I’ve seen such sights in this October’s Steam Next Fest, but nothing has piqued my interest quite like the demo for My Work Is Not Yet Done, a lo-fi and cryptic “narrative-driven investigative horror game” where you spend quite a lot of time wandering around nature listening to the wind rustle the leaves before going to bed. Trust me, it’s fascinating.
Your character—who I’m reasonably certain is named Avery—is the last remaining member of a scientific expedition out to the middle of somewhere. Her fellow scientists have, seemingly one-by-one and over the course of multiple vaguely defined accidents or mysterious disappearances, all left her behind.
But at least some of them did it neatly: the person you begin the game mid-search for left her clothes folded and her ID behind, as though she had arrived at the decision to depart your safe, supplied scientific outpost calmly, after a long period of thought. It’s… disconcerting, which is perhaps the game’s chief vibe, accomplished by a mixture of excellent sound design and some seriously arresting visuals. I mean, just look at opening this door:
Engrossing, right? I have to admit, not a great deal actually happens in the My Work Is Not Yet Done demo. You walk around, click on some items to read their descriptions and Avery’s thoughts about them (which is also how pretty much all the demo’s narrative content is conveyed) and head to bed, but it’s drenched in such an eerie and self-confident visual style that I’m left hungry for more anyway. A not-insignificant chunk of this demo consisted of a long, psychedelic video of the protagonist sleeping, and it was great.
The whole thing is suffused with the kind of dread that comes from visiting a usually busy place—a school, your office, that kind of thing—after everyone has gone home. No jump scares or safe codes written in viscera, just the sound of wind rustling tree leaves and the hum of an air conditioner. It doesn’t feel like incredible criticism to just gesture absently at something as indeterminate as a game’s “vibes” and say they’re what makes it worth checking out, but, well, My Work Is Not Yet Done’s vibes are what makes it worth checking out.
Plus, little touches nod to something broader and stranger at work. Yes, your fellow scientists have all gone AWOL, which isn’t great, but an absent-minded tap of the Alt key suddenly transformed my game into thermal security camera footage, all noise cut out as the figure of Avery transformed into a bright white glow of heat. The entire game is rendered as though you’re viewing it through a musty, fingerprint-smudged CRT screen, hinting that perhaps poor Avery’s quest doesn’t go particularly well. That someone later on down the line had to review her progress to figure out what happened to her, too.
So perfect for October. Not perfect all around, mind you. I’m intrigued by the game’s plot and style, but the parts where it conveyed its narrative most directly, the slices of text that pop up when you check things in your environment, felt like the weakest part. A little overwritten, a little overwrought. Lines like “I can only claim partial facetiousness in suspecting that this kitchen unit’s probably the only true barrier preventing me at this point from completely slipping into savage and unseemly dietary patterns” could probably do with a pass from an editor.
But I’m eager to see where the game goes. The full version promises “elements of the survival/simulation genres” alongside a “dense, nonlinear plot,” as well as “open-ended investigative and analytical work”. Plus “haunted radio signals,” which I’ve been agitating for in video games since I could play them.
You can check out the demo for My Work Is Not Yet Done as part of this October’s Steam Next Fest, which runs until October 16.
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