practice, you have four strips in front of you (think Guitar Hero). Whereas Guitar Hero would be color-coded, these are just colors coming at you that don’t correspond to your controller. You know, like on an Xbox you’d have blue for X, yellow for Y, green for A, and red for B. Well, these ARE the colors of each strip, but they don’t correspond to relevant button presses. Rather, I learned from the trial and error that the two left most strips corresponded to D-Pad presses Left (for orange) and Up (for yellow), with the two right most strips being B (the red button for a blue strip) and Y (the yellow button for a green strip). This is entirely unintuitive and, even once I understood that those were the button presses to use in my rhythm timing, it’s just so unnatural that I was still failing, because your mind just associates these things with the way every other music game of this genre has done before. I would only recommend this as a demo for you to see how terrible it really is.


Terror of Hemasaurus

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Gameplay Video: https://youtu.be/qYUHxbw-NLI?t=265 (starts at 4:25)
Twitter: https://twitter.com/LorenLemcke
YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC_lGPMbmA-VufP9ZoJumUIg

If you like the old arcade game Rampage: World Tour, you will enjoy this title, as it is largely the same gameplay. There are additional elements thrown in, such as kicking cars to help knock down buildings or taking out cops that are shooting at you (the monster). The gameplay is wrapped around a narrative that tries to justify the monster’s brutal rampage in that it was sent by a cult determined to stop climate change, with the belief that sending a monster that is said to have been unleashed via a melting iceberg will motivate the people to react to climate change more quickly. The problem with this narrative is that I’m not sure it helps the cause by painting the environmentally-conscious folks behind the monster as 1) a cult, and 2) highly murderous. I mean the leader relishes in causing death, including using his own cult members during the tutorial session and making remarks you’d expect from a villain. It’s more of an “ends justify the means” situation, with the cult leader stipulating that every death you cause will save ten future lives, but then you have level objectives where you’re supposed to kill 500(!) people to progress. It’s a little unsettling in the violent times that we already live in to be causing mass panic and bloodshed while an overlord reacts with glee. There’s also a satirical “newsroom” between levels reporting on the carnage, with them being obsessed with capturing the carnage for more clicks. Naturally, you can also attack and bring down the news choppers as well. The gameplay itself is admittedly a lot of fun, and a co-op session would be even greater, but the narrative behind it (at least in how it’s presented) is unpleasant.


Despot’s Games 

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Gameplay Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dGFDwgKbhrE
Twitter: https://twitter.com/Despotism_3k
YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCX0Wdvt6FiuCgk9sL9oYjbA

This title has you (and some party members) go from room to room, attacking monsters that spawn. After each room, you can restock your party with more weaponry, and/or purchase more party members with the currency you earn. There’s something promising here but that’s basically the entire gist of the core gameplay. I played until my whole team got wiped out and then moved on. 


Wreckout

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Gameplay Video: https://youtu.be/dGFDwgKbhrE?t=450 (starts at 7:30)
Twitter: https://twitter.com/four5sixpixel
YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/c/HueyGames

Rocket League meets Breakout! In this game, you drive a vehicle around an arena (top-down style) trying to pick up a ball. Once you have it, you can toss it at your opponent’s side to try to break all their blocks for the win. You can also do some spin moves to try to help accelerate the ball launch. I personally found that just holding on to the ball and driving in a circle (ie rotating my thumbstick) while near the opponent’s bricks was far more effective at taking them out than launching the ball at it. I played through the tutorial, then a game against AI, then another game against another real-life player playing in the demo. I feel like I ended up seeing all there was to this game already, though I did notice some extra elements as different venues were in each match of mine, such as bumpers (like in pinball), so there may be a bit more here, but that’s still largely the flow of a game/match.


Strong Moon

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Gameplay Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_0sDhLJtL_w
Twitter: https://twitter.com/ChihuasGames
YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCP645we5veU4oBuYH9eI6Iw

Another title that screams indie game. You have a really long intro establishing a narrative (body builder dude needs to rescue his little brother) before taking on the platform gameplay. Part of what screams indie game to me (apart from the graphics alone) are little things, like your character’s jump not changing his animation (ie his legs stay stiff for the whole jump). I died relatively quickly in this game and gave it another go (it spawned me all the way at the beginning again), but didn’t get much farther. It needs some work before being put on sale so hopefully, this is more of an alpha demo. I’d give it another try if there were updates made to modernize the title. 


