Monday, June 5, 2023

The Sundew Demo Offers Cyberpunk And Familiarity

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Hey there y’all! As we talked about a bit ago, the most recent Steam Next Fest offered up quite the slew of demos for new and upcoming Indie games. After playing a ton of them, I’m going to be dedicating the next month and change to writing about them. And so, here I am with the second demo in that series: The Sundew.

The Sundew is a point and click cyberpunk adventure game, developed and published by 2054 Games. Set in, appropriately enough, 2054, you play as Anna Isobe, a cyborg beat cop in a world where cyborgs are now not only obsolete, but taboo. Through trials and hardship you must navigate your way through the dystopia Anna lives in, as she soon finds the fate of the world lying in her hands.

Well, that’s the plot of the game, anyway. The plot of the demo is about getting Anna ready for work.

The Sundew Demo Location
This screen is the only location in the demo

Unlike The Big Con’s demo, which was a few sections of the game with some extra stuff thrown in to help drive home that you were playing the demo, The Sundew’s demo is, for all intents and purposes, just the first location of the game. And there’s no effort in it to explain or cover the overarching plot of the game either. The eventual grand scope and scale of the game, with its globe trotting, lore of a world recently devastated by war, and a plot that puts Anna as the one with the key to humanity’s future…none of that is present in this demo.

And that’s not necessarily a bad thing. The demo does a good job of introducing you to Anna, her situation and personality, and a few of the other characters in the game. It also introduces you to the admittedly somewhat disconcerting way you make calls

The Sundew Call

as well as the main form of gameplay, inventory object puzzles.

The Sundew Inventory

As you might have guessed, The Sundew functions largely as a tribute to and successor to old school point and click adventure games. Most particularly it reminded me of a rather streamlined and more grounded LucasArts game. Your job in the demo is pretty simple. Get Anna some medicine for her hangover, talk to some people from work, and find the tools you need to repair the beacon on her balcony so she can call a cab. There’s also some hidden objects you can find and interact with that don’t advance the plot directly but that do give a hint into the larger story, and get some more details and reactions from Anna.

Overall, the game is quite well crafted. The visuals are a rather specific form of pixel art, that does well in detailing large items and the background items, while people are more loosely detailed. Not ugly or bad, mind you, but they don’t have faces so much as impressions of faces. It’s a good trick to get around the difficulties of facial animation on a lower budget, and a good throwback besides. Old Sierra games were fond of this as well, and it can be good if done correctly. And The Sundew seems to be doing it correctly, at least going off of this demo.

The soundscape was likewise quite good, and the puzzles were all well crafted. There was some searching that had to be done, but no pixel by pixel hunting like in some of the worse examples of the genre. And no moon logic either. Everything I used made sense in how I had to use it. And if I’d found an object before I’d found the puzzle it related to, the utility was clear enough that I was able to figure out what I needed to do rather quickly.

All in all, the demo for The Sundew was a fun, interesting snapshot into the game as a whole, with a promising character and art style, good puzzles, and the potential for an interesting plot. It was good enough for me to put it on my wishlist and to want to keep an eye on it at least. Sadly, as with The Big Con, the demo is no longer available though you can find playthroughs online. Definitely worth your time.

Images Courtesy of 2054 Games

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  • Molly

    Gay, she/her. An unabashed Disney fangirl, who may or may not have an excessive love of shipping, comics, and RPGs. She's not saying. And anything you've heard about attempts to start a cult centered around Sofia Boutella is...probably true.

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