Steam Next Fest 2024 is here! We'll be covering a handful of demos for games big and small that we think you should be watching closely. As with every Steam Next Fest, we encourage you to wishlist the games we cover and try some out for yourself from February 5 - 12.
As a self-described open world gremlin, even I can acknowledge that the format has ballooned out of control in recent years. They've got 100-hour campaigns, each with their multiple 20-hour minigames or side stories hidden within, and a simulated world with so many moving parts that it manages to induce nearly as much anxiety as stepping out in the real world does.
I fell in love with the genre when I felt like the one intelligent god of chaos in a realm made for me to play inside. When I could roll a tank down the streets of New York City for hours or kick Bart Simpson down the road as other Springfield citizens wandered by and barked out some silly reference as we crossed paths.
There's something special about a smaller but denser open world that really lets you find that cozy familiarity that spaces like these rarely afford. A Short Hike. Yakuza, in its own way. The earliest PS2 open worlds of GTA 3 and licensed games like Simpsons Hit & Run.
And now? Now there's Tiny Terry's Turbo Trip.
Just the Facts
Publisher: Super Rare Originals
Release Date: TBA
Demo accessed via Steam Next Fest 2024.
Tiny Terry's Turbo Trip is a silly, goofy, wacky open world game from snekflat, the developer behind the criminally underplayed Wuppo, whose bio reads: "likes making games with bizarre worlds and busy characters." And if that doesn't immediately set the tone for what Tiny Terry's Turbo Trip is, I don't know what else can be said.
As part of Steam Next Fest, Tiny Terry's Turbo Trip's demo gives you a quick glimpse into the world of Sprankelwater, a topsy-turvy town for Tiny Terry to turbo through 'til time terminates.
Okay. I'm sorry. I couldn't help myself.
You're given near full access to what I imagine is most of the game's entire map, only held back by what buildings you're able to enter and what activities you have access to. The demo lets you know that after collecting 150 pieces of turbo junk, the demo will end. (And it ends the second you pick up that 150th piece, I tell ya). Beyond that, you're free to explore and goof around to your heart's content.
Tiny Terry is a simple guy with a simple goal. He wants a car and he wants to go to space in it. Whatever he needs to do to accomplish that goal, he'll do. No insurance? No problem. No intention of ever actually working? Who cares? Going to space probably means becoming famous and that's all that Terry wants. So after meeting with a taxi company who promises him a "car that looks like a shoe" and "no pay," Terry's let loose on the world.
Tiny Terry's world, writing, and aesthetic reminds me of something Keita Takahashi (Katamari Damacy, We Love Katamari) would make. Odd things are constantly happening, the construction of the town is purposefully convoluted, and the driven matter-of-factness of Terry makes him, weirdly, the normal guy in a town of weirdos. It's absurd but consistent. Random but charming. Goofy but wholesome.
Watching Terry talk to the mayor about how the town's obsession with car crashes necessitated the building of a "Sky Tower" with roads built into either side of it, only to then watch as the mayor inflates and floats away? Seeing Terry seated next to the only person in a giant waiting room, a man named Grony, who then gives Terry his number (it's just 1) and proceeds to guide Terry through his quest to become famous from there? Meeting a criminal in a back alley who wants to do crime but personally hates violence and threats of violence? snekflat certainly lives up to the bizarre label.
And just like Takahashi's work, the absurdity leaks into the gameplay as well. Tiny Terry is an open world game with driving as its main mechanic. You'll hop into the shoe-like taxi and wander the city with the ultimate goal of upgrading it with enough turbo junk that you'll eventually be able to shoot yourself into space. With a premise like that, you shouldn't be too surprised to hear that driving this car is a bit wobbly — in a way that feels like they are actively encouraging you to crash at all times. I expect some kind of taxi minigame or races to end up in, but outside of that... it's hard to say exactly what else will be waiting for you in the full game.
In my short hour with the demo, I did a strange yoga rhythm game, dug up hidden treasures all over the city, and platformed across rooftops to pick up the turbo junk littered about the map.
The citizens of Sprankelwater are there to bear witness to your Terry-inflicted chaos. Send them soaring into the sky as plow your tiny taxi into them, see no disruption on the roads as Terry totals every car in his way, or just decide to become a passenger in any car you choose at any time. There's a silly freedom to Tiny Terry's open world that makes it a delight to wander through. You'll find tools littered about that unlock new interactions in the world. Random buildings to enter that unlock new quests and cosmetics to purchase (I really wanted to buy some hats, but the demo doesn't allow it). By pulling the complexity lever back, snekflat ends up with an open world that you actually adore unraveling.
The demo purposefully limits the buildings you're able to enter, and I sincerely hope Sprankelwater is a dense wonderland of buildings to explore at full release. Whenever you're inside a building, the game switches over to fixed camera angles straight out of Resident Evil, pushing another strange style choice to enhance Terry's oddities and generally ratchet up the appeal to me specifically even higher. And that's just the tip of the iceberg.
Going back to snekflat's "bizarre worlds and busy characters," each of Sprankelwater's inhabitants are clearly designed to be a bit askew. They're wonky. Their eyes look like they're falling off of their faces and the oblong shapes that make up their bodies are varied amidst the populace. And everyone embodies busyness by having their bottom halves constantly shimmer and shake. Top it all off with Thomas de Waard's soundtrack, which I'd best describe as "plonky Animal Crossing-core," and you've got all the makings of a grand old time.
Tiny Terry's Turbo Trip is quite the trip indeed. One I can't wait to shake off all my worries to — and embrace chaos with — when it releases later this year. If Terry seems like your kind of lad, consider wishlisting it and trying the demo before the end of Steam Next Fest!
Read more February 2024 Steam Next Fest demo impressions.