I played 31 game demos in 2020, which is like the most ever for me – I almost never played demos before in part probably because I didn’t do much PC gaming and didn’t pay attention to the game festivals. So yeah, I played a lot of demos this past year, some awesome that had me wishing the game was available, some that were really really bad, and some that were just meh.
So this award is for the best demo, IMHO. In deciding this award, I looked at memorableness: could I remember the demo just skimming my list, actual parts of the gameplay not just the title screen, and how much it made me want the game – was it an instant wishlist click? Did I want to share it with others?
And the nominees are…
- A Juggler’s Tale
- Shutter Nyang
- 8Doors: Arum’s Afterlife Adventure
- Land of Screens
- The MISSING: J.J. Macfield and the Island of Memories
- F.I.S.T.: Forged In Shadow Torch
We have a TIE!
While wildly different from each other in just about every possible way except for being Metroidvanias, these two demos were the top for me this year and had me ravenous for the games to release (hopefully 2021!).
8Doors’ demo starts you right at the beginning of the game and lets you get through pretty much most of the set up of the awesome story of a little girl traveling to the underworld to find her father, based on Korean folk tales and views of life after death. It gets you through the first tutorial bits of how to use your weapons and actions, and later your frog pal.
It also carries on just long enough to let you really get a good feel for the gameplay style and whether it will be for you while leaving you hungry to know more about Arum’s quest and the troubles happening in the underworld that she’s now been asked to help with while on her way. The only thing it was missing was a release date!
Contrasted with 8Doors simple art-style and full-on prologue, modern-graphics heavy F.I.S.T. drops you right in the action, with no story set up or introduction to the world or characters. You just get going as a hulked out rabbit with a mechanical fist who is going to town on presumably bad folks trying to stop him from where he is going. Normally, I’d want a demo to give me a taste of the story, not just the gameplay, but for whatever reason with F.I.S.T., it just works!
You have to figure out the controls and how to use the mechanical fist, as well as it’s first alternate form, as you make your way with no real guidance in this funky city that seems to be a mix of steampunk and oriental design. The gameplay was a delight if challenging as heck, and it made me all the more curious about the story as well, so it worked!