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The QueueJun 20, 2023 11:45 am CT

The Queue: Next Fest!

You ever ask someone a question out of politeness and then they start telling you about what you asked, but they just won’t shut up, and they have even more to say? One member of the Queuemunity sure did!

This is The Queue, where one person asked a single question, so buckle up.


Q4tQ Any games you have your eye on at Steam Next Fest?

This Queue answer probably could’ve been a stand-alone column. I have a lot of games on my Wishlist with demos available for Next Fest. I won’t play through all of them as demos — it doesn’t make a ton of sense to me to play through story-heavy games or games with a lengthy tycoon-style “build your empire” or “collect them all” elements as demos. Here are the ones I’ve tried out a little bit so far, and the list of the games also on my radar — there’s still a week to go!

Paleo Pines

I’ve been irrationally excited for Paleo Pines since I first started seeing it in the wild, and this is the first time I’ve seen a playable demo or slice, so this is the first one I tried. Stardew Valley but with dinosaurs is so thoroughly me that the only way they could tailor it more closely to my interests is if they added karaoke and an on board espresso machine. However, the gameplay left me a little cold. There’s a difference between media that’s for all audiences and media that’s for kids, like Disney movies or Spongebob versus Cocomelon or Blippy. Paleo Pines felt very much like it was for kids. To be fair I’d clearly only started to scratch the surface of the incredibly exhaustive tutorial — but I’d played for over an hour. I’ll probably still purchase it when it launches, but I’m not as excited as I was.

House Flipper 2

I love the original game, so I’m really excited to get my hands on House Flipper 2. The new items, the ability to more closely tailor the colorways of most of the items, new houses and jobs, are all fantastic. The one downside in playing the demo is that it seems like they made several of the steps that I personally wasn’t all that into more tedious. There’s a whole garbage demi-minigame, so you can’t just use your scan gun to throw away everything. You have to vacuum specific spills, and use cleaner to more effectively clean up. When I finally got to the decor step, the new stuff added a lot of depth — but I’d imagine that people who are more into the renovation aspects are probably similarly annoyed by that. There’s a fine line between fun granularity and irritating tedium. I’m definitely purchasing this one when it launches, if only because I usually use the original as a de facto CAD program for my own house.

Noun Town

Noun Town is a cute language learning game. While the core of the game revolves around memorizing nouns and repeating their names via voice (and I had some trouble configuring my mic) there are also several points of immersive language learning via NPC conversation, and I found the house organizing aspects fun. While I’m not sure how effective it’ll be for people learning a language using only the game, I’m definitely going to pick this up to supplement my Duolingo skills.

Little Kitty Big City

Little Kitty Big City is basically what I wanted Stray to be — wholesome cat-driven chaos. Can wear hats! 10/10 no notes.


A narrative-driven game, Venba isn’t only about cooking, but all the things which implicitly go into sharing our meals which a lot of food games gloss over — family, heritage, passing down knowledge that might otherwise be lost, sharing a part of ourselves with someone we love. I didn’t play much of the demo because I want to experience it all at once, but what I played I enjoyed.

Stray Gods

On paper, Stray Gods is another title completely tailored toward my interests. But playing it through, I feel kinda iffy on it in a way I have a tough time defining. The gameplay is minimal, but then you’d expect that in a visual novel, and I do play those happily. The singing is okay, but then you’d expect that in hiring voice actors who sing instead of musical actors who sing. Maybe I wish there were a karaoke element? I’m not sure why, but I’m just not feeling it nearly as much as I wanted to. It’ll probably be okay — it almost certainly won’t be bad, at least — but I’ll probably just sob over Hadestown while I wait for it to go on sale.

Games I won’t be demoing, but still look interesting:

This Bed We Made – 1950s sleuthing!

The Cosmic Wheel Sisterhood – Witchy, lofi vibes, tarot-based gameplay.

Underground Blossom – Rusty Lake. If you know you know. Though I do wonder if they’ll ever get around to wrapping this up.

Wizard With a Gun – Premise seems interesting, but always-on co-op makes me nervous. Will be watching streamers play this when it’s live before committing.

One Lonely Outpost – I’m such a sucker for Stardew-likes. This one’s in space!

The Last Alchemist – looks like a steampunk aesthetic RPG with alchemy puzzle elements.

Spirit Swap – a witchy lo fi match 3. Will pick this up when it’s on a deep discount to vibe to.

Loddlenaut – Ecological cleanup on an ocean-based alien world with axolotls!

Moonstone Island – You had me at “creature collecting life sim.”

Nowhere: Mysterious Artifacts – narrative survival explorer. Holding hype sequence until I figure out whether I can play solo.

Pacific Drive – I’ve been looking for a Survival title which has a heavy emphasis on a mobile machine/car base for a long time. This may be it.

Station to Station – I always have train games on my radar. This one looks fun and vibe-y.

Grand Emprise: Time Travel Survival – The premise is the title. Very curious whether I’ll have to time travel for, eg, antibiotics.

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