The bare bones: A critical review of “Skeleton Crew” demo (2021)

What a boon to the world of thriller has been the term “skeleton crew.” Although it started in the military and only likely entered the civilian world in the early 20th century, its spookily suggestive nature has ensured it inspired the name of a 90s sci fi shooter, a Finnish slasher movie, and a handful of novels and short story collections in the mysteryscience genre – as well as that one. You know which one I’m talking about. I’m not even going to say it.

Add 2021’s game demo “Skeleton Crew” to that… crew. It’s a dark-ish fantasy 2D platforming brawler with a Halloween vibe. Like some of the other demos we’ve touched on this summer, there is a retro shroud hanging over “Skeleton Crew,” but interestingly it doesn’t come from its design, which wouldn’t look out of place in any game released in the last 15 years. Rather it’s that mashup of platforming and multiplayer brawl.

The story of “Skeleton Crew” is, at least, a little deeper than the average old school brawler. Humanity is in constant war with the hordes of the undead. The Yeomen Eldritch Extermination Team (YEET, get it?) use lances, magic wands, pumpkins, whatever they can get their hands, to defend the dwindling human settlements. Actually, that’s kinda it for now, at least as far as this blog understands it. I think there’s some song and dance about the team’s nucleus disappearing, and presumably there’s a dark and existential threat on the horizon, but nobody’s likely here for the plot.

Wait, that might not be the case. As in “Trigger Witch,” there’s a hint of depth here, but it’s a cooler customer than that game. There is a certain degree of mystery. Notably, some text is written in past tense in “Skeleton Crew,” as if we’re witnessing events after the end has happened. It’s intriguing, but unforutnately, it’s about the only intriguing thing here.

“Skeleton Crew” does not sell itself as a narrative-driven game. One look at the trailer promises goofy fun, not psychological insight or philosophical discourse. It’s about slamming into undead critters and crushing them along a fantasy themed obstacle course. The characters have small bodies and big heads and Halloween-Gothic features and the word “butt” is thrown around. This feels like a party game, as close to the local multiplayer feel as I’ve seen in a while. The problem is, it’s not much of a party.

It’s not a pain though. The controls are fairly responsive, easy to pick up, and there’s a flash of accomplishment one feels after executing well-timed kick. Occasionally I’d get stuck somewhere if I picked the wrong hero to play, but the game world is simple to navigate, levels are easy to restart, and I could always die, return and tool around somewhere else.

The presentation is fine too. As we’ve alluded, there is a certain visual flair, which recalls both Halloween decor and chibi art. The characters – a black-clad knight with an epic beard; an ice elemental witch who can double jump; the guy from “Bloodborne” – are all right for the game. The music is Adams Family appropriate. It’s all fine, but it’s exclusively fine, even excessively fine.

About the worst thing one can say about a piece of media is that it’s just OK. “Skeleton Crew” does not make me happy, angry or confused. It doesn’t stick. It’s a time sink at best, pleasant enough to pass time but forgotten shortly after the engagement is finished.

As usual, there are plenty of ways we could be wrong. Perhaps we weren’t switching heroes often enough. Different hero characters with disparate abilities could access new areas, giving things a Metrovania-ish quality. The counterargument to that is it does not take long to get used to a particular character – the play styles are somewhat similar anyway – so experimentation never felt like natural.

Alternatively, perhaps we should have just been playing with more people, but I ain’t got friends, so that’s out from the get go.

Accordingly, my advice to the developer is going to sound a little strange. The thing I liked most about the game right now is its presentation – the visual style, the mixture of goofy horror and toothy fantasy. The thing I thought might be the most interesting was the suggestion of a deeper, darker story. So I can see this going one of two ways: Either streamline a lot of things to get me out of the hub room of heroes and busy work of saving peasants, and get me into beating zombie faces into jack-o’-lanterns to keep me engaged… or else slow things down and develop the plot to keep me hooked. There isn’t a lot of opportunity to expose plot in a demo, particularly for a gameplay-driven game, so you can guess which option feels like the more organic direction.

Figuring out who should be expectantly waiting for this game’s release is even more baffling for this blog. As we said, this feels very much like a party game, the kind that has been kicking around consoles since the 1990s. Experiencing its strengths – the sorta gross humor and slick presentation – and gliding over its weaknesses – the repetitive gameplay, the simple story and the occasionally getting stuck because you have the “wrong” hero – will be much easier in a group, perhaps one benefited by a few adult beverages. For my own part, I run a blog that covers shitty thrillers. I don’t have friends.

