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  • Writer's pictureNate & Glory

SGF 2024 x Steam Next Fest: Breaking our minds with these puzzling Steam Next Fest demos

Follow along with our ongoing coverage of the many free demos that hit Steam for Summer Game Fest and Steam Next Fest in June.


We must be masochists, because puzzle games are some of our favorites around these parts, despite their ability to squish all the energy out of our tiny brains and make us scream at the solution that seems to be hiding just out of reach. Where others might drop the controller and walk away, we dream of the moments that see us stumped by a puzzle for hours on end and the sweet relief that comes when everything clicks into place.


With the help of VGG guest writer Glory, we're showcasing four of our favorite puzzle games from this summer's Steam Next Fest and asking you to consider breaking your brains with us. It's worth it, I swear.


A collage of key arts for the games Blue Prince, Arranger, Things Too Ugly, and Mythmatch. Detailed descriptions for each individual art can be found below.

The key art for Blue Prince. An open doorway in the middle of a blue wall. A row of rooms with their doors open can be seen ahead with small items identifying them. A nursery, a courtyard, and a third room can be seen as a young boy enters it. Next to the first doorway, a vase with two canes sitting in it can be seen.

Developer: Dogubomb

Platform(s): PC

Release Date: TBA


When we first saw Blue Prince at this year's PC Gaming Show, we thought it was a roguelike escape room game, where you go through room after room solving randomized puzzles as you go, and simply see how far you can make it. What we got our hands on in the debut demo of Dogubomb's debut release was somehow exactly what we thought and nothing we could have expected all at once. It's an enigma.


You traverse a manor, room by room, building the mansion as you go. You draft room tiles like a board game, similar to something like Betrayal at House on the Hill, for those familiar, and piece together a path toward a specific room on the manor's blueprints. Some rooms provide you with items, some provide extra steps — a resource that depletes every time you enter a room and ends your run if it hits zero — and some provide small portions of puzzles that span multiple rooms. It's less about solving tiny escape rooms and more about unraveling a giant mystery, slowly learning how the manor works and uncovering new room tiles through various runs.


We're fascinated by its potential and are certain that fans of board games and escape rooms will be obsessed whenever it launches.


A screenshot from Blue Prince. A grey background of a house's wall with a door and vases resting on inlaid shelves. On top of it there's text that says "Select a room to draft" with three tiles for bedroom, storeroom, and hallway.

Blue Prince has no announced release date or window at this point, but you can guarantee we'll be there to solve the manor's mystery whenever it does. In the meantime, you can bet we've wishlisted it and we'll be playing the demo again and again.


The key art for Arranger: A Role-Puzzling Adventure. In a super dense environment packed with characters and objects walks an adolescent girl with a green jacket, red untied shoes, a yellow scarf and headband, and chaotic hair that pokes up. She looks calmly determined despite the nearby obstacles, including blue and pink monsters with clawed hands and empty eyes, half-buried and poking out from the earth.

Developer: Furniture and Mattress Inc

Platform(s): PC, PS5, Switch

Release Date: July 25, 2024


Arranger describes itself as a “role-puzzling” adventure, which had me hooked immediately. You play as Jemma, a girl who’s finally old enough to wander outside the walls of the Hold where she was left as an infant to find out more about where she actually comes from. This game gives me an “I will cry tears of joy at the end of this game and be happy about it” vibe and, truly, I would expect nothing less from something this gorgeous and cleverly written. Especially when you consider the team’s roots: the artist behind Braid’s stunning art style, a writer who worked on Celeste and Carto, and a programmer and composer who worked on the beautifully abstract ETHEREAL.


The mechanic of this game is fascinating and so incredibly clever. Either horizontally or vertically, you slide the ground underneath yourself to move you and the objects around you. No worrying about what items are in your inventory — you can see them on the ground around you and shuffle them wherever you need them to go. In the demo, this method of movement played into things like accidentally knocking someone’s ladder over, or ringing bells to unlock sound locks, alongside finding swords and moving them into position to stab monsters blocking your way. 


And what’s a story of self-discovery without absolutely stunningly gorgeous background art? I love the sort of cartoony 2D style of the characters and the world on the map. But layered with that are more in-depth, sketchy backgrounds that then also become greater scenic pieces that feel like gorgeous posters, filling the background with life as you finally reach the outside world. 


Even for a game where many of the objects you interact with are literally affixed to squares on a grid, Arranger is full of life. From your movement having a direct impact on others in the environment to the shifting colors of the static monsters to leaves blowing on the wind as you puzzle out how to navigate around a barrier, everything feels lively and relevant, even for elements that don’t play into the puzzle yet.


A screenshot from Arranger. The protagonist Jemma, a girl in a big green jacket, yellow scarf and headband, and red shoes, walks along a tile-based maze by moving the row of the grid she's standing on, which has a stone foot on it a few spaces away. There are a few other stone feet as well as a few immovable stone barriers.

You won’t have to work too hard to shuffle the ground underneath you to get closer to Arranger’s release date, as this puzzler is set to hit consoles and PC on July 25! Give it a wishlist on Steam.


