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The Top 3 Hidden Gems Of February's Steam Next Fest

Official Steam Next Fest February 2023 Image

Earlier this week we looked at God of Rock, a rhythm-fighting game hybrid that made such a lasting impression that it deserved its own coverage. As we approach the twilight of February's Steam Next Fest, there are hundreds, if not thousands of titles that all deserve their time in the spotlight. While it's physically impossible for me to try every single game, there are those which caught my eye. These three are some of many which I felt were hidden gems that everyone should try as well as wishlist. Here are my personal top 3 hidden gems that players may have missed during this week's Steam Next Fest.

Formula Retro Racing - World Tour

Developer: Repixel8
Publisher: CGA Studio

In 2020, I looked at an arcade racer titled Hotshot Racing, which impressed me with its early 90s retro-style graphics as well as its breathtaking sense of speed. One complaint I’ve had with the game was that the handling felt too loose as if my car was gliding on ice. After a while, I grew accustomed to it, but I always wondered what if there was another game similar to this yet it gave me the option to decide if I want to drift or grip. Formula Retro Racing - World Tour not only succeeds in making this a possibility, but it also has one of the less stressful drift mechanics I’ve played from an indie racer.

The presentation is a throwback to early arcade racers, complete with an enthusiastic announcer, a time limit to select a course, as well as your car type and transmission selection. There are two groups of cars, Grip, and Drift, which change the way the game is meant to be played. Grip cars are racing-bred cars, including open-wheel cars and soapbox derby cars. These cars require the player to follow racing lines and avoid the aggressive grid that will do everything in its power to ruin your day. Fortunately, you can fight back and leave them in a smoldering crater like Burnout

Of course, who doesn't know the tunnel addition to this year's Monza Circuit?

The Drift cars are homologation-style cars, based on classic and modern real-life brands. These cars slide, but I found it easy to feather the analog stick as well as the accelerator to maintain my line. As per its namesake, the various tracks in the game are located around the world, with some locations based on actual courses in layout only. The Indiana Oval is obviously based on the Indy 500 but there are other subtle courses, like the Monza layout for Rome. 

If there’s one thing that I hope makes it to the main game is the ability to select wider angles for the camera. The car felt too close to the camera even during its “Far Camera” and although it’s nowhere near enough to detract from the actual gameplay, one more camera option to push it back a little bit further would be just about perfect. Overall, Formula Retro Racing - World Tour is definitely a game to check out before its launch on March 31, 2022.

Octane Remix

Developer: Team Velocita
Publisher: Team Velocita

“Endless runner roguelite” has a nice ring to it and it’s something I would first experience when I tried out the Infinity Girl demo during last year’s Steam Racing Fest. Octane Remix certainly lives up to its name, with enough “octane” action to explode from sensory overload. Octane Remix uses a familiar synthwave aesthetic, but with an ever-spiraling downhill path that lies before the player. It’s essentially like the movie Death Race, with hazards abound that are meant to kill you or bar your path. 

What’s cool about Octane Remix is that occasionally you’ll approach other drivers with which you can physically engage. Usually, in games like these, the drivers show up as “ghosts,” but you can make contact with them and it adds to the overall obstacle course your driver is placed in. There are three drivers, each with unique qualities in the cars they drive. While the entire map isn’t explorable in the demo, there’s enough replayability to try and reach a little bit further than the last time. Octane Remix doesn’t have a release date as of yet, but it’s definitely a title to look out for in the near future.

Not sure if these are AI or actual drivers, but they sure push me around like human drivers.

Protodroid DeLTA

Developer: Adam Kareem
Publisher: Humble Bundle

For almost forty years, very few games have managed to capture a gamer’s heart like the Mega Man series. An android boy on a mission to save the world from rogue androids like himself, created by a rival doctor would become a staple in video game history. As is the case with many successful franchises, several spinoffs spawned from the Blue Bomber as a result, with Mega Man X being one of the more serious anime-inspired ones. While the first six games are lauded as some of the best 2D sidescrolling titles ever made, it is the final two games in the series where things get a bit muddled.

Mega Man X7 hardly see as much praise as its other siblings, largely due to how genre-bending it was in comparison. It was the first Mega Man X title to be fully rendered in 3D and have 3D gameplay, a rarity in the franchise as a whole. The last time this was done was with the Mega Man Legends series and that’s a separate timeline altogether. While the game was infamous to the point where Mega Man X8 reverted to its traditional 2D gameplay, X7 has been seen fondly over the years largely due to the game being released as part of the X collection.

I like her already.

Protodroid DeLTA sees a lot of its inspiration from X7, from the unique semi-top down camera perspective to the alternate controls separate from its 2D counterparts. Instead of Reploids, however, we have Protodroids! To bring the reference home, there’s an early reference to Mega Man X7 where the titular character, DeLTA, mentions Axl, one of X7’s playable characters. There is also dialogue about how hidden powerups were obtained through the most obtuse methods. A large part of me is happy that 3D action platformers have improved in the past twenty years.

The demo sees the player go through the first level of the game, which features a training simulator and the real thing shortly after. What I enjoyed the most about the demo is that Protodroid DeLTA has the tools to be a “speedrunning” game while also allowing players to go at their leisure. There are many moving platforms that can be skipped altogether with skillful platforming and it feels satisfying when pulled off. You can avoid waves of enemies, collect all the pieces necessary to move on, and not fire a single shot unless absolutely necessary. Its diverse cast of characters is always welcome, with the demo ending on a high note with the introduction of AnnDROID.

This platform was meant to be ridden but these platforms are too good to pass up

While a release date is way away from now, Protodroid DeLTA is easily a must-play. If there is no other game to try during the Steam Next Fest, I would pick this one as the most fun I’ve had of the three. Regardless, all three games were different enough from each other that I had to feature them as potential indie games to look out for. There are a few more that I have reserved for a follow-up post tomorrow, so stay tuned for more Steam Next Fest coverage!

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