A promising read: A critical review of “Black Book” demo (2021)

I have long had a soft spot for Irish comic Dylan Moran. Although he’s been in a couple of bleakly amusing kinda-thrillers – “Shaun of the Dead,” “Calvary” and “A Film With Me In It” – my appreciation for him came from a BBC series where he played a misanthropic book shop owner and failed writer, nursing a crippling drinking habit and a string of failed relationships. Not sure why I’d find that relatable…

Oh, wait, that’s “Black Books,” as well as a setup for a hugely unnecessary joke. Today we’re reviewing “Black Book,” an RPG/deckbuilding supernatural horror game for Xbox and PC (and probably some other platforms too).

The titular Black Book is not the name of a bookshop but rather the name of a mystic tome said to grant the deepest desires of anyone who can unseal it. Players slip into the leather peasant boots of Vasilisa, a young woman who is going to attempt said unsealing in the years before the Revolution. Her deepest desire is a reunion with her suspiciously suicided lover; as a rookie witch, she’ll risk losing her body and soul to the demonic forces connected to the book in order to make that happen.

The world of “Black Book” is inspired by Russian folklore, and the game proudly utilizes that as a selling point. To its credit, that anthropology studies info is integrated in a way that’s both accessible and unobtrusive. The game leaves many words untranslated, but it gives players the option to expand on a definition in dialogue. Want to know what a zagovor is? How about a koldun? You can either do so directly or try to figure things out through context. I like this system. It doesn’t abandon the player, but it doesn’t force hand-holding either. It’s a nice compromise.

And, to its credit, the “Black Book” demo lets you see a little bit of that world. It’s not as generous as some of the demos this blog has played this summer, but it’s not bad. There’s the initial tutorial, which is followed by a training level that takes you right to a point where it looks like things will open up even more. It’s a teaser, but it’s fine. To be fair, I never felt in danger – I’m not sure about the first level, but it’s impossible to die in the tutorial – but I did feel I got to see a couple sights. This was a weekend trip rather than a real vacation, but it was better than an afternoon visit.

Bad analogies aside, there’s some cool stuff to explore here. The atmosphere is well done, with moody backgrounds, good lighting, appropriate music and Halloween-y demons to battle. Who wouldn’t love the name and design of a demon called the Thirteen Brother? There’s some quality mechanical stuff as well. Travel on the game world map is well handled. Vasilisa travels from individual points that become 2D screens, where she interacts various characters and environments. Sometimes it’s to gather clues or resources for an upcoming card battle. Sometimes it’s to lose or earn some morality points (a “sin counter,” cutely indicated by coffin points, keeps track) by playing good witch/bad witch with the demon-haunted locals. It’s all illustrated in a pleasant cel shaded kinda way.

Naturally, sometimes the game launches into a 3D card fight, and the deckbuilding mechanics seem sound. You’ve got your attack and defense cards, your damage over time, your buffs and debuffs. It’s nothing you haven’t seen before, but there’s enough of it doled out in the demo to keep me interested. Plus they’re done up in a charming woodblock style.

Unfortunately, the game will also sometimes go 3D so players can explore a screen in adventure game/Scooby-Doo style. Vasilisa controls like she’s been hitting the Stolichnaya a little hard lately, which is frustrating. The game can also start to look pretty ugly. The backgrounds are all still fine, in a blocky, minimalistic way, but the human characters all look like toys. Toys that are dead inside. Maybe that just how it goes in Russia.

Actually, my biggest problems are with the human characters. Not only do they skew toward fugly-looking, the voice acting is all over the place. It’s like the actors couldn’t decide if the characters were from Russia, the United States or Scotland. I hear traces of all that, sometimes in the same character. At least half the dev team is Russian, while I’m just an Irish type who never leaves Los Angeles, so they probably know better than me. Still, even if the accents are spot on, that doesn’t excuse the uneven vocal deliveries – veering between overly-enthusiatic amateur and, uh, unenthusiastic amateur – or the sound bites that pop up in the middle of card battles at weird times.