Sail Forth

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Gameplay Video: https://youtu.be/_0sDhLJtL_w?t=533 (starts at 8:53)
Twitter: https://twitter.com/sailforthgame

Windwaker meets Sea of Thieves here. Your character has a tiny boat, meets a friend on the seas, and they build a new bigger boat (with cannons!) together. You get pings on your compass directing you where to go next for your next resource. I eventually found a treasure map and sailed to the general vicinity of where this treasure was located but, once there, I had no idea what to do next. I sailed around for a bit but there was no hint popup, or directions once there. I even opened the map as I sailed around and noticed that my position on the map never changed — what I can only assume is a huge oversight. Still, that’s kind of imperative in a game that has you sailing the ocean and has a map. Though intriguing at its core, I sailed around for a bit hoping for… something to happen (or to help direct me of next steps), but it never came. Though I would have kept playing longer, I realized I was effectively lost at sea with no guidance, and thus moved on to the next game. 


Richman10

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Gameplay Video: https://youtu.be/_0sDhLJtL_w?t=1434 (starts at 23:54)

This one was likewise pretty bad. It’s basically a Japanese monopoly game, but in 3D with characters that move along the playing field after rolling dice. It moves so fast that it was hard to tell what was going on. Another game with a lack of stateside presentation didn’t much help things, either. Finally, I noticed that you could even turn on “autoplay” and watched as my character just went along with rolling dice and moving along. I’m not sure why anyone would choose to play the game this way, but I moved on to the next title quite quickly after playing this for a small amount of time.


Re:Call

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Gameplay Video: https://youtu.be/_0sDhLJtL_w?t=1682 (starts at 28:02)
Twitter: https://twitter.com/maitan_69
YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/c/WhitethornGames

Extremely creative title I highly recommend. You play as a character that has been captured and is being interrogated. As you tell your story, you play through it, choosing options that come up for how your story should go. These create branching paths for the gameplay portion that corresponds to the narrative and even affect the present. For example, there’s a guard in the room for your interrogation but you can craft your tale in such a way that you take out the guard in your story. And, once that happens, the guard in your interrogation room in the present suddenly dies as well! Of course, you can also make bad choices that lead to an instant game over. But the fun of it is figuring out what tale to tell in which ways to get you through the game. I didn’t make it to the end of the demo, though. I did try a bunch of different options together, but I eventually found myself stuck. Had it been the real game, I would have persisted but I realized it was just the demo anyway, so I moved on after several “well, nope, that didn’t work either” endings I received. Still, a great little title here that shows lots of promise, and I hope to play it again one day in the future.


Polyfury

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Gameplay Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IgiRqGhtWZk
Twitter: https://twitter.com/WayfarerDev

Bullet hell shooter here. You control a ship and can fire a continuous stream at a target while dodging what it’s firing back at you. You can rotate around, but so can the enemy. I played until I died, then moved on. More suited for a Switch title for quick gameplay sessions rather than sitting on the couch for a prolonged session with this title.


Grotto

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Gameplay Video: https://youtu.be/IgiRqGhtWZk?t=146 (starts at 2:26)
Twitter: https://twitter.com/Brainwash_Gang
YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCc8v8n5qJJngVNfzfKKFC1w

This game desperately needs a better intro tutorial. My character awakened(?) in a very dark cave. I met some stranger in the cave, then was supposed to look up at the sky, where I could connect some dots in the sky to create my own constellation to bestow upon the stranger. After that, the stranger departed, and I had no idea what to do next. I tried to explore the cave, but it seemed even darker. I looked up at the sky again in case that did something… but it didn’t. I felt like there has to be more to this demo than just this, but it wasn’t communicated effectively and thus I just moved along.


