As part of Steam Next Fest, tons of games are being given the opportunity to showcase their development through free demos. The publicity is sure to garner the interest of players everywhere, especially those keen on indie projects. As someone who fits that description, I gladly took the chance to preview a game I’ve had my eye on for quite some time: Renaine.
A platformer-adventure title about a knight named Aine, the entire demo has a very humorous vibe to it. One will have to fight, interact, and jump around various environments and meet with many quirky characters. With this being a demo, the amount of content is rather contained, though the world has a solid amount of content to get a feel for the whole game. Probably. If you have about an hour to kill on something upbeat and bouncy, this would be a solid option.
Take note, however, there there are no secrets in this game.
Renaine‘s demo is available until June 22nd as part of Steam’s Next Fest. The full game is slated for release via Steam later in 2021.
Story – Kill a Dragon (But Goof Off First)
Any emphasis on an overarching narrative is almost moot in this demo build. Almost literally, the player is plopped down into the world and is given a single quest: slay a dragon. Whether or not you can actually do so, I’m unsure—it seems the dragon is in another castle, past the confines of the demo. This leaves the player to do a number of subquests instead, provided by various townsfolk in a central hub near the beginning of the game.
In terms of any progressing story, one won’t find much here. One area further on involving an old tape player hints at some larger lore in place, though its impact is minimal given the lack of build-up. How much this specific demo is shaped up to showcase as much as this game will offer or as an actual piece of the full game is unknown to me. Putting that aside, this build gives credence to some manner of tonal polarity with the plot. In general, it’s funny and weird; in some spots, there’s a foreboding grimness instead. Aine as a silent protagonist doesn’t come across like the others in the world. She’s fueled by justice, with others keen on taking advantage of her proactiveness.
If you fancy yourself a journey with a gripping narrative, this is not it. Should you prefer a cast of characters that beckon the inner absurdity in all of us, Renaine is more recommendable. Crabs and mice and mushrooms and more, there seems to be no logic to anything within this world. One person’s head is upside-down. A kookiness envelops a good portion of the journey, which rarely leaves in spite of serious moments. The final boss of the demo (to my knowledge) is a house. You shouldn’t need to ask why, because “logic” or “reason” is a weakness to those bound by reality.
Gameplay – Fetch This, Now Watch Me Do a Flying Cartwheel
Two things in particular stand out playing Renaine: quests and acrobatics. The aforementioned “central hub” is home to many interactable denizens, many of whom will ask you to do various things. Kill some red birds, help fund a start-up project, get someone’s head right-side up; plenty of things to do over the course of an hour (hour-plus for completionists). A large portion of these quests are indirect aids to get one acquainted with the game. Whether via combat or exploring the world better, it’s a good means for introducing new players to the genre.
Then there’s combat, debatably my favorite part of the game. Devil May Cry may have set the bar for over-the-top action sequences and capabilities, though this certainly tries in the 2D space. Swinging and flipping and stabbing galore. A maddening display of knight meets the dexterity of Simone Biles. Very smooth, very satisfying; I rarely felt the need to not battle creatures on my way to subsequent stages. It would also do well to visit the dojo before going out to adventure, as a kind dojo master will elaborate on all the abilities at your disposal. Though frankly, button-mashing in random directions feels more appropriate than anything.
Renaine‘s demo is spread out in a straightforward portion, occasionally spread out based on what the player collects. One side-scrolls through stretched-out areas with light platforming shenanigans, and littered in baddies. One’s path can be altered if they collect maps along the way, which adds a wee bit of replayability to the demo. Nevertheless, there isn’t too much to see in this demo, with a few areas pretty similar in overall structure. Just don’t look for any secrets. There are none in the game.
Minor details in gameplay also involve shops and emblems. Defeating enemies will have them drop currency that you accumulate to buy things from a couple shops. Emblems are upgrades you can put on Aine at things called Phoenix Statues that increase things ranging from battle proficiency to luck. Emblems are usually gained through completing quests, acting as incentive to speak to everyone, everywhere.
A minor complaint I have with the demo is the implementation of these shops, as they can be a bit difficult to interact with. I, at one point, bought something on accident because all I saw was an “X” onscreen. Some extra measure of visual indicators of “buy” or “cancel” would go a long way, especially for more accessibility. Shops also activate immediately upon entering their vicinity (they’re outdoors), which can be distracting. An additional step via interacting with the store owner to establish your desire to browse would also be nice.
Graphics & Audio – Ya Like Jazz?
How bold are the developers of Renaine? Within the game’s Steam synopsis, they deliberately included the passage, “Also, the OST slaps.” You need to be very confident if you’re going to call your shots like that, especially as an up-and-coming game developer. If you were to ask me, I think they deliver splendidly.
The OST is one that embodies a wonderful enthusiasm that urges the player forward. In line with the whimsy that embodies the large roster of characters, it has a certain gusto that embellishes the experience with a good time. Some, however, may find it a little too cheery. When one thinks of adventures of heroism and such, they think of adrenaline-fueled epics and more rowdy themes. Here, we have saxophones straight out of New Donk City. A decent selection of tracks add to the aforementioned tonal dissonance, occurring in conjunction with the goofy overall nature. I didn’t mind too much, as the catchiness of the soundtrack won me over in the end. One track even has lyrics!
Graphically, Renaine is closer to the 8-bit era of gaming than anything, which implies there won’t be too much detail to many. While the colors are good and the environments are thus far easy to traverse, it’s not the most eye-catching game out there. The illustrated artwork via promotional images are more appealing… generally.
Much like the soundtrack, though, some animations really pop off over the course of the demo. Specifically, the house battle is pretty endearing, complete with wrestling-themed mock-up battle card. Certain enemies also have more complex battle animations that make them more engrossing to combat with. Given they’re generally bright red, too, they’re easy to spot. Perhaps a heavier focus on differentiating specific environments could be good, though I have yet to see what other areas they have in the works.
Renaine‘s demo was played on PC via Steam.