Something else that I’m not 100-percent sold on is the hint system. Players earn experience by winning card battles, but also by correctly guessing how to proceed in conversations based on their understanding of the folklore. If you’re stuck – or just want to double-check – you can sacrifice half of the EXP earned for a hint. Maybe it’s just me, but I felt like the hints were a little closer to just giving me the answer. I could be doing it wrong. I was probably supposed to be reading all those definitions I was ignoring.

That’s a minor complaint though. Overall, this was a pretty solid demo. It looks like the game actually just released, so my final comments would mean nothing… However, in the interest of consistency, I’ll still offer my thoughts for the developer and potential players.

I’m a sucker for horror card games, so this is an easy sell for me. I’m skeptical of the hint system, but I could be won over. The deckbuilding mechanics I’d need some more time with to really critique, but it seems like, if they keep gradually adding tried-and-true deckbuilding tactics, they’ll be fine. I would prefer the art style to be less blocky and more stylized, and it would be nice if the people sounded like people, but we can’t have it all. The atmosphere and setting might be enough to overcome that. Time would tell.

Who should have been watching the development of this one? For my own part, as I think I just said, the intersection of horror fans and deckbuilding fans. This might not end up being a classic, but it might just scratch that niche itch.

A familiar taste: A critical review of “Death Trash” (2021)

How do you get someone who isn’t crazy about the Fallout franchise to like a Fallout style of game? If that theoretical person is anything like this blog, then it’s done by tossing in copious amounts of horror: cosmic horror, psychological horror, body horror. It doesn’t matter, as long as it’s all of them.

If this mashup sounds interesting, Tonstant Weader, then perhaps “Death Trash” will be an easy sell for you too. This yet-to-be-released game has been hailed as a pixely isometric spiritual cousin to the Fallout franchise, and I can see it. Heck, the first Fallout games were isometric anyway, so between that and the postapocalyptic prairie setting, it’s a no-brainer. However, the game deviates from its inspiration in a couple of interesting ways.

The first we’ve already touched on. Even if it does have splashes of body horror, the Fallout franchise is unquestionably sci fi, with all its retro futurism, schizy tech and social commentary. “Death Trash” seems to be taking its cues from H. P. Lovecraft rather than Arthur C. Clarke. In classic RPG fashion, the demo starts off with you waking up with no idea of where you are (I played the default avatar, a blue-haired cyberpunk gal). A little exploring and you realize you’re in some kind of underground bunker overseen by tight-lipped robots. You start with a quick training section, where you learn vomiting is a game mechanic – and I don’t mean funny vomit. This is the painful stuff. After that, you are released to the surface, and that’s where things get interesting.

A horror-themed RPG isn’t something that happens often, and I think I know why. Horror games are about creating tension. They create tension in gameplay by limiting players – taking away or limiting options to make you just weak enough to be on edge the entire time. By contrast, an RPG is about giving players tons of options to mess around with in gameplay: character classes, stats, branching paths. You’re role playing, after all. You need room to experiment and find your groove. Players might feel outclassed in an RPG, but they rarely feel out of control.

That means to have an effective horror RPG, the developer really has to focus on creating tension through atmosphere. Any fan of thrillers knows that atmosphere is hard to do right. Luckily, “Death Trash” pretty much nails it. It doesn’t hurt that it’s in a retro pixel style, so the building blocks are somewhat basic, but it’s still unsettling in the best way.

The surface you encounter is littered with copious amounts of raw meat squirming out of the ground, like this world’s version of landscaping came out of a butcher shop. Some games will throw glistening body parts around and call it a day, but this one takes things seriously. At one point, you have the option of asking someone where all this meat came from. Their response: I don’t know. It’s always been here. Want a taste?

I haven’t even mentioned the Fleshkraken. It’s fantastic. Marry all that to the moody color palette, the cagey NPCs, ambient music and suggestive sound effects, and you have an eerie, spooky, effective pile. There are so many little touches that make the world feel deep and lived-in, even if it’s just a demo. My favorite is how bodies of water will occasionally ripple. It’s such a small thing, but it gives movement to the environment and hints at bigger things bubbling beneath the surface.

The gameplay is fine. Controls are responsive, and my cyberpunk lady moved well. I thought her clubbing doors and enemies was a little clunky, but rifles were pretty straightforward. Actually, another place where “Death Trash” deviates from the Fallout franchise is there’s no RNG when it comes to shooting. You have no idea how happy this blog is about that. When I point a gun at something, I want it to connect or at least land in the vicinity. This ain’t an 18th century musket. Bullets don’t miss because they didn’t feel like showing up for work. I don’t need a dice roll to make things tense. The single shot and slow reload time are plenty to make shooting twitchy and risky.

