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  • Writer's pictureNate Hermanson

SGF 2024 x Steam Next Fest Mini-Preview: Uncle Chop's Rocket Shop makes a nine-to-five feel fun

Updated: Jun 24

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

Are you a self-starter? Do you thrive in positions with little supervision? Do you know how to regulate the Tomfoolery Module on a starship and are you comfortable with removing the corpse of your predecessor from the premises if necessary? Well, boy howdy, is there a perfect job opportunity for you at Uncle Chop's Rocket Shop.

This starship mechanic sim blends puzzle mechanics with some light management systems in interesting ways. There's a satisfying tactility to its moment-to-moment gameplay that makes everything feel infinitely more engaging.

After playing its demo, the verdict's in: grease up those paws and hand me that wrench; we've got work to do, kid.

The Uncle Chop's Rocket Shop key art. A fox-headed humanoid figure with a farmer's tan sits atop a wrecked out spaceship, staring out over a desert-like landscape. A giant pig-face embedded into an asteroid sits on the right side of the game's logo and title.

Just the Facts

Developer: Beard Envy

Publisher: Kasedo Games

Platform(s): PC, PS4/5, Xbox Series, Nintendo Switch

Release Date: November 2024

Demo accessed via Steam Next Fest.

Uncle Chop's Rocket Shop comes to us from Beard Envy Games, a development trio based out of the UK that says they "walk this world guided by The Great Emanating Beard, submitting to its every will" and are the kinds of folks who feature reviews for each team member's beard on their website.

Read: They're goofy. And that goofiness bleeds into what makes Uncle Chop's Rocket Shop so intriguing.

In Uncle Chop's, you inhabit the fox-headed mechanic body of Wilbur, a newcomer to this particular space station who is simply striving to make R.E.N.T. every week and keep the corporation that employs him happy at the same time. His job is to fix the wonky modules on every ship that stops in as quickly as possible, to keep the various alien races from becoming too impatient.

From the minute he lands at his new job, Uncle Chop's showcases its silly Adult Swim-adjacent humor brilliantly. Whether it's the matter-of-fact way the greasy café owner Droose asks you to clean up the dead body in your basement or the way you send said corpse off into space in a shuttle, after tearing a book out of his literal death grip... Uncle Chop's wastes no time selling you on its impish tone.

And then you watch Wilbur get his head shot off. You visit some demon in Limbo who asks you to do his bidding. A shadowy being visits you at night, asking if you remember the fun times you had together.

Uncle Chop's reveals a burgeoning darkness hidden underneath the grease and grime of the mechanic lifestyle that the demo only hints at, and I'm so intrigued by where its storyline could be headed. The more you spend time on this space station, the more its weird freakos reveal themselves to you. And in my multiple runs through the demo (I never quite succeeded to survive R.E.N.T. day), I found something new to uncover about its plot.

An in-game screenshot of Uncle Chop's Rocket Shop. A fox-headed humanoid figure stands in front of a burning wreck of a spaceship. Out of the cockpit, the dead pilot is slumped over and out. A full space station's worth of buildings can be seen off in the distance.

On the gameplay side, Wilbur's ship-fixin' shenanigans are some of the most compelling things I've played all Steam Next Fest long.

Every machine, every tool, every ship module is its own special little puzzle, with a ton of fiddly bits that you need to poke and prod in just the right way to diagnose its issues and properly fix it. To guide you along the way, you're given a strange book that collects all the instructions for the myriad modules you'll run into at your job. Keeping this nearby and referring to it regularly is key to finding success as a space mechanic. You genuinely feel yourself getting better at this job the more you work, and it's a fun little progression tracker.

It plays a lot like a single-player Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes, where instead of needing a secondary person to talk you through every single module on a bomb, it's up to you to both read through your instruction guide and execute on those instructions against a ticking clock. With all those things to juggle and a generally higher level of complexity present in each module, it becomes surprisingly tricky to keep up.

Then you've got the roguelike elements that change up what's broken, how broken it is, and what steps you need to take to fix these machines. You can purchase some permanent upgrades to Wilbur's mechanic abilities that make each run that much easier — but expect to miss your R.E.N.T. payments regularly and have to redo these work periods again and again before things finally click.

What makes this game so fun to me is the way it scratches that furniture-building itch. That part of my brain that sings when I'm given the opportunity to follow a step-by-step guide to fiddle with little bits of gear to make something greater come together in front of me. And with that aforementioned tactile quality of Uncle Chop's game design, you find yourself getting your hands dirty, taking things apart, making it better, and putting it back together. It feels like each module's puzzles were built to be as satisfying as possible to poke at.

An in-game screenshot of Uncle Chop's Rocket Shop. It depicts the game's complex manual that details the information needed to repair its various ship modules. On the left, a complex illustration with labels identifying the oil module's various pieces for the reader. On the right, there are details about what canisters are compatible and how to release the heat from the heat sink. That same module is hidden behind the manual waiting to be fixed.

Uncle Chop's was a surprise for me this Steam Next Fest. I'd been following it from afar and enjoyed some of the buzzwords surrounding its development (roguelike, simulation, management) but it was only after going hands-on with it that I was fully sold on its vision. It's funny, its fiddly bits are fun to tinker with, and I can't wait to see how its randomized elements make Wilbur's life as chaotic as possible in the full release.

Uncle Chop's Rocket Shop releases in November 2024 for basically every platform out there, so if you want to check it out right now, then go try its demo and wishlist it for its eventual release later this year!

An in-game screenshot of Uncle Chop's Rocket Shop. In a bright red void-like space, a fox-headed humanoid figure stares up at a strange spider-like demon with a skeletal head. The spider demon wields a scythe and says: "Time to start over. Make me proud. Kiss."


Want more games to look forward to? Here are more Steam Next Fest demos we've covered that you can get to playing soon — these all have launch dates in 2024!


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