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Xbox’s Winter Game Fest Ends Next Week, Don’t Miss These Demos

The Game Awards has come and gone. Josef Fares referenced his infamous Oscars line while accepting It Takes Two’s Game of the Year award, Halo The Series got a first-look trailer, and Monolith is developing a new Wonder Woman game. But the festivities aren’t over just yet; Xbox is holding a demo event inspired by the awards that offers limited-time, hands-on looks at anticipated games. There are over 35 titles to check out, but not for long. The free celebration ends next week on December 21, leaving players a short window to comb through every experience. However, if you don’t have the time to sample them all, here are the demos you do not want to miss.

Loot River

Taking genre-blending to a whole new level, Loot River plays like a cross between Bloodborne and Tetris. This puzzle-meets-atmospheric-roguelike game first popped up in March of last year, and its concept grabbed our attention. Fortunately, this demo proves to be just as slick as we hoped. The action takes place on a series of waterways where you move forward and engage with enemies by shifting platforms around the map. Death will be a constant companion, but it’s not the end. In the demo, dying sends your character back to a hub world complete with NPCs that hint at the game’s dark story. Loot River is coming sometime in 2022, though we don’t know the exact date.

Nobody Saves the World

One of the event’s headliners, Nobody Saves the World is an irreverent trip through a fantasy realm. Your character, Nobody, wakes in an unfamiliar dwelling – without any pants – and promptly sets off to figure out what’s going on. Pursuing this goal, he ends up picking up a wand that has the power to transform him into various other things. The first of these new forms is a rat, which chews through enemies and crawls into tight spaces, but more physiques open up as you defeat foes and gain experience points. The combat is fun, the game is inventive, and you shouldn’t miss out on the chance to play.

Lonesome Village

With its 2D art style and anthropomorphized animal protagonist, Lonesome Village intrigued us from the first glance. Playing as an adventurous coyote, you wander into a nearby town where, in the midst of celebrating a festival day, all of the villagers just mysteriously vanished. Quickly following the cozy-looking world’s version of Thanos’ snap, a suspicious tower rises out of the ground to loom over the desolate town. In the demo, it’s your job to make your way up the tower by solving interesting puzzles and save the townsfolk. Rescued villagers return to their daily lives as librarians or bankers, opening up new items or social options. Lonesome Village takes inspiration from series like Zelda and Animal Crossing, so if a combo of those two things sounds like your jam, check out this demo.

Overpass: Rhythm Roadtrip

A driving rhythm game set in a futuristic world, Overpass: Rhythm Roadtrip was a pleasant surprise that we did not have on our radar before this event. The game’s demo is short and only shows off a couple of tracks – which take you through the ruins of an ancient culture, giving off a cool sense of old-world colliding with high-tech – but it’s enough to give us an idea of the gameplay. Behind the wheel of an ever-moving vehicle, you attempt to hit the prompts hidden amongst the environment in time to a stylish soundtrack. Getting the fast-paced beats just right draws you into the game’s hypnotic vibe.

Death Trash

Death Trash’s title isn’t just for show. There’s a lot of death, a lot of trash, and a lot of fun to be had in this demo. It’s undeniable that Fallout is in Death Trash’s DNA. You begin after an unexplained procedure in an underground bunker. For some reason, you’re booted from the safe, subterranean community and must try to survive in the harsh world above. Combat is challenging, supplies are limited, and you meet a big, octopus-shaped hunk of meat that just wants to make friends. It might be worth it to try the demo out multiple times to see how making different choices in the detailed character creator affects the experience. If you are interested in more Death Trash after playing through the demo, the game is currently in Early Access.

Apico

Did you play Valheim and wish there was a game focused solely on those honey-producing bees? Preferably a beekeeping sim with an endearing art style and low stress? Then get ready to make sure the bees are happy because Apico is the demo for you. The menu-heavy tutorial may scare some away, but the pull of constructing an implement that then allows you to reach another resource, which then unlocks more building recipes, will keep you glued to the gameplay loop longer than you expected. As an early look at the game, it’s hard to tell how expansive your beehive empire can grow, but this first section sees you craft tools – first from wood, then from stronger materials – harvest honey, explore the spacious world, and more. Apico is set to release early next year, so this seems like a good time to check it out before launch.

What Lies in the Multiverse

Explore space and time and ponder the wonders of every timeline in What Lies in the Multiverse. You begin as a young boy who, with the support of his cat Erwin, unlocks the secrets of reality on his bedroom computer. The demo shows off lands like a peaceful paradise populated by monks or a sunny, carefree woodland. However, with his ability to swap dimensions, the protagonist transports between these idyllic scenes and a grim alternate reality where the forest lives under constant gloom and the paradise has long since crumbled. Switching between the two disparate realms gives you the ability to solve puzzles and reach areas otherwise blocked off. The reality-altering mechanic is used cleverly throughout the demo, and the humor balances out the sneak peek’s bleaker side.

Tunic

With its release date finally revealed at The Game Awards, you should definitely put the Tunic demo on your list of things to play before this Xbox event is over. Though the demo doesn’t give us hands-on experience with some of the new items and enemies spotted in the recent trailer, it demonstrates just how fluid and challenging the gameplay will be at launch. If you have not jumped into the game’s previous demos, prepare to die because, while the game may look a lot like a picturesque walk in the park, its combat is surprisingly brutal. Even those who have already played Tunic’s 2021 demo might consider hopping back in, either to ensure you’ve found every secret hidden in its brief gameplay or just to get excited about its upcoming release on March 16.

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