The characters you encounter are pretty interesting too. They’re all offbeat or secretive or totally onboard with the meat overlords, or some combination of the three. Sure, amnesia is RPG 101 for getting into a story, but it’s psychological horror 101 too, so it all works. The demo also has more to it than the tutorial. What a concept. The game takes the training wheels off, and there are some places in the world to explore, a couple of missions to accomplish, even some characters that feel like they might be important later who you can murder. Any demo that lets you experience consequences is giving you a real taste of the game.

Of course, the thing has been in development for at least five years, so one would expect there to be some content by now… and also that the full game might still be a little ways off.

Presumably the developer is still developing, so here is what this blog would advise. Just keep it up. Plot-wise there’s a decent balance of intrigue and action so far, and as long as there’s a payoff, I’ll be satisfied. The style and atmosphere are perfectly appropriate, so zero problems there. There could be more stuff – more item drops, more conversations, more ways to accomplish missions, more risks, more rewards – but that’s a good sign. There’s already cool stuff here; there just needs to be more of it.

As for who should keep an eye on it, that’s a tricky question. The intersection of Fallout and horror ghouls seems like a good place to start, but it’s probably worth stepping a little outside of that. There are some cyberpunk notes, perhaps not enough to make this taste like a “cyberpunk” game, but fans of that genre might enjoy the flavor too. Either way, if you don’t mind the retro visual style, you aren’t put off by some dialogue trees and you want more literal meat from your RPG experience, then this is one to keep watching.

Fingers still a little itchy: A critical review of “Trigger Witch” demo (2021)

Not too long ago, this blog discussed the idea of media with a concept so high it sold itself. “Trigger Witch” slides pretty easily into that distinction. The game asks: How do you make a world of magic and witchcraft more exciting and dangerous? Answer: Throw in some magnums and submachine guns.

“Trigger Witch” is a retro-style third-person shooter where you play as a witch – like, a pointy hat-wearing broomstick witch – and use both light and heavy ordinance to pump shiny bullets into giant enemies and burst smaller ones like jam-filled balloons. In a way, the game is exactly what it says on the label. Here is a trigger. Pull it, you witch.

In more detailed terms, “Trigger Witch” tells the tale of Colette, who is trying to graduate from the local Witchcraft and Triggery academy (what, no tankery?). Unfortunately for her GPA, she gets caught up in an interdimensional war after a shimmering border between realms is busted down and a mysterious force invades her world. Colette must pick up wand and Smith and Wesson to save the day. At least, I think that’s what it’s about. The Xbox demo is just a tutorial level, so it’s hard to be 100 percent.

The most obvious thing to start discussing with “Trigger Witch” is its sense of style. It is cheerfully old school, and this blog has no complaints about that. Sometimes a retro-style game looks retro for the sake of retro, but not so here. Since the gameplay is based on timed puzzles and frantic bursts of bullets, the look feels appropriate rather than like a nostalgia grab.

Colette seems up for the old school challenge, since she controls well. She’s snappy and responsive, and when the game finally places a gun in her hands, the laser sight featured on every gun du jour ensures that shot placement never feels like a cheat. You know where bullets go, and you have no one but your own trigger finger to blame if they go awry.

Flexibility of combat and enemy design are hard to talk about since there was only a training level. One enemy I can talk about is the camera, which gets me a bit nauseous with its lurching back and forth. It feels like it’s balancing on a tripod encased in a gelatin cube. That’s not fun.

Another thing that’s not as fun as it could be is the sense of humor. It’s not quite there, at least not so far. The concept of guns and gore and adorable witches seems like a great opportunity for some irreverent humor, but the game’s script is surprisingly safe. I also can’t figure out how seriously the game is taking itself. Right next to the idiosyncratic components, the game has background hints of expansive lore and social commentary.

It feels like a strange mix to this blog. A tale of witches and guns could be goofy or grimdark. It could even be both if it was consistent. That isn’t what I’m getting here. The humor exists, so it can’t be ignored, but it exists as light dressing rather than a strong foundation. That leaves things feeling like a Saturday morning cartoon, which is frustrating when the game has its pick of being something more solid, whether irreverent, raunchy or violent. Any of those is a game I haven’t played, and I’d welcome the experience.

