It’s so good when games have demos! This is a simple fact that I feel like everyone can agree on, and yet the medium of games has gradually moved farther and farther away from the idea. Though we haven’t seen a return to the golden age of demo discs, where you would get an almost grab-bag look at a bunch of different games, I’ve still been grateful to recent events like the Steam Next Fest for showing people that hey, demos are really cool and useful for showcasing your game! 

It is thanks to the existence of a demo that I was able to check out of the Devil, and now I’m here to tell you hey, you should too!

of the Devil is a visual novel steeped in cyberpunk aesthetics, and probably the first cyberpunk game I’ve played since 2016’s Va-11 Hall-A that actually feels like it understands how to convey what it means to operate within that genre. You play as a public defender named Morgan, who sees the world in a collection of poker metaphors and opportunities to bluff your way to success. The demo (aptly named Episode 0) is about Morgan getting a client out of police detainment in the dead of night, after he’s been arrested as the culprit in a series of serial killings.

The way of the Devil handles this is by going through a set of different 3D environments, gathering information about the world and the case from the items and people within, and then playing that information as a rebuttal when the time arises. It’s a lot like Phoenix Wright, or the trial sequences from Danganronpa, and as someone who only just played Ghost Trick last year, I’m always ready for more Shu Takumi inspired concepts at play in a game.

As I mentioned, Morgan sees the world through the lens of Poker metaphors and concepts: the state is The House, and whoever she’s trading words with at any given moment is the dealer. Your goal is to take the hand the dealer gives you, and turn it into a winner with the hand (evidence) you’ve been dealt. While nothing in the demo is crazy difficult, this is a tutorial and introduction after all, it’s easy to think of how this system would evolve ala later Phoenix Wright cases where you sift through all sorts of evidence and cross-examinations to pull out the true clincher further down the line. 

There’s also a stay and raise system, where you choose when you’re going to press someone about something, so you have to figure out when the best time to actually go in on someone’s statement might be. Like Morgan herself jokes, The House always wins, but you have to learn when to press your advantage if you want to minimize your losses, and this system feels like a great representation of that. Again, it’s fun to imagine where this system might go further down the line, where you have to really figure out when you can get away bluffing or not, and how it might help you or hurt you in the long run.

My favorite thing about of the Devil was actually the collection of readables and terminology you can access diegetically through Morgan’s cellphone. You can look up most proper nouns and world building material through a built-in wiki-searcher on her phone, and you’ll find throwaway data-pads (like the ones in Deus Ex that have literally one article on them and nothing else) strewn throughout the environments you navigate. The data-pads do something I adore, where when you finish reading them, you’re given a reading comprehension test where you have to pick between two options about what the most important take-away from the news story you just read should be. I think most games should do this! Even as an optional thing, the gamification of actually making sure the player is at least thinking about reading what they have access to, regardless of assumed importance, is a really neat idea! 

Every individual wiki article also has its own little dystopian joke that fleshes out the world state, and serves as a reminder that oh yeah, cyberpunk is supposed to be speculative fiction, but also, we kind of are already living on the slope to that sort of dystopia. These range from the type of messages we see today, “Hey we noticed you’ve turned off our personalization sub-routine! This is the best way we have to make sure you get the most important news and updates today!”, to logical extremes of encroaching fascism with censored pages for base concepts like the police force, or on-going criminal cases. Between the news stories that treat absurdist concepts like replacing public transit with submarines that navigate flooded subway tunnels with the same sincerity that every news site covers whatever start-up has the most money that week with, and these readables that help you piece together just how doomed the world feels, you really get a feel for cyberpunk that’s been out of reach for most creators.

I could go into more about the demo, its big twists or promising narrative wrinkles, but honestly, it’s not a long demo, a little over an hour in length. If you’ve ever enjoyed something like Phoenix Wright, or really any sort of visual novel or adventure game, I highly recommend it! It’s free!

Check It Out on Steam!

About Rose

Rose is the one who gets way too caught up in the sociological ramifications of all those Video Games. She will play literally anything, and especially wants you to play The House in Fata Morgana.

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