The VR demos of Steam’s ‘Play What’s Next’ Festival 2021

I’ve been loving the Steam Demo festival, Play What’s Next! So far I have mostly checked out the upcoming VR games – here are my thoughts on some of them.

TossVR – we play as an acrobatic ape climbing through jungle gym playgrounds of increasing difficulties. I had a lot of fun trying to figure out the exact movements and speed and everything required to get through! Very satisfying when you get to punch the “I finished the level” button! It’s also super colorful and happy to look at, so the game really improved my spirits! Steam link

BoomBox – this is a rhythm game in the style of something like Beat Saber, but wow it’s so much nicer to look at! There were only two songs available in the demo, but the dev promises to have a LOT more with a bunch of environments to go through. In the level that was available, it’s like you’re jogging down a trail and the whole experience is just so dang smooth and chill. This might sound stubborn, but if the devs price this under Beat Saber’s $30, I’ll definitely be buying it for its full release this month! Hope others will too, because a lot of work clearly went into making this game so seamless and relaxing. Steam link.

Sword Reverie – A JRPG with anime style visuals and HUGE SWORDS? It was fun! I only did part of the demo, but it was mostly just following a path and talking to characters, then combat, and you rinse/repeat. I think the devs have bigger plans than this though, based on the magic resource management system that’s in the game? Basically you have spells you can cast depending on how you wave your HUGE SWORDS and which element they have equipped. It felt so dang good Fus-Roh-Dah’ing badguys across whole dang battlefields with an arm swing, since all the enemies have ragdoll physics. Steam link.

I’ll be playing more demos on Steam, until the Play What’s Next festival ends on February 9th. Be sure to follow along on this blog, Instagram, and Twitter for all the cool stuffs.

‘Gnomes & Goblins’ – VR Review

Gnomes & Goblins is one of those products that seems like it was designed to introduce people to the potential wonder of virtual reality games. Available on SteamVR and Viveport Infinity, I enjoyed my time in this fantastical experience. We play as a human exploring a magical forest of strange creatures and get to see their tiny villages and strange cultures as we walk through the paths presented by the game’s developer, Wevr.

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Dance and Shoot in VR as an Agent of Biodiversity in ‘Star Shaman’

Star Shaman is an indie VR first person shooter roguelike from Ikimasho that offers its players a lot of unique style and energy. In the trailer the developer released at launch, we see a woman dancing some crazy moves as she plays through a level in ways that really inspire me – Will I have as good a time as her? Probably not, but I’m going to damn well try!

At its core, Star Shaman plays fairly similar to something like Space Pirate Trainer. For the uninitiated, this means you stand in one spot and are dodging incoming fireballs and missiles and using an arsenal of weapons to shoot down a variety of enemies that come in waves.

There are some pretty big differences here though. In Star Shaman, you’re actually moving between levels – though all start out looking the same at the beginning of the game for reasons that suit the story. The most major mechanical difference in the actual fights is that we have to summon our weapons to use them against enemies while dodging their attacks. This actually added a lot to the gameplay, as the motion of summoning my gun became part of my groove with dodging. I really felt in tune with the music in a way most typical rhythm games don’t give me.

There are more weapons and upgrades that are unlocked by continuing to play the game. You see, Star Shaman is roguelike in the style of FTL where players progress through tiers of battles at set difficulties with some story mixed in, until the next tier unlocks. The game advises us to be careful about going too far, but I’m still a little confused about how the progression works. There are multiple weapons to unlock, but they require us to grind huge amounts of attempts through the game.

It is implied with the fact you are drastically changing the worlds you’ve beat, by growing flowers and rebirthing life, that there will be a wide variety of enemies later down the road in gameplay than I personally reached. At least, I can’t imagine the developer would add all these beautiful effects, levels and creature designs and then not use them for a good fight?

I really do feel enamored with Star Shaman. I feel selfish about this, but I love the mystery of it – it’s not often I find a truly great game that none of my friends are talking about, and it’s up to me(!) to find the answers to the riddles. I should also mention somewhere here that the soundtrack is very much my jam, and I love it.

Sam played Star Shaman on Viveport Infinity, but it’s also available Steam and Oculus Quest! If you want to talk to Sam about the indie game that’s been on your mind, give him a shout on Twitter!