Mysteries, Myths & Melodies – Steam Next Fest October 2023

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Any indie gamer knows that one of the best places to find hidden gems is at Steam Next Fest. Three times a year, hundreds of upcoming/newly released games are showcased with playable demos, livestreams and dev Q&A sessions. And it’s where you’ll find me glued to my desk soaking up every last bit of it. Every year the number of incredible demos increases, the wishlist gets ever bigger and we’re always here for it! So, having finally been able to fully absorb the sheer volume of great demos on offer, here’s a few that went straight in my basket: 

Agatha Christie – Murder on the Orient Express

Developer: Microids Studio Lyon
Publisher: Microids
Release Date: 19th October 2023
Platforms: PC, Playstation 5, Playstation 4, Xbox Series X/S, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch

A scene of a dining car of the Orient Express train, looking through the window from outside. Hercule Poirot sits at a table looking out while other diners can be seen in the background.
The little grey cells at work.

The Belgian detective’s most famous case is brought into the present day with classic whodunnit flair! Agatha Christie – Murder on the Orient Express manages something few updates manage to achieve: modernising a well-known and much-loved mystery while still remaining true to its origins. The lavish Orient Express train has ground to a halt in an avalanche and a passenger has been murdered. Luckily the great Hercule Poirot is aboard and his little grey cells never fail!

As Poirot, you must examine the evidence and talk to potential suspects to uncover vital leads. The ‘Mind Map’ mechanic allows you to connect aspects of the case and draw conclusions from what you’ve discovered. And for those looking for intuitive and tactile logic puzzles, there’s plenty of those thrown in too. All of these aspects are slick and well-executed, giving the player a grounded structure but plenty of freedom to deduce for themselves.

The Orient Express is beautifully brought to life with stylish graphics and design, as are the cast of characters. Poirot is courteous and meticulous, now equipped with a trusty smartphone. Private detective Joanna Locke—an added secondary protagonist—is an intriguing addition. Switching between her investigation in the States and Poirot’s on the Express mixes things up nicely.

If you’re looking to take on a classic mystery with new eyes, Agatha Christie – Murder on the Orient Express is one worth investigating!



Laika: Aged Through Blood

Developer: Brainwash Gang
Publisher: Thunderful Group, Headup Games
Release Date: 19th October 2023
Platforms: PC, Playstation 5, Playstation 4, Xbox Series X/S, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch

A 2D animated scene in an industrial setting. Two bird soldiers shoot at a motorbike riding through the air towards them, one with a gatling gun. The bullets bounce off the underside of the motorbike and the rider shoots back.
Guns > bone bike

The wastelands are a brutal and dangerous place. But astride a motorcycle with a revolver in hand, so are you! Laika: Aged Through Blood is a bloody and high-octane “motorvania” that will shock, exhilarate and move you in equal measure. As the titular Laika, you are a mother coyote warrior trying to survive in a harsh post-apocalyptic wasteland. Your tribe is under threat from the tyrannical empire of the Birds and their power is growing. You must balance being an instrument of death with being a loving mother raising young daughter Puppy in a world of violence.

Be warned: gore, strong language and mature themes are present from the get-go. Not for young’uns or the faint of heart! Grindhouse meets Trials in Laika’s gameplay as you become one with your bone-crafted bike. You’ll traverse ramps and obstacles, pulling off spectacular stunts while literally obliterating all enemies in your path. A slow-mo bullet time ability helps you accurately gun down your foes and the bike is both your shield and your reloading tool. Mastering both is vital: one shot is all you need, but it works both ways!

This is backed up with stellar hand-drawn animation, a powerful story and a hauntingly beautiful soundtrack. So if you’ve a strong stomach and want to immerse yourself in something hard-hitting, give Laika a try.

Buy it now: STEAM.


The Midnight Crimes

Developer: Deadly Crow Games
Planned Release Date: TBA
Platforms: PC

A night scene in a Victorian alleyway. A man is speaking to a woman of the night under an archway while she smokes a cigarette
It’s a cruel world out there.

If you’re on tenterhooks for The Wolf Among Us 2 but also after more than just conversations and quick time events, Deadly Crow Games are on the case! The Midnight Crimes gives players a delectable mix of mystery, point & click adventure and RPG elements with graphic novel-esque visuals. In an alternate 19th century, retired P.I. Benjamin Leighton spends his days in the bottom of a bottle, broken from the assassination of his family 2 years earlier. But a new case involving a missing child may be the chance Ben needs to reawaken his skills and face his demons.

Like any good investigator, the bread and butter of The Midnight Crimes is gathering clues, talking to potential witnesses and joining up the dots to crack the case. But depending on your stress and eloquence levels, this could have varying degrees of success. The alleys of Midnight Cove have their share of danger; stealth is sometimes the wisest course, but a sturdy weapon is good to have if things come to blows.

This oozes gothic steampunk atmosphere and for an alpha demo does an excellent job of drawing you into the intrigue of this city of iniquity. Also there is a cat. It can be your pet. And it brings your stress levels down. Case closed.

Wishlist it HERE.


