This might be my last entry because I think I’m losing steam (no pun intended) and am paying less attention to these demos than they deserve. Also, since I made an attempt to look at a few demos outside of my wheelhouse, I found I had a hard time being impartial and I don’t want to belabor that point by posting nothing but sarcasm.

Dungeons of Hinterberg

One thing about demos is that you never know what you’re going to get, especially if you pick them at random.

Dungeons of Hinterberg (DoH for short) is one of those games. In truth, I don’t know how to describe it. On its face, I assumed that since “dungeons” is in the name that this is one of those “manage a shop, scour the dungeon” kind of deals, but it’s not. It’s really not. It kind of has more in common with skateboarding or, in the case of the demo, snowboarding games than anything else.

It’s kind of a combat theme park, set in modern day. With swords. And magic. And a hoverboard, and laser hands. And yes, it gets more trippy from there.

The main character, Luisa, is some kind of adventurer. She travels the world and explores dungeons for fame and profit I guess, as this demo does that thing where it starts you off in the middle of the game somewhere with little to no exposition. I only got to experience one location, Kolmstein, which is described as “an icy glacier” as if that tells you anything at all.

Luisa starts off on the surface of the glacier, able to run around and talk to a few NPCs. The zone is broken out into different regions which have their own methods of access, either through running, climbing, or later on, rail-grinding on Luisa’s phantom snowboard. The game strongly suggests a game-pad, but K&M work well enough; a game-pad would work better, though.

There was a small tutorial zone which informed me about combat. There’s a normal and strong attack, delivered by sword, and a few “conduit attack” abilities. These attacks have cool-downs and, in the case of the demo, are AoE attacks. In combat, these attacks use MP which regenerates when Luisa lands a hit on an enemy. She can also roll out of the way to dodge attacks, which uses stamina, and enemies can get in the way of executing a successful dodge.

Fighting is the least of the activities in the game, though. Once Luisa gains her zone-magic — each exploration zone has zone-specific spells only usable in that zone — she gets the ability to summon the high-speed snowboard, and a laser-burst attack. The former is used to get around quickly, but also to complete races and activate travel-rails which lock Luisa in until she reaches the end, and which generally link areas of interest. The latter allows Luisa to hit targets that activate environmental features like opening doors or activating rails, or to cut down ice from the ceiling which fall to create platforms to jump across.

I spent a lot of time on the glacier, figuring out puzzles and grinding rails before I ran into a mystical door; this was the actual dungeon. It showed me the difficulty of the place, which Luisa said was on par with her abilities, so I went inside. There were several puzzles here, and sphere-shaped floating islands connected by rails. Every now and then, combat would occur. Most of the puzzles involved hitting switches with the laser blast from different angles, but none were too terribly complex. I ended up dying to a particularly busy combat situation where Luisa was just overwhelmed by minions and a pretty severe central boss with his/her/its own AoE attack.

I’m not sure how I feel about Dungeons of Hinterberg. There was a lack of info provided in it on account of having been dropped into a mid-game experience, but I managed to suss out the mechanics in good order. The tutorials mostly centered around magic and combat, so the other “important” aspects were surfaced by the game itself. As an action combat game, I was pretty lukewarm on it as those kinds of games are not usually my jam, although I played this for about a half hour and would have probably continued playing had I not died to overwhelming forces. I think that is an endorsement, but maybe only for the demo. It’s not my usual type of game, so I don’t know if I would buy it when it launches.

The Alters

I saw another account mention this one with positive tones. Visually, it’s a gorgeous game, but unless you want to relive The Martian where instead of Matt Damon it’s you getting to use your skills to try and survive on an alien planet, it might not be for everyone.

After crashing and finding himself alone, the main character Jan finds his expedition’s base and attempts to discern what went wrong and how to escape the planet that he is told will be consumed by the local star in a few days. There’s some background nonsense involving a corporation that sent Jan and crew to this planet to find some Unobtanium or whatever, but that doesn’t seem to be super important in the initial stages of the demo.

Instead, Jan has to go outside into the irradiated landscape and start foraging for resources. There’s a few ways to do this, some of which involve using stockpiled resources to craft new tools in the base. The base is also a craftable resource, and will give anyone who played Fallout Shelter flashbacks to Tetrising rooms into a geometrically limited space in ways that make the most sense.

I was amazed by the visuals, but was less than wowed by the game-play. I was told to craft an organic harvester, which I did with some metal ore I had found outside, and was then told to go out and find an organic resource node which is evidenced by blue smoke. I found some not far from the base, but to get to it I need a climbing hook…no one mentioned the climbing hook. So I ran back to the base only to find out that I needed a few more organic materials to craft the climbing hook…used to get…more organic materials nevermind I quit this one.

Supposedly later, though, Jan finds a way to clone himself or something in order to get more tasks done? I think that’s the conceit of the game, but I couldn’t stick around long enough to find out.

Just Crow Things

This occupies the same space as Untitled Goose Game and maybe a little bit of Goat Simulator. The main character is — wait for it — a crow with a bandana, who can commune with other animals who are locked in a kind of cold-war with humans. I was warned at the start that this game was best played with a controller, and I believe that, but didn’t do it. As a result, I think things were more difficult than they should have been.