I know what you’re thinking. It’s a pixel game about a purple haired witch. It’s for kids. No, tonstant weader. Go watch the trailer. That’s what I was expecting. Blood, bullet hell and 16-bit metal.

It’s a shame, since when the gameplay gets cooking, it sizzles. The demo level is a literal training ground, and as soon as a boss-as-final-exam enters the picture, you get a taste of the gloriously gory and twitchy arcade this game could be. One could complain about the lack of feedback, but most enemies burst into a red stain, which is all the feedback one really needs.

To answer the question of who should be waiting for a full release on this one, here’s what I can say. If you have to ask if it’s for you, then it probably isn’t. On the other hand, if the idea of a cute witch doing shooty things in a retro-style bullet hell feels like the game you never knew you needed, then you’ll know it when you see it. Also you’re likely either Under the Bun or Kenny Lauderdale.

If the developers are still looking for thoughts, here’s what I’d tell them. “Trigger Witch” is fun, but it’s not quite there. Lean into the humor and spice it up. Give me as many puddles of blood and smoking muzzles as the pixels will allow. Again, the trailer makes it look like the goofy, gory fantasy is there somewhere. Make the humor match that and I’ll be the happiest witch in the land. And maybe give the camera some tranquilizers while you’re at it.

Let the games begin: News Aug. 2021, and critical reviews of “Catlateral Damage” and “Lake” demos

There’s going to be a lot of game reviews for the next couple of months on this blog. If that ain’t your thing, I’m sorry, but for the crowd saying “not another black-and-white movie,” this will probably be a nice break. The games will be a bit familiar next month, but for right now, we’re going to make good on our promise of the Summer Games Fest Demo Event.

Can you believe I saw gaming news called “esports” the other day? Like that somehow makes it classier or more respectable? Take note, mystery science fans. Gentrification is in communication.

Anyway, in case you forgot (as did I), the Demo Event was a moment toward the start of the summer when developers let some Xbox demos loose on the Microsoft Store. These demos are allegedly not normal, since they are less a teaser of the final game and more a test to see how players respond. Accordingly, I will be offering our traditional critical review, but also thoughts on what kind of player should be watching the game evolve and some advice for the developer. As if anyone is paying attention to this blog…

To fill out this post more – and for reasons that will soon become apparent – let’s begin today with two demos: “Catlateral Damage” and “Lake.”

“Catlateral Damage: Remeowstered” bills itself as a destructive house cat simulator, which is an ingenious idea unto itself. Anyone who’s owned a cat knows they can be ruinous little beasts, reenacting a barbarous lifestyle on your carpet, drapes and furniture. The game also has the added benefit of being a remaster, so it’s not coming out of nowhere. It has a comically overdone infomercial and everything waiting rediscovery.

The basic plot is: You’re a cat. You jump on things, push stuff over to get points, interact with scratching posts for bonuses and collect items like cat toys. There appear to be a bunch of upgrades and cosmetic unlockables, so you’ve got that too. As far as gameplay, the cat controls are somewhat floaty, as if the animal always has a little more momentum than I wanted. I like that you look up to jump higher though. That’s a cute, very feline touch. The visual style is broad and outline-y, so that’s fun. The music is a little loopy – both mildly trippy and on repeat – so that’s all right as long as you don’t mind it.

All things considered, this is what it says on the label without a lot of surprises. It fulfills the concept and nothing more, but it’s a fun concept and it comes out OK. You want a game where you do cat stuff and unlock photos of cats? We’ve got you covered.

Where the game gets interesting is in the replay, since… for the demo at least there was no replay. This blog played the demo once – which was just a couple of tutorial levels – and immediately it could not go back and play again. The game just kept taking me back to a link to its website. I could not figure out a way to restart it.

Admittedly, the Microsoft Store told me the games would be available for a limited time, but this is an interesting spin on that. I downloaded something, and I guess that was onetime access to the game’s tutorial. That is a digital demonstration in the strictest definition of the term.

A game demo is a funny thing. Historically, it’s more generous than a test drive at a car lot. It’s more like a car rental that’s free, except you can only drive ad infinitum around the same few blocks. The “Catlateral” demo is more like a test drive where once you’ve been around the block you aren’t allowed in the car any more. You can’t even sit in it in the parking lot, only look at a picture of it.

