It’s rare that a demo hooks me in as quickly as Mouthwashing did. Sure, plenty of games have solid slices showcasing a few cool gameplay elements that make me intrigued, curious, or interested to see the final build. But it’s really rare for a demo to feel so crafted that it might as well be a standalone work, impressive in-and-of-itself, outside the bounds of previewing.

Horror games are usually the ones that thrive in that space. Some of my most well-remembered demos, like Signalis, Slay the Princess, and the two letters at least a few of you are screaming at the screen right now, were all horror games; so sure, maybe it’s that. Few genres create small slices that stick with you in the same ways horror can.

Screenshot by Destructoid

But this long tangent to start isn’t just to celebrate excellent horror demos. It’s to tell you that if you dig any of what I’ve just said, or you enjoy horror, or you want to play a 20-minute game that will get stuck in your craw and fester for hours, maybe days? Play the Steam Next Fest demo of Mouthwashing. But leave this tab open for a bit, you know, because site metrics and stuff.

Monsters

If you’re still here and need convincing, here’s the set-up. Mouthwashing follows a crew of five adrift on the Tulpar, a long-haul space freighter for the Pony Express on a 382-day trip. They’re 147 days in, and things have not gone as planned.

Due to an unknown incident, the captain has practically immolated himself. Foam has sealed off major parts of the ship, and the crew is now terrifyingly anchorless and adrift in the vast expanse of space. They have some food supplies they could ration, but demand for oxygen will probably catch up soon, too.

Screenshot by Destructoid

So they try to figure it out. They try to get by. A vote keeps the captain alive, and in one stomach-turning moment, the player can opt to force painkillers down his throat to help him out. Tensions rise over whether the cargo hold should be opened and raided for potentially life-saving supplies. Usually, it’s the captain’s call. But the captain’s not really in a state, mentally or physically, to make that decision.

Look, there are only so many ways I can say, “if you like Alien or The Thing, you will like Mouthwashing.” And if you dig interesting takes on what games can do, that’s here too. The team behind Mouthwashing, Wrong Organ, has another fascinating title under their belt in How Fish Is Made. It’s one I’ve heard other people laud, and now playing their new effort, I can see why.

Screenshot by Destructoid

Writing our stories

For the scaredy-cats, it might reassure you to know that even though the atmosphere of Mouthwashing is absolutely dense and terrifying, it’s not really a jump-scare game. There is significant dread, and some decidedly grotesque imagery, even sounds that might make you squirm. But an animatronic bear is not going to leap out at you from the shadows.

What’s stuck in my head with Mouthwashing is the writing. It is, to put it plainly, excellent. You understand the crew and their moment-to-moment tensions. Lines from each of them have been bouncing around in my head since I closed out of the application. Even just the intro screen, displaying some plain, mundane information about the trip at hand before ending in “I hope this hurts” struck a chord with me. That’s how you instill some suspense, right before the demo kicks off.

Screenshot by Destructoid

So yes, go play Mouthwashing. It’s already been added to my mental list of “incredibly solid standalone demos,” and now has Wrong Organ’s new title sitting on my Steam Wishlist, waiting for news of more. Thankfully, it’s not going to be a long wait. Right now, the team is targeting a Q1 2024 launch.

Eric Van Allen

Senior Editor – While Eric’s been writing about games since 2014, he’s been playing them for a lot longer. Usually found grinding RPG battles, digging into an indie gem, or hanging out around the Limsa Aethryte.


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