Exhausted Man 

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Gameplay Video: https://youtu.be/IgiRqGhtWZk?t=665 (starts at 11:05)
Twitter: https://twitter.com/Candlemangames
YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC3dmbw4E733km4wYIPxUgmQ

If you’ve played Human Fall Flat, you’ll get the concept of this game. You basically play as someone that is so exhausted they’ve collapsed on the floor, and you move them to slither along, directing their arms to pick things up and such. I played through the tutorial, then tried the real game for a bit. I made it through a room or two but got to one point where I was supposed to place furniture and then… do stuff thereafter. I got stuck at this point, because I wasn’t able to accomplish the objective assigned to me, nor could I figure out how to do so. I also got my character effectively stuck, and it was frustrating, which is something I remember from having tried Human Fall Flat more than once. This isn’t really my kind of thing, truth be told.


Doodle God Evolution

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Gameplay Video: https://youtu.be/IgiRqGhtWZk?t=1118 (starts at 18:38)
Twitter: https://twitter.com/doodle_god
YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/user/JoyBits2007

I’ve heard of this series but never tried it, so I was eager to give it a go. I was treated to an intro about different elements in the game, and I could combine these to create new elements. I started doing that with the four I started with and created several new ones. Each time I did, this element was added to planet Earth. So lava became part of a mountain. A swamp appeared as well, and storms, etc. The thing was, from there, I couldn’t figure out what to do next. I figured I’d eventually go down to the Planet or something to interact with my creations or be given a quest, but I couldn’t find it despite trying a bunch of different pathways in the UI. I got the distinct feeling that this hadn’t been properly optimized for use on console, although I also simply could have just missed something. Either way, I found myself stuck, unsure of what to do next, and moved along.


Severed Steel

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Gameplay Video: https://youtu.be/IgiRqGhtWZk?t=1629 (starts at 27:09)
Twitter: https://twitter.com/SeveredSteel

This title has a lot of promise to it. You can tell that it’s inspired by SuperHot, but it’s like it’s been expanded, with real-time action and a sense of quickness to complete each level. I could see this game being a big deal and even being prominent in speed runs, too. Lots of fun to be had with this one. The core gameplay is objective-based in a first-person perspective, where you will learn through the first few levels how to play the game thanks to an excellent tutorial system baked into the level progression. Each subsequent level teaches you more and you can rely on what you’ve already learned. I definitely recommend giving it a try. 


Wave Break

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Gameplay Video: https://youtu.be/GBOy8rpDsAs
Twitter: https://twitter.com/WaveBreakGame
YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/c/Funktroniclabs

Tony Hawk on a personal watercraft! Unfortunately, the game’s servers were down here, so all I was able to do was play through the tutorial. I would’ve liked to try a race, and it’s unfortunate that there are no offline race modes available. Or, if there are, well, once I was in the tutorial menu, I couldn’t leave it! (See above gameplay video). So definitely something that needs work here, one way or another.


Lost Ruins

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Video: https://youtu.be/PmVIlt1p0sI
Twitter: https://twitter.com/lostruinsgame

This is a 16-bit Metroidvania-style game, which is pretty much my bread and butter. I played this for a while until I got lost. And the thing is, it includes a map… but the map doesn’t show you where you are, just the overall map and things you’ve unlocked. There were also portals as you explored to help teleport to previous areas… but they didn’t work for me. Again, this is something where I could have maybe missed something, but it really didn’t feel like it. These are critical issues that need to be resolved, even for a demo, because this is how you are courting potential future customers. All that said, I’d play this again if these issues were fixed. The gameplay itself is a lot of fun, from different weapons and armor (with perks) to equip, as well as magic, and then the combat is fun where you need to learn each enemy’s attack pattern. Promising but has lingering issues. 


Endling – Extinction is Forever

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Gameplay Video: https://youtu.be/za-3vHl9-N8
Twitter: https://twitter.com/HerobeatStudios

Endling has a great art style to it, reminiscent of the criminally underrated Never Alone. You play as a fox and, from what I could tell, your objective was to feed your baby foxes and explore. There’s a day/night cycle at play here as well, and “enemies” consist of hunters that you can bite to run away from. I didn’t experience much beyond these mere elements, though. I was constantly told by the game to be finding food for my kids, and I saw a point on the map that was locked. Other than those things, I basically just ran around the map until it was nighttime, then repeated the process. There’s got to be more to this than what I’ve experienced, but I think an objective list as part of the UI might help guide players, because I found myself unsure of what to do after a while and felt, “I’ve gotta be playing this wrong.” However, there wasn’t really an indication to help point me in the right direction. 


