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The creators of the excellent, minimalist Race the Sun (opens in new tab) have once again tasked us with pushing a high-speed ship to its limits, this time in the Star Fox-inspired Whisker Squadron: Survivor (opens in new tab). Instead of a race against time, it’s a shooter, with neon corridors filled with obstacles and laser-spitting enemies. It’s a good time, and you can take it for a spin now by downloading the Steam Next Fest demo. 

Whisker Squadron: Survivor is a roguelite deal, where you select a feline pilot, ship, weapons and perks, and then head into a series of increasingly deadly corridors, using scrap claimed from fallen foes to level up through a series of randomised upgrades. If you fail, you have to start over, but with a leg up thanks to the points you earned on the previous run, which let you purchase new ships and perks as well as unlocking different tabby pilots. 

It’s straightforward and streamlined, but this is really an appetiser for a beefier game, simply called Whisker Squadron (opens in new tab). It’s also a roguelite shooter, but as well as the deadly corridors seen in Survivor, there are also free-roaming exploration zones, and opportunities to hunt down “loot and opportunities” while you’re dodging lasers and blasting bosses. It doesn’t have a demo just yet, but both games are expected to launch later this year. 

When I picked up a Mini SNES a few years back, I rekindled my love of Star Fox, and while Whisker Squadron: Survivor’s demo doesn’t quite boast the same amount of personality and, with its roguelite structure, is doing its own thing, the vibes are still comparable, and boosting my way down its corridors has been a nice way to spend a morning. 

Just one piece of advice: You’ll be tempted to use a controller, but stick with the mouse and keyboard. The way the reticle snaps back to the centre made the shooting a bit awkward when I used my Xbox One pad, but that doesn’t happen when you’re using the mouse to aim. 

It’s shaping up to be another excellent Next Fest, and we’ve already been having a great time with Shadows of Doubt (opens in new tab), the procedural detective sandbox; but it looks like the game everyone’s interested in is Dark and Darker (opens in new tab), an FPS dungeon romp I’d never heard of until yesterday. The peak concurrent player count yesterday was over 100,000, which is wild. Next Fest runs until Monday, so you’ve still got plenty of time to sift through the huge selection of demos (opens in new tab)