Not every demo featured at Steam Next Fest is going to be a perfect fit for the Steam Deck OLED, but I’ve been playing a new supernatural shooter that absolutely slaps on the handheld. The fact that it feels like a blend of Stephen King’s Carrie and modern gritty revenge films is admittedly what drew me in initially, but I now have a solid hardware reason for picking Children of the Sun as soon as it releases.
Best described as a bullet time puzzle game, Children of the Sun places you in the vengeful shoes of THE GIRL, a masked sniper who’s hellbent on taking down members of a cult. Ultimately, the name of the game is to navigate a single round through the head of every unsuspecting cultist till you eventually land one in the head honcho’s heart, and while those mechanics are enough to keep things pretty exciting through the demo, the journey itself is a psychedelic trip chock full of abstract patterns and high contrast playpens, and it feels like using a regular screen for this new romp by René Rother and Devolver Digital would be a cardinal sin.
Before I start raving about Children of the Sun on Steam Deck, I want to clarify that I’m not an OLED fanatic. That’s not to say I don’t think Valve’s latest portable PC is one of the best gaming handhelds either, but it usually takes something special to get me to really invest in using the panel tech. From what I’ve played so far, that formula has, perhaps unwittingly, been achieved by this Steam Next Fest demo, and manages to check several more portable gaming boxes for good measure.
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I’ve already sort of touched on why the Children of the Sun demo looks so good on the Steam Deck OLED, but allow me to elaborate further. Each new stage kicks off with a tutorial that’s dressed like some sort of TV demonstration. A rippling wave of psychedelic blue envelopes everything but a specific section in order to show you the ropes, serving both as a practical tutorial element and visual flair.
As someone that holds handhelds pretty close to their face, it produces that mesmerising effect that drags my line of vision onto another plane of immersion, acting as a perfect prelude for the “normal” aesthetic of each area. Even when the aura switches to reveal the actual landscape, a mix of gloom and piercing rays of light burst onto the Deck’s OLED display in a way that the LCD version can’t deliver.
Yes, I know, you could technically experience the same on any OLED gaming monitor. However, there’s something about the close quarters nature of playing on a portable that heightens the experience. The sensation of telekinetically sailing a sniper bullet through the air towards your target on the Deck’s 90hz screen provides an eerie sense of inertia, and the crispier contrast helps draw your sight in further. Not to mention that smaller elements, like using the handheld’s touchpad to make micro adjustments to your deathblows, provide something above and beyond what a separate screen and controller combo could.
Calling Children of the Sun a perfect Steam Deck OLED game is admittedly subjective, and I’ll need to take the full version for a spin when it arrives in 2024 to fully commit to that claim. Nevertheless, if you own Valve’s portable powerhouse, I’d encourage you to give this Steam Next Fest demo a go.
As a side note, if the above hasn't convinced you to pick up an OLED handheld, you'll want to swing by our Asus ROG Ally review for a look at something more performance-focused.
Looking add more lightweight outings to your Steam Deck? Check out our round up of upcoming indie games expected to land in 2024.