2020 was the year of the digital expo. As lockdowns brought on by COVID-19 meant we were unable to attend such events in person, organisers decided to take them online and let us experience upcoming releases from the comfort of our own homes.
The trend looks set to continue in 2021 as we’ve had our first digital festival of the year last month: The Big Adventure Event. Hosted by indie publisher Hitcents, this took place on Steam between 21 and 25 January 2021 and was dedicated to ‘celebrating all walks of the iconic, varied adventure game genre’. I managed to find the time to play a number of demos from the weekend and add a few more titles to my wishlist, so let’s find out which ones made the cut.
Don’t Forget Me
Imagine Her Story but with a futuristic twist and pixelated style: that’s kind of what we’re going to get from Don’t Forget Me by The Moon Pirates. The amnesiac protagonist Fran must work with one of the world’s foremost experts in memory manipulation, delving into the mind of patients and using deduction to uncover their memories. Entering search terms into your machine may unlock routes in their mind but if you guess incorrectly too many times, you’ll be booted from the system. This game was wishlisted straight away.
Wishlisted: no, but maybe in the future
Forgotten Fields by Frostwood Interactive sounds like it’s going to be a game with a personal story that I’d enjoy. Struggling writer Sid must journey back home to attend an unavoidable family obligation, and though meeting old friends and reliving memories, he may just get over his creative block and write his story. Unfortunately however, the demo didn’t work properly for me so I gave up after watching his figure walk across a black screen for ten-minutes and gradually become more pixelated. Maybe I’ll wishlist it in the future once I’ve seen more.
Speaking of personal tales, Monorail Stories by Stelex Software was up next and takes place on a monorail that travels between the cities of L and M every day. Silvie and Ahmal both use it for their commute to work but travel at different times and in opposite directions so, although they may meet the same people, they may make different choices and don’t know they’re sharing the same story. It seems like this is going to be a title that’s more about the interactions between its characters, and it was wishlisted immediately.
A literary game which will appeal to fans of mystery novels and point-and-clicks? Sold. Cowleyfornia Studios’ Sarawak begins when a university professor is found dead on the steps outside your hotel. The police arrest someone very close to you for his murder so you must unravel the trail of secrets the professor has left behind. This one almost feels like a choose-your-own adventure but with puzzles: read the short chapters, choose your responses wisely, solve the challenges and try to figure out who’s lying.
Wishlisted: no, but maybe in the future
There were a lot of good things about the demo for Slender Threads by Blyts and their tale of a travelling book salesman who’s trying to write a novel. Harvey Green is hoping that the weird town of Villa Ventura will inspire him but foreboding dreams, impossible coincidences and hidden motives are hindering his progress. I liked the visual style, the atmosphere was suitably creepy and the demo was fun – but it just didn’t grab me. This game is going on the backburner and I’ll check it out again after it has been released.
Powerhoof’s point-and-click The Drifter reminded me of The Blind Prophet as they’re both adventures with adult themes which obviously aren’t for kids. When Mick Carter is forced to return to his home town for a funeral, he doesn’t expect to witness a violent murder, be pursued by mysterious armed men and then be killed – until his consciousness is thrust back into his body seconds before his death. I loved the Australian setting and voice-actors in the demo and can’t wait to play the game once it has been released.
Tiny Room Stories: Town Mystery
A detective story with escape-room-mechanics? Tiny Room Stories: Town Mystery by Kiary Games was another game which was wishlisted right after playing the demo. Each setting is like an individual escape room with a variety of puzzles involving keys, codes and symbols and you’re given the next part of the story once you’ve figured out how to progress. The story revolves around a private investigator who receives a strange letter from his father, then finds the entire city deserted after he travels back home.
Willy Morgan and the Curse of Bone Town
I’m not sure what I disliked most about imaginarylab’s demo for Willy Morgan and the Curse of Bonetown. It could have been the curved-lines and fishbowl-effect graphics which made me feel slightly nauseous; the story that begins after Willy’s mother weirdly decides to leave her teenaged son at home alone while she goes off adventuring in the Amazon; or the stupid joke about cooking furry animals made when clicking on a microwave. I’d already wishlisted this game a while back but now it has been removed.
Due to the number of digital expos that took place last year and the ability for organisers to include more games in these than at physical events, it was somewhat difficult to find demos I hadn’t already tried at other festivals such as LudoNarraCon. But I’ve now added five more titles to my wishlist so well done to The Big Adventure Event. The one I’m looking forward to the most right now is probably The Drifter, as I do enjoy a grown-up adventure that doesn’t hold back.
Did you try any of the demos during The Big Adventure Event and if so, how’s your wishlist looking now?