Grid Force – Mask of the Goddess

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Gameplay Video: https://youtu.be/3jTEu4PNnhQ
Twitter: https://twitter.com/PlaYouTubera_Games

A fun take by combining action RPGs with tactical RPGs here. You play as an amnesiac pawn of a goddess fighting other goddesses and their pawns. You’ll make friends along the way and most exposition takes place in comic book style panels, which is another fun and unique element to this game. Battles take place in grids (like in tactical RPGs), but you can move around the grid constantly, at will. Of course, so can your enemies! You try to fight them as you dodge their attacks and they dodge yours. There’s also an elemental system in play, with strengths and weaknesses to the elements at play. But that’s where your friends along the way come in, as you can swap to anyone in your assembled squad of four. You can utilize strategy to stagger an enemy and then swap to an appropriate element to go nuts on the stunned enemy. I really enjoyed this title and played it far long than I expected to! In fact, the only reason that I didn’t finish the demo was that the final boss of the demo (at least, I can only assume) was kicking my butt over and over. If I didn’t have other titles to get to, I would have circled back to this to try again after a break. I was at least able to learn from enemy attacks (ie “okay, this one does this, I need to do these things to deal with that”). I really had a lot of fun with this game and would love to play more of it down the line someday. I recommend checking out the video of my play above to see some of what I’ve described here in action.


Ynglet

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Video: https://youtu.be/E_yGXNF1mx8
Twitter: https://twitter.com/Nifflas

This puzzle game was a nice short and sweet demo. The controls were at first a little unintuitive, but it was easy to figure out after a few attempts and quite relaxing, truth be told. You play as an organism(?) making your way through different boxes as your means of traversal. The first level was basically just that simple, whereas the second level introduced moving boxes and high-speed rail means of travel, as well as a “boost” to shoot your character towards its destination. I can see this being great for some quick-game sessions and would be interested in seeing what challenges are ahead in future levels!


Boxville

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Gameplay Video: https://youtu.be/GBOy8rpDsAs
Twitter: https://twitter.com/WaveBreakGame
YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/c/Funktroniclabs

It took me a moment to realize this was a point-and-click game. I was moving my control sticks, noticing the main character not move, and then noticed a cursor on the screen. So the gameplay here is finding things for your character to interact with to progress the story. It’s also worth noting that there’s basically no text at all here; even when you “speak” with other characters, what shows up is a drawing, presumably of what they need at that moment. An example would be a gardener to whom I spoke that popped up a picture of water from a hose. Nearby, a hose was not pumping out water. And so on. I was able to interact with several items and eventually discovered completely by accident that you could select items you had already picked up by moving the cursor all the way to the top edge of your screen. At that point, I went around trying to test out different items I’d gotten on previously interactable elements, but I eventually found myself stuck and unable to proceed. The thing is, with basically nothing guiding you whatsoever here (again, not even text), it’s hard to know if I just wasn’t trying the right thing or if there was an element of the game I didn’t even understand (as that had already happened during gameplay). I can only imagine that this presentation style is on purpose for the sake of “strict puzzle mechanics” with no guidance but it led to frustration at being unable to know if I just didn’t understand a particular game mechanic or if I was just not seeing something I should. My recommendation would be to add a guidance system that can be toggled on or off in an accessibility menu so you can ensure folks playing the game get to proceed if they so desire.