The Metal Slug Tactics key art. In a battleground in the middle of war, two groups of soldiers wait on either side of a desert location. A blonde soldier with a red vest yells into a walkie-talkie as he points forward. A red-haired soldier with glasses wields a pistol and sneaks underneath. A brown-haired tan vest wearing soldier pokes out of the top of a tank. And another blonde soldier with a shotgun runs at the opposition. On the other side, a large tank and various generic soldiers fire back.

Developer: Professor Space Games

Platform(s): PC

Release Date: 2024


Things Too Ugly breaks your brain in a few different ways, but primarily through one I'm sure is relatable to most of us: paperwork. In this mystery game that sees you starting a new job as Tereboro Inc.'s latest risk assessment and management data processor, you'll be shuffling through a variety of documents and tracking the truth behind an event the company had purposefully left buried.


You'll discover this truth using a handful of special tools: a radio that outputs codes and information, a GPS tracker, and an encoder device that translates obtuse symbols back into normal lettering. Processing a mass of information, trying to decipher what's pertinent to your investigation and when to use these seemingly purposefully complex devices might sound like a nightmare for most, but it's a dream for this kid who once dreamed of being a legit private eye. Wrap that all up in a first-person office simulator mixed with complex interface-driven gameplay and you've got me sold.


Half of what makes a game like Things Too Ugly sing is the simple fact that it does very little to hold your hand. You're handed a pile of papers and meant to figure it all out for yourself. Even the simple process of logging into your work terminal ends up being a complicated affair. Fans of games like Her Story and Telling Lies will enjoy its investigative style and we're ready to dive into paperwork when it launches later this year.


An in-game screenshot of Things Too Ugly. You have a first-person view of an older office desk, with a wood-paneled wall in the background. There's a stack of file folders on the desk, an aged computer with an "incident file" displayed on the screen, and a folder open in front of you with documents and photos.

According to my paperwork, Things Too Ugly launches this year on PC, and according to Steam's paperwork, giving them a wishlist if you're interested goes a long way.


The key art for the game Mythmatch. A goddess with hunter's armor and reddish brown hair, Artemis, jumps in an active pose and smiles; she has a quiver of arrows and a bow carried on her back. Next to her is a snake turning into a lion, in a phase where the snake looks like the lion's tail. Both animal's faces look shocked by the transformation.

Developer: Team Artichoke

Platform(s): PC

Release Date: 2024


Greek mythology is having a grand old time in gaming at the moment, and I personally am here. For. It. In this clever match-3 game, you play as Artemis, a competent goddess who is being overlooked REPEATEDLY while your lazy twin brother Apollo is handed the role of sun god before being invited by Hermes to go party with nymphs.


Rightfully annoyed and infuriated — but still full of purpose to crack open the Olympians’ boys club and become the goddess of the hunt — you set out to gather the worship of mortals by helping them and other deities with their various tasks. It may be repairing a greenhouse for a less-loved member of a community, entertaining the blacksmith’s baby while she makes glass for said greenhouse, or repairing a chariot for the former goddess of the moon, whose role Hermes is trying to shuffle off to you. (Sorry for kicking you out Selene. Blame Hermes. Please let me pet Agamoomnon, though).


Once back on Olympus, you can use the worship you’ve collected to improve your matching abilities, and hone your skills in Demeter’s garden. The match-3 gameplay is simple, asking you to match duplicate objects which then turn into something new — three grasses become a goat, then three goats become a snake, then three snakes become a lion, and so on. Match your way up to an item type needed to make someone happy or fulfill some quest, like the pieces of Selene’s smashed chariot mentioned above. You do the matching both in small grid-based maps and on a Zelda-like overworld, which is intriguing for the ways it breaks out of the form of the usual match-3.


I love the variety of gorgeous character designs provided and the entertaining writing. The characters don’t feel steeped in metaphors or like they’re fighting against the narrative. I can’t wait to help out the people in the mortal realm, not just because I want to be able to level up my skill tree further, but because it always feels nice to help others out, even if it is just in a video game. 


An in-game screenshot from the game Mythmatch. In Demeter's garden, Artemis shoots out what looks like a curling whip to grab a satyr. Nearby on the match-3 grid there are several other pieces waiting to be matched, including mounds of dirt, goats, other satyrs, and lions.

Mythmatch is coming to PC sometime in the near future, so match your way over to their store page to wishlist it and keep up with development until then.


What brand of puzzling do you like to break your brain with? What unique twist on the genre captivates you most? Let us know with a comment. If you're looking for something else, we've got Steam Next Fest preview coverage on tap for a ton of different genres and game types.

 

Glory (she/her) is a writer, streamer, podcaster, and all-around nerd who streams cozy puzzlers, farming sims and narrative adventures as Mercutiglo on Twitch, and you'll also find her solving the occasional puzzle on To The Point and Click with Infinity Break. When not live, you can find her live-tweeting whatever anime she's watching or celebrating/lamenting her pulls in Genshin Impact on her Twitter.

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