Monolith: Requiem of the Ancients

Developer: C2 Game Studio
Publsiher: C2 Game Studio, Versus Evil
Planned Release Date:
Platforms: PC, Playstation 5, Playstation 4, Xbox Series X/S, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch

A desert scene in a crumbling temple looking up from floor level. A figure in a red hood carrying a large sword stands in the foreground ready to attack a masked enemy standing further away.
Big sword: check. Tough fighting stance: check. Let’s go!

As a fantasy fan, I can never get enough of ancient civilisations, temples and magic. And swinging a sword around in silky smooth combat. Monolith: Requiem of the Ancients certainly ticks all of these boxes. In a world abandoned by The Makers, the Diokeks are constantly under threat from the advance of the evil Hitsiks. Astor is a young Diokek determined to unearth the secrets of the past and stem the tide of evil. Armed with a sword and the power of the Runic Swarm, the fate of all Gliese is in his hands.

Channelling Breath of the Wild and Hob vibes, Monolith has wielding swords and sorcery to repel your Hitsik aggressors. Astor can cut through foes with light and heavy blows while using the Runic Swarm power to shield and heal himself. Raw crystal deposits contain orbs to renew your healing and Swarm experience and unlock new abilities. Combat is wonderfully slick and satisfying as is control – a must for me in an action-RPG! You can also seamlessly switch between melee, ranged and magic attacks in battle to suit your needs. And switching to the spirit realm reveals secrets and pathways inaccessible in the physical plane.

With a charming and colourful visual style and a tribal-inspired immersive soundtrack, Monolith looks to be the next fantasy romp to lose yourself in.

Wishlist/follow it here: STEAM | PS STORE | XBOX STORE.


No Stone Unturned

Developer: Wise Monkey Entertainment Ltd.
Planned Release Date: TBA
Platforms: PC

A top down pixel scene in a grassy area next to a road. A squirrel in a trenchcoat and hat stands over the body of a rooster. A white question mark hovers over the body.
Why DID the chicken cross the road?

How do you solve a mystery when you can’t remember who you are or even what body parts are called? No Stone Unturned from Wise Monkey Entertainment puts that to the test in this darkly comedic and anthropomorphic pixel art noir. Squirrel Detective Cox wakes up next to a bloodied body. He can’t even remember his own name, let alone who the victim is. And what are those things that hold you up? Foot hands? Arms with feet? But his detective senses are still functioning, so just maybe he can solve this case. Right?

Another heads-up in the discretion department: a cutesy animal story this ain’t. While not at Laika levels, this doesn’t hold back on the mature themes either, but all work to its advantage. As Cox, you’ll examine the evidence using your trusty magnifying glass—so powerful it can see through flesh!—and make note of your discoveries. Determining the integral and the irrelevant will not only make or break the case but also take it in hilarious directions. In classic noir fashion, Cox’s inner monologue will comment on the things you find, as will the objects themselves. Stellar comedic writing comes into play with numerous belly laugh moments and 4th wall breaks placed perfectly.

If you’re after an engrossing pixel art mystery but also dark and hilarious dialogue, spend some time with… damn it, who is it again? The cop who… eventually… knows things? Yeah that’s it. Nailed it.

Wishlist it HERE.


Snufkin: Melody of Moominvalley

Developer: Hyper Games
Publsiher: Raw Fury
Planned Release Date: Q1 2024
Platforms: PC, Mac, Playstation 5, Xbox Series X/S, Nintendo Switch

A painted scene of a mountain river showing a man in a green hat and coat standing on top of a large green head with a large black moustache. The man plays a harmonica and the head rises as he plays.
Music makes the world go round.

We’ve all wished we could jump in and explore the serene hills and landscapes of Tove Jansson’s beloved children’s series. Now we can in gorgeous cosy adventure game fashion – and we wouldn’t want it any other way! The practical and philosophical Snufkin returns from one of his travels, only to find Moonminvalley much changed. Parks have popped up all over the valley, countless signs and rules put in place. All of this orchestrated and overseen by the overzealous Park Keeper. It’s up to Snufkin to bring harmony back to Moominvalley and return it to nature.

Music, motivation and a little bit of mischief is the name of the game here. You journey across Moominvalley solving puzzles and helping its inhabitants along the way. Snufkin’s faithful harmonica can be used to inspire and motivate various creatures; the more musical inspiration you gain, the more moving the music. Sometimes you will have to deploy stealth as you avoid the park rangers and pull up signs or knock over statues. There’s a delightful dollop of Untitled Goose Game energy thrown in. It’s a wonderful day to be a mischievous Snufkin!

It would be a crime not to mention the visuals here as they are nothing short of stunning. Backed with a soundtrack collaboration with Sigur Ros, the hand-drawn scenes are breathtaking, from idyllic creeks to mountain vistas. You’re instantly enveloped in the beauty of Moominvalley and you’ll never want to leave! Whether you’re a longtime Moomins fan or discovering it for the first time, this is one to watch!

Wishlist it HERE.

Honourable Mentions

Between Horizons – DigiTales Interactive – 2023
The Diary – HuCang Studio – Q1 2024
FloraMancer: Seeds & Spells – Joe Sullivan – 2023
Pixel Cafe – Baltoro Games – TBA
The Thaumaturge – Fool’s Theory – 5th December 2023


Whether you revel in the bloody and mysterious or the light-hearted and magical, Steam Next Fest had your back. And with 2024 just around the corner, it’s going to be a blast for indie game fans!

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