Digging Up The Hidden Gems Of Steam’s Feb ’22 NextFest

Digging Up The Hidden Gems Of Steam’s Feb ’22 NextFest

Steam NextFest’s are great aren’t they? A metric tonne of demos available for a limited period of time is excellent, but also… how do you go about sifting through the literally hundreds of possibilities?

Well, you turn to your resident indie specialist, of course! 😉

Mail Time

The best thing about A Short Hike – ok, maybe not best, but certainly a sweet bonus – is that it has shown indie devs that cute-core, small, mechanically joyful games can be a huge hit. Mail Time pulls from the same lineage, with its floaty 3D platforming and gliding, chill vibes and poking around a tiny open space. 

Something about the physicality of the world in Mail Time really just feels good, you know? The nebulous idea of “game feel” is something that is tough to put into words, but this game has it. Plus, I love a game that not only allows me to go out of bounds, but rewards me for doing so. Mail Time has just recently hit its Kickstarter funding goal, so with a bit of cash flow to keep the devs going for the next while we should see the game out sooner rather than later.

Glitchhikers: The Spaces Between

Echoing vibes from the excellent Tales From Off-Peak City and last year’s underrated Road 96, Glitchhikers is a philosophical, surrealist adventure that wants to sit down and discuss the big questions. Which, I’m all for.

First person but not really free-roam, the game seems to be commenting a lot on choice, consequence, fate and determinism. It’s a serious and thoughtful affair, with a positively gorgeous style to boot. Very keen to see this come together for a thought provoking discussion or two in the (hopefully) near future.

Restless Soul

Games so often struggle to be genuinely funny, but Restless Soul’s opening did elicit a few giggles. Somewhere in similar realms to Undertale, Restless Soul is part internet humour, part video game commentary, part generally full of good “bits” (I quite liked an exchange with Jack the Pumpkin).

It’s got that “simple” design aesthetic that helps put what is there in sharp contrast, something I’m quite fond of. My instincts tell me this one is going to be one of those disarmingly funny games that then hits you with a gut punch, but that remains to be seen. Hopefully we’ll know sometime this year. 

Jack Move

Your typical turn-based indie RPG with a distinctly cyberpunk flair. If you’re used to those of the fantasy variety, it might take some adjustment to get used to the proper nouns on display here, but Jack Move is immediately clean, crisp and genuinely intriguing.

With some excellent animation work bringing both the main character and the world to life, along with your expected quippy dialog, the polish on display is top notch. There are some really smart design decisions present as well – interesting build mechanics, a “likeliness of hitting a random encounter” meter. Jack Move has been on my wishlist for literally years at this point, but to see it hit this NextFest means we should, fingers crossed, see more of it before the end of the year.

Ignited Steel: Mech Tactics

Every single game on this list sits in the good old “highly anticipated, I have to play this at launch” basket for me, but my friend, when it comes to Ignited Steel: Mech Tactics… I think I may have found one of those “is this made literally just for me???” games. I only played about 7 minutes of this demo and shut it down, because I know I want to experience this fresh on full release. Talk about saving the best for last.

Grid turn-based tactics. Pixel graphics. Customisable mechs. Gathering a party of pilots and suits. Roguelike. Ancient hulking human piloted mechs VS AI controlled evil corp machines. It’s Into The Breach meets BattleTech meets Gundam. It’s absolutely criminal that this hasn’t had more attention already. And to top it off, it’s out in literal days??? March 9th can not come soon enough.

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