Ultimately this game is all about doing silly crow things like picking up shiny objects and pooping on things. The crow can use items it carries, like the butane lighter I found which I used on a human party happening on an apartment balcony. When the crow poops, if it lands on a person or creature they run around disgusted, and if they step in it, they slip and fall like something out of a vaudeville comedy act.


Man, this game was not what I expected. I thought it would be a role-playing game with some pretty inventive graphical choices, but it turned out to be a farming sim. I got duped! Well, I guess if a semi-realistic medieval setting is your jam, and if you’ve always wanted a farming sim set in the oppressive universe of indentured servitude, then this game will ring your bell. For me, not so much.

Also, this game really hated the fact that I had my flight sticks connected. Any time the tutorials wanted to tell me what key press did what, I got the internally recognized designation for the associated flight stick button, which didn’t help in the least.

First Dwarf

Here’s another one I saw someone else mention in pleasing tones, and to be honest, I’m just a hair’s width away from agreeing.

I got caught unawares — again — with this one. The story goes that you’re playing as a lone dwarf, piloting an airship for some reason (I accidentally skipped the initial exposition trying to take a screenshot), and you crash. Also on board the ship was your sidekick who happens to be a small dragon, and your air-quotes mech suit air-quotes. Being about dwarves, the mech is made of metal and wood, but it swings a mean axe so the first order of business is to get it up and running again, very much like in Lightyear Frontier but with darker overtones.

Then came the curve-ball. I had to collect the parts of the ruined airship and when I had done so, I was told to make my town center. Holy crap, another building game! Except this one is in third person and has a narrative. See, once I had the HQ placed, I had to place a mana harvester on top of a mana node, because we’ve got to keep that high-fantasy, low-tech vibe going. Then I had to create harvesters for wood and stone which needed to be wired to the mana harvester using wired nodes, a mechanic that would become a staple of all buildings thereafter, but before I could do that I was introduced to the fact that I was surrounded by your typical mystically frenzied creatures. Thankfully, the mech suit helped me battle through the first encounter, but after that I was told that night time would get worse, so guess what? Mechanic number three: tower defense.

Everyone’s favorite forgotten genre is getting a facelift in First Dwarf. I had to build a few defensive towers and some walls, all of which were wired to the mana pump, but I wasn’t told where to build them so of course I built them in the wrong places. Still, once night fell the creatures came out and started attacking my machines, the towers helped a bit as I waded in with mech arms swinging to ensure my construction zones stayed standing.

In the morning, I was told that my next task was to build four houses, but I was materially deficient and while the harvesters would generate resources for me they weren’t churning out resources fast enough to allow me to build, so I could either hand-harvest to make up the shortfall or quit. I chose the latter because as well done as First Dwarf is (and it really is, especially the voice work for the characters), I have had my fill of builders during this Next Fest.

Goblin Cleanup

I didn’t expect to like this as much as I did, but Goblin Cleanup puts you in the frilly maid’s dress of the aforementioned goblin and sends you into the Overlord’s dungeon to clean up the mess made by the last ill-fated adventuring party that blundered through. This game follows in the vein (pun intended) of Viscera Cleanup Detail which is also gross, but if you overlook the subject matter (and why would you, considering how silly they both are), can also be kind of cathartic.

There’s a few basic tasks that I had to perform as the dungeon cleaner. The first was to mop up blood which I did by generating “slimes” that I’d spear with my trident so as to use as a mop. Eventually the mop head will get saturated, so it had to be disposed of by feeding it to the freakin mimic in the room (I didn’t get a picture of this one, sorry). Be careful, though: I got too close and my successor had to clean previous me off the dungeon floor (again, not kidding: the mimic will gib you and leave your meat on the dungeon floor). The mimic can be picked up and as you carry it around the room it will eat objects such as used slime mop-heads or adventurer meat, which is a safer bet than trying to throw those items into the mimic’s mouth.

Another task was to re-arrange the furniture. I could levitate misplaced items from around the room, and had to place them where their ghostly outlines indicate. Blue outlines are mandatory and all I had to do was hover the item over the outline to get it to “take”, but the…red? Pink?…outlines are optional.

The third task was to add or remove mana to crystals, and I did this by zapping them with a small critter I carried around in a protective globe. Some crystals like wall sconces are used for light, so I needed to add mana. Other crystals needed their mana draned in order for certain effects to occur, like lowering the vine portcullis that let me in to the next room.

This is a game where I expected to die often under hilarious circumstances, and I was not disappointed. I was eaten by the mimic once, and sliced up by a swinging pendulum blade another time. Beyond the obvious dangers, though, Goblin Cleanup is a kind of chill — if gross and comedically spooky — experience. As an added bonus, it offers multiplayer, so you and your friends can enjoy an after-hours work detail in the underground lair of some faceless Evil Overlord.

1 Comment

  • Nimgimli

    June 17, 2024 - 1:09 pm

    I’ve seen Dungeons of Hinterberg in a few streaming game presentation things…maybe Xbox ones? I kind of want to say it’s going to be a “Day 1 on Game Pass” title but don’t hold me to it. I hadn’t seen much game play but the set up, that some magical dungeons started appearing in some mountain town, which has now become a tourist attraction or something.. anyway it sounded quirky enough that I was interested. Your description of the gameplay makes it sound like less of a 1-note thing than I feared, so I’ll probably check it out when it launches.

    Thanks for all these posts, by the way. Been enjoying reading them!

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