The Steam Game Festival is underway at the time of writing. This is an event where developers show off their upcoming games by releasing exclusive time-limited demos — and there are some real belters out there this year.
Over on Rice Digital, I picked out five of my favourite demos from this year’s Festival that are well worth your time. I kind of want to talk more about all of them, but I’ll take them one at a time — starting with probably the one I found the most striking.
Tasomachi: Behind the Twilight, also known as Tasogare ni nemuru machi (A City Sleeping in Twilight), is a 3D platformer with a gorgeous soft-edged visual style and some intriguing exploration-based gameplay. And I love what I’ve seen so far.
In Tasomachi, you take on the role of a girl named Yukumo, who appears to be someone who enjoys travelling around the world on her airship. As the demo opens, disaster strikes and her airship finds itself drifting towards the ground; from here, it’s up to you to help Yukumo explore her environment and unravel a mystery.
The first part of the demo is a self-contained “dungeon”-like area, in which you’re tasked with lighting four lamps in order to progress. To light each lamp, you’ll need to pass into a separate room and complete a platforming challenge. These effectively act as tutorials, since each room focuses on a particular type of obstacle you’ll need to learn to deal with — there’s jump pads, collapsing floors, fragile floors you’ll need to break through and that platforming game mainstay, moving platforms.
Tasomachi’s controls are tight and responsive, and this initial, rather abstract sequence demonstrates this nicely. You’ll always feel in complete control of Yukumo, and the clear visuals — along with helpful cues such as the use of light and shadow — mean you’ll never be in any doubt as to where to go next.
Tasomachi follows the structure of the “collectathon” platformer, seemingly taking particular influence from Super Mario Odyssey. You can find coins hidden around the environment — often inside other objects rather than lying around in the open as in Mario games — and major accomplishments are generally accompanied by you receiving a “Source of the Earth” lantern.
It’s these latter items where the game most resembles Super Mario Odyssey, particularly once you get out of the initial “dungeon” area. The second part of the demo unfolds in a more open city map, and it sounds as if this may be where the majority of the final game will unfold.
The city map is built to be explored; there are steps and platforms and jump pads and other gimmicks all over the place that allow you to get up onto the rooftops and climb towers to find more Source of the Earth; meanwhile, down at ground level, the city streets are mysteriously abandoned by all except some strange cat-like creatures, many of whom have quests for you to accomplish.
The actual objectives you’ll be carrying out around the city are fairly simple — one tasks you with removing a bunch of posters from a building, for example, while another requests that you dispose of the garbage bags that have been dumped in a particular area — but the simple joy of getting around in Tasomachi’s world means that it doesn’t really need to be any more complicated than that.
In fact, a significant number of the Source of the Earth lanterns in the cityscape are simply placed as a reward for successfully finding your way to an interesting or unusual location. In this sense, they’re very similar to Super Mario Odyssey’s moons; while Super Mario Odyssey rewarded you for completing particular objectives, it also made sure to always reward you for curiosity and asking that all-important question: “I wonder if I can…?”
It remains to be seen exactly what we can expect from Tasomachi’s final form. Best guess at the moment, based on the game’s Steam store page description and the experience of the demo, is that you’ll go back and forth between the city and “dungeons”, collecting Source of the Earth lanterns along the way and perhaps unlocking some new abilities that will help with traversal. The options menu provides button mappings for “skills” that are never used, for example, so it will be intriguing to see exactly what form those take.
From what we’ve seen so far, it’s reasonable to assume that the final game is probably going to be mostly non-violent; the atmosphere is about feeling that haunting sense of loneliness you get when entering somewhere that should be bustling with life, but which, for one reason or another, is not. Instead, the challenge comes from that aforementioned traversal: in the cityscape, you’ll need to determine where you might need to go in order to find more lanterns, while in the dungeons you’ll encounter more dangerous situations with proper platform game bottomless pits and the like.
So far it’s fair to say that Tasomachi is looking very promising so far — and with the release date supposedly being spring of 2021, it seems to be well along in development. The demo certainly looks and plays very well already, so hopefully the full game will have enough in the way of interest and variety to hold players’ interest in the long term.
Tasomachi is presently only planned for release on PC. The developer has expressed an interest in doing PlayStation and/or Switch versions of the game — and the fact the game runs on the Unreal engine should make porting it relatively straightforward — but nothing has been confirmed one way or the other as yet. They have partnered with Playism to publish the game, however, so it’s not beyond the realm of possibility that we’ll see a console version eventually. (And hopefully with that, a lovely physical release!)
For now, though, you can enjoy the Tasomachi demo for yourself right here — and I recommend you do!
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