Ato

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Gameplay Video: https://youtu.be/t4ypSsydYpM
Twitter: https://twitter.com/TinyWarriorDev
YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC_rTxv3ZwcREdKdJDZ5NIMg

I actually thought this title might be a quickie like Strong Moon above, in that I’d pop into the platformer, play for not too long, and move along. What I found was a well-crafted Metroidvania-style platformer, to the point that I went all the way back to the start once I got some powerups to see if they’d unlock new areas and upgrades for me (they did). I very much enjoyed exploring and the combat was challenging but fair. It did take a bit to sort of figure out the different approaches to combat, but then that’s part of the whole fun of it. Otherwise, you’d just be blitzing through uninteresting enemies. The “guidebooks” you came across with drawings of how to execute a new move didn’t contain text, and so it was a bit of trial and error on my part trying to make sense of what information was being told to me. However, once I understood how it worked, the new mechanic I’d just learned was fun to utilize. Boss fights were tense but in a good way. I won my final fight by the skin of my teeth and, when I got to the end of the demo, I was so impressed that I checked out both the Extras and Credits in the main menu. I am definitely looking forward to playing through this final game at some point! 


Metal: Hellsinger

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Gameplay Video: https://youtu.be/wQ4CljV33NA
Twiter: https://twitter.com/MetalHellsinger
YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCKkpgwjdJ-ohfG0YcqAt9Bw

A first-person rhythmic shooter, you gain bonus damage if you time your shots to the beat of the music track that is currently playing. It’s a brilliant concept, but I found that my timing wasn’t great. Additionally, sometimes you just need to fire off at the enemy attacking you at that moment, which would break the chain combo. That said, this unique presentation was still fun, even if I couldn’t fully utilize it as intended. I liked that you even got a vocal track on top of the music when you did hit a max combo, too. I would have liked to explore more of the game, but it was fairly challenging for me. I also noticed that several times, when I tried to use the thumbstick to finish off a weakened enemy, it just wouldn’t work (see gameplay video). And that stunned enemy would then shake off the stun and attack me. Not only would this attack break my beat-combo, but the stunned attack is how you regain health, and is vital to keep going in the game. Instead, I’d find myself with less health as a result. It was unfortunate and was one of the reasons that I ended up dead, at which point I moved on. Still, the game has a very arcadey feel to it, sort of “clear out a section of enemies (to the beat!) and then move on to the next section.” It’s worth exploring this game, as I could see a lot of folks digging the overall presentation here. 


Batora: Lost Haven

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Gameplay Video: https://youtu.be/2E5G2qF2JJE
Twitter: https://twitter.com/BatoraLostHaven
YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/c/Team17Ltd

Another title that I wasn’t sure if I’d enjoy at the onset, but this is built very well with a lot already in place. This even feels like a demo for a game that’s already complete, as opposed to saying “here’s a preview of a game we’re still making.” Your character has the ability to change between two elements, and you encounter enemies along your way in groups comprised of both elements. This means you need to swap elements mid-battle and prioritize which enemies to go after (with which element) first. It took me a bit to understand that mechanic – if you watch the above gameplay video, you’ll see that I got smoked on the very first battle, as I didn’t fully grasp this concept. But, once I did, it was a lot of fun. As a real-time action title, I was constantly on the move, trying to get into a good position to make either a ranged attack or get in close enough for melee ones. There even were times that an enemy might have *both* elements to them, and you’d have to swap as you took down some of their shared health bars. The final encounter in this demo was a composition of all of these concepts and was a lot of fun for a boss battle. It was challenging but fair, and learning the incoming patterns and how to adapt accordingly made for a fun experience. I also must mention that there were occasional “puzzle worlds” in which your character would face no enemies, but instead use their various elemental abilities to travel through a labyrinth. This actually was progressively more fun in trying to learn how to make the pathways connect. Overall, this is very much a game that I’d look forward to playing in a full-release format. Yet another one that I played all the way to the end of its demo and had fun the whole time. 