This is very strange to me. It reminds me of my philosophical challenge with “Vermintide,” that I did not have true ownership over the thing I paid money for. In this case I didn’t pay money, so I guess I shouldn’t feel too upset. I did pay in time though, the time I spent sitting on the Xbox while it downloaded the demos and Live updates forever. I suppose we always pay somehow. Someone always does. Everything’s eventual. We get the world we deserve.

Who would I recommend to keep an eye on this one? I don’t know. There wasn’t a lot to go on. There must be an intersection of people who like cats and people who like collect-them-all platformers, rather than platformers based on tricky feats of physics and timed dodges. I’d say they are the ones who should pay attention, although given the previous incarnation of the game I imagine they might already be aware of it.

My advice to the developer would be to let me play the game again before expecting any solid advice. There was not a lot of game to experience, and no way to double-check anything, so what I say won’t be very substantive. The concept, presentation and music all seemed fun, although I wish there was more of the latter. Maybe there is. The controls could be tighter. Maybe that’s all the developer wanted to hear. That’s great, cos it’s all they can get out of me right now.

Oh well. At least things can’t get more restrictive than that.

On to the next demo: “Lake.” When I fired it up, I was greeted with the message: Thanks for playing! Hope to have a full game out by September. Follow us on Twitter!

There was no way to exit that message. I could not start a new game, tweak settings, nothing. OK.

Accordingly, based on my experience, here’s what I liked about “Lake”: The music was pleasant. It was not particularly memorable, but it was very relaxing, and I dug the aquatic sound effects in the background.

Here’s what I didn’t like: There was no game.

Again, I know the demos were only available to download for a week or two in July, but I was not expecting them to be unavailable after I had downloaded them. I thought once they were on the hard drive, I’d have access to them until I deleted them. I invested time into downloading them, they are demos not full games, and I don’t remember being told I needed to be connected to a server to access them. The other demos this blog will be reviewing later in the month still function just fine. I can’t verify if there was something wrong with my download of “Lake” because the demo isn’t available to download now. Even the cat game let me play it once. This is all so strange to me.

I’m afraid I sound like a spoiled child. I’m just trying to express my bewilderment. Is this acceptable for game demos in the modern era? I’m pretty sure I can still play the “Blinx: The Time Sweeper” demo on Xbox, and that’s from 2002. What changed?

All right, this isn’t useful for anyone, not for this blog, not for the developer – who is no doubt glued to the screen waiting to see my final thoughts – and not for you, Tonstant Weader. I was kinda interested in “Lake,” since it was billed as a quirky and character-driven game, and heartily recommended by a number of media outlets. I took the time to look up some videos online of other people playing the demo (maybe it worked better on PC than Xbox?), which gave me a moment to gather my thoughts.

“Lake” is a game about a computer programmer who returns to her Pacific Northwestern hometown to work in the post office one long Labor Day weekend, presumably while dodging some as yet unspecified burnout. It’s also a game where you choose dialogue options, so your mileage may vary when it comes to experiencing it by watching videos. It looks like you drive around, deliver mail to a cast of stock amusing and offbeat characters, and listen to a soulful country/folk soundtrack on your radio. I guess I was expecting something more David Lynch? Whatever. I didn’t play the game, so I can’t really complain about it. The animation looked pretty stiff and oddly similar to old GoAnimate videos, and the writing could be uneven but was always well-meaning. The voice acting seemed acceptable, and the game hit the 1980s card often enough to be noticeable but less often than I was expecting, which was appreciated.

To whom would I recommend this demo? Based solely off the videos I skimmed, this has the flavor of a walking simulator. I didn’t play “Firewatch” either, but I’ve watched more than a few videos about it, and I’m getting a similar vibe off this one: slow-paced, lightly atmospheric, more interested in characters than gameplay, a largely grounded narrative and a slice-of-life feel. So I guess if you like all that, and the idea of a mail truck simulator doesn’t turn you off, then keep an eye on it.

My advice to the developer would be figure out your audience. Are you shooting for Lynchian goofball thriller fans? If so, you’ve got to up the mystery and/or eccentric factor. If not, keep doing what you’re doing with the genial melodrama, but ease off dog whistles like “quirky” and “post office.” Also, a bit more fluidity to the animation and editing couldn’t hurt. But most importantly, maybe include a game with your demo next time.