Although lockdown restrictions are easing, we’re still not quite ready for large-scale events. This doesn’t mean we have to miss out on gaming expos though: after The Big Adventure Event in January, the end of April saw LudoNarraCon take over.
Organised by indie label Fellow Traveller, the first event took place in May 2019. Since then it has become popular with fans of the adventure genre thanks to its focus on narrative and innovative video games – along with the fact that it’s free and hosted entirely on Steam. That means you can forget about lengthy queues, deafening noise and sweaty bodies; simply sit back, download demos to experience titles for yourself, and check out the developers during live streams.
The event scheduled for 23-26 April 2021 seemed smaller, although that wasn’t the case: looking back through emails from previous years revealed that about the same number of games were on show. I think this was due to many of the games having appeared at other digital expos because there have been so many of them over the past 12 months. However, that doesn’t mean I wasn’t able to find a few gems and a couple more titles have now been added to my wishlist.
I’ve had my eye on Murder Mystery Machine by Blazing Griffin since coming across the trailer in December 2019. It’s now due for release on PC and console very soon and, after playing the demo for myself, I can’t wait. It’s no secret how much I like detective games and I really enjoyed the way this title gave you an investigation board so you could link together the evidence uncovered for yourself. Although there are hints, there’s no real handholding and it gives the impression of being a real investigator.
Speaking of detective games, another one on my watch-list was Song of Farca by Wooden Monkeys. I wanted to try this during a previous Steam Game Festival but unfortunately ran out of time so it was one of my priorities for LudoNarraCon – and I wasn’t disappointed. It has more of a visual novel style than the previous demo but there’s still plenty of investigation for you to do. All of this takes place online via internet searches, hacking into CCTV cameras, digital enhancement and telephone calls.
Next up was something completely different: NUTS by Joon, Pol, Muutsch, Char & Torfi. I wasn’t sure about its visual style at first but reading about its premise made me curious, and it was added to my wishlist immediately after completing the demo. The aim is to place cameras around a forest to track where squirrels are hiding their stash but you might be surprised to find out what exactly it is that they’re hording. I have a feeling this title is going to end up being wonderfully weird.
Lake by Gamious was a title I was already aware of thanks to it appearing in my Steam discovery queue recently. I wasn’t sure it was going to be something that would usually appeal to me but there’s something about the narration of the trailer, and the way it makes the game feel as though it’s an American television show, that made me want to give the demo a go. Delivering the post to residents around Providence Oaks and getting to know them better turned out to be a rather relaxing experience.
There were a range of interesting live streams alongside the demos and discounts this year. Sam Barlow joined Natalie Watson to discuss Her Story and Telling Lies, along with upcoming release Project Ambrosio; and Jack Attridge chatted about how Flavourworks is innovating new storytelling technologies and design philosophies, starting with debut ERICA. We’ve been playing a lot of full-motion video (FMV) games recently so these were both talks I was glued to.
Other demos I managed to play were Do Not Buy This Game by Kingblade Games, No Longer Home by Humble Grove and Beacon Pines by Hiding Spot. And although the Forgotten Fields demo from Frostwood Interactive failed to work properly for me during The Big Adventure Event, I’ve now received a review key and will be writing about it soon. Each of these titles is completely different and that’s the great thing about LudoNarraCon: it shows that narrative-focused released are incredibly varied and there’s something for everyone.
LudoNarraCon is due to return once again in 2022 and you can follow Fellow Traveller on Twitter to stay informed. In the meantime, check out the gallery below to see some of the other games that were on display and keep an eye out for further posts over the coming week.
LudoNarraCon 2021 photo gallery