This week brought the PC release of the narrative murder mystery Heavy Rain. With it, the developer also released a demo version. Heavy Rain, which first released in 2010 on the PlayStation 3, has remained exclusive to Sony’s consoles until now. PC players finally have the chance to play Quantic Dream’s narrative game that follows the story of the “Origami Killer.” Next month, Quantic Dreams is also releasing Beyond Two Souls for PC.
While Heavy Rain takes the spotlight this week, we also tested a handful of other PC game demos. Wings of Bluestar is a side-scrolling shmup with a hand-drawn anime art style. Four Kings One War is an experimental chess game with a four-sided board. Last Wood is a resource management game that takes place on rafts floating on the water.
Here is a list of the PC game demos we tested this week, along with links for those who wish to try them too.
Heavy Rain’s demo is short-lived. Right as I was ready to see what happened next, it ended. I suppose that is a good thing. If a game developer reveals too much too early then they risk killing the anticipation. As for the story, the two playable characters had me wondering where this murder-mystery was headed, and I found myself caught up in their investigative efforts.
The entirety of the Heavy Rain demo takes place in a dark, damp city-setting, with a gloomy landscape and a gloomy cast of characters. If nothing else, the story alone sucked me in. For a game that is centered on its plot, that is certainly what I was hoping for. The combat, on the other hand, was where I had problems.
I have a love-hate relationship with quick-time-events, and Heavy Rain is loaded with them. One part of me enjoys the timed button combinations because they offer a way to interact with an otherwise static cutscene. On the other hand, I find that in-game combat segments really suffer from the quick-time-event treatment. What could have simply been an enjoyable cutscene then devolves into a frustrating round of whack-a-mole on your home PC. If I could choose one over the other, I’d rather just watch a cutscene.
In the beginning, the tutorial shows that you have the option to see what the character is thinking. The word “asthma” appears on screen. When you click the prompt, the game has you hold the left mouse button, then swipe down, followed by an upward left curve. Then, you have to hold the left and right mouse button simultaneously while moving the mouse forward and backward across your mouse pad. Mind you, this is all just to shake the inhaler. After that, you hold the left mouse button and swipe up on the mouse pad, then press “E.” All of this was to make the character breathe through his inhaler.
Granted, the aforementioned section was optional, but it was cumbersome nonetheless. For a narrative focused games like this one, I certainly want to know what the character is thinking. That is part of the experience. But having a series of quick-time events for simple tasks like breathing an inhaler makes it hard to actually remain immersed in the story. Luckily, the majority of the quick-time-events were not like this.
Recommendation: If you enjoy a narrative murder mystery and can forgive the nearly ten-year old fighting segments, give this demo a go
Wings of Bluestar
From robotic space drones to heaps of floating debris, Wings of Bluestar has a lot of style. In the demo version of this side-scrolling shoot ‘em up, the player chooses one of two characters. What surprised me is that the demo actually saves your high score. I think this was a wise move for the developer. Building up your high score in the demo version gives the player some incentive to buy the full game.
The demo also offers two game modes. Although the story mode is locked, you can play the arcade mode as well as the two-player mode. Best of all, the demo gives you access to unlockables. Collecting risk points throughout the level lets you spend them to unlock images in the image gallery. For a demo version, this was a nice surprise. I would have expected unlockables to be limited to the main version of the game, but I’m glad it wasn’t, because I found myself replaying the missions just to unlock new images.
The demo offers the ability to use either gamepad or keyboard controls. I tried both, and what I found was that the DualShock 4 settings did not load automatically. I would bet those with an Xbox controller won’t have this issue, but in order to use a gamepad I had to map the controls manually. While this isn’t a major issue, plug and play with a controller is always a nice convenience.
Since the bullet-dodging segments required some twitch reflexes, I found that playing with the keyboard worked perfectly fine.
Recommendation: For ‘shmup fans who are looking for something beneath the radar
Four Kings One War
Four Kings One War takes the concept of four-player-chess and makes it into something of its own. While chess purists will likely take issue with this experiment, the game certainly provides something unusual. Despite the title, this is actually a one or two player game.
Four Kings One War changes some of the basic chess moves. Knights can take two moves per turn. Pawns, on the other hand, can move forward as far as four squares and overtake an enemy pawn by going behind it. Aside from those three rules, all other moves remain the same as normal chess.
For those who like competitive multiplayer, this game has a ranked mode, although it is not available in the demo version. From what the Steam page says, the game is designed as a two-player online game where each player controls two chess boards. A single-player mode is also an option.
The game supports VR, and with the nicely detailed background graphics, I could see how the VR mode would appeal to some players.
Recommendation: Not for chess purists, yet it might appeal to those who like unusual games
Somewhere in the spirit of real time strategy there is a unique sub-genre. With indie titles like Don’t Starve Together, resource management games have carved their own path within the RTS sphere. Last Wood is a game that bears some similarities to the aforementioned title. The unique thing about it? It all takes place on floating rafts.
Specialized “soil” rafts allow you to grow trees, and the wood from those trees can be used to build a rain-catcher and yet more rafts. From there, you will continue to build up your resources until your raft has turned into a small floating home. Along with that, you must grow trees that allow your characters to have food, so fending off hunger is one among many tasks that you must keep in mind.
Immediately it was clear that Last Wood is in its early development stages. Originally published on itch.io, the game is now in Early Access on Steam with plans for continued development.
Recommendation: Although Last Wood is early in its development, this game is one to keep an eye on
Heavy Rain is yet another timed Epic exclusive
Quantic Dreams has joined the ranks of numerous game developers and publishers who are selling their games exclusively on the Epic Games Store. Like other Epic exclusives, the deal will expire in a year. Heavy Rain will then be available on other PC storefronts. Beyond Two Souls and Detroit: Become Human are both in the pipeline, and they will have their PC debut in the coming months. Just like Heavy Rain, they will be sold as timed exclusives on Epic’s storefront.
While it’s still early in the life for the Epic Game Store, there has been mixture of praise and backlash toward how Epic has handled game exclusivity. Although the weekly free game offerings have been something to keep an eye on, there are still loads of consumer-friendly benefits to using Steam over Epic, most notably with Steam reviews and community forums. While Epic is touting itself as a developer-friendly company, there’s no guarantee that every player is going to jive with that mentality. Only time will tell if the Fortnite cash cow is enough to push the Epic Games Store where the company wishes for it to be.
If you’d like to check out last week’s installment of this feature serires, we looked at the demos for Flux Caves, Cris Tales, Laws of Civilization, and Aurora: The Lost Medallion. If you are a game developer or publisher and would like to have your demo discussed in our series, you can email us at editor (at) pcinvasion.com