Another Crusade

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Gameplay Videohttps://youtu.be/Kpow3f1jHM8
Twitter: https://twitter.com/StudiosVein
YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UChS7551sUYRcfYpsM-pIMyg

Here we have a game that looks and feels very indie, but in a fun way. It reminds me of some of the Xbox 360 indie titles that used to come out. You control a character making his way to a town through a forest. Along the way, you’ll encounter enemies you can see on the screen. Running into them starts a turn-based battle like most RPGs, except in this one you can double-tap your attack (or defense!) button to do extra damage (or defend against damage better). The fun of this is that each enemy has a different point at which hitting that button again to properly defend comes into play, and so it’s important to watch and learn. You’ll also be told if you were too fast or slow as well. Additionally, the attacks that you deal with have different means of boosting them. A Thunder spell had me just mash the button over and over, whereas a Water spell had me spin the thumbstick. You can also attack an enemy AS you run into them, which will start the turn-based battle with them taking some initial damage (which is very helpful). I eventually made my way to town, and even gained an ally in a boss battle, but we just were overcome by the boss. I’m not sure what I did wrong in our approach, but I decided to move on at that point. Still, it’s a fun little title that I’d explore some more if it were available on GamePass. 


Shadowrun Returns

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Gameplay Videohttps://youtu.be/YkwKwGczaoo
Twitter: https://twitter.com/Codeglue

I admittedly saved this game for last because I’m aware that the entire Shadowrun trilogy is currently available on GamePass, so my initial thought was that I didn’t really need to play a demo since I could just play the full game immediately. That said, holy cow, I am glad I played this. I had seen screenshots for it that looked like it was a tactical RPG, and I’m usually not a fan of those because I seem to be terrible at them (I have never made it past even the second or third battle in Final Fantasy Tactics, for example). This game was amazing and had so many different elements of other styles of gaming within it. You had point and click to explore items from an isometric perspective, then dialog with NPCs you meet, and then on top of that making choices along the way. Additionally, the customization options were very in-depth to the point that I wasn’t even sure fully of what perks I was unlocking. But I figured it was just a demo and I didn’t need to go all down the rabbit hole of “perfect builds” and such, and just have fun. And I had so much fun. I played this for almost 90 minutes straight, and I wasn’t even sure when it would end. I kept thinking that the next transition point of the narrative would lead to a “thanks for playing the demo” screen but it just kept going and I was glad to keep going as well. In fact, the only reason I even stopped is that my one-year-old son woke up and was crying and I had to go tend to him. I figured I’d stop there, because I was already sold. And, since this is on GamePass as I mentioned, I definitely will be playing it.


And those are the games I was able to play through!

Standout Titles

  • Brok the InvestiGator – The characterization here is done so well that I want to continue to see what happens to the people in this game.
  • Battlecakes – an RPG with charm that could be a sleeper hit
  • Re: Call – Unique take on gameplay that I definitely want to figure out next time!
  • Tinykin – I was sad when it was over! If it had kept going, I would’ve, too! So much fun to play.
  • Grid Force – Fantastic presentation of all elements here. I want to continue this tale!
  • Shadowrun Returns – I can’t wait to play through the full game of this!
  • Batora: Lost Haven – This is a fun action title I want to play more of soon.
  • Ato – This platformer / Metroidvania hybrid has a great base to it. I want to experience more of it.

Missing Demo mini-reviews

Demos for the following titles were unavailable to play through:

  • Broken Pieces
  • Shadowrun Returns

Closing thoughts

Today more than ever, gamers have choice. Frankly, they have an overabundance of choice, especially on the Xbox ecosystem with GamePass. I say this because, if you release a game demo, you better make sure it has what is needed to keep the gamer playing. Especially when there are so many other options out there to go try out. Too often did I encounter issues that served as a roadblock to my gameplay with no means of overcoming it. And while I admit that it’s possible I missed something in-game to assist, there are plenty of opportunities in the above instances where this could easily be resolved. A lot of this is just basic modern game creation, and titles that are missing features that are expected by the player base will be overlooked, for better or for worse. 

That said, I still enjoyed blitzing through these titles. There’s often new things added to GamePass and you just don’t know much about them. Here, I now have a sense of a lot of these games already. Some I’d give another try if they came to GamePass, and some I’d eagerly add to my To Play list. Others I know to avoid altogether. 

Demos are a fantastic way for developers to showcase their games and hook players. And, if any of the developers have read this post, I hope they understand I appreciate their efforts and take my criticism constructively. I’d be open to trying all of these again (even the ones I may have been harsh on) if new iterations come out. And I look forward to playing through some of these again in the future!

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