There are loads of good Steam Deck games – as in, games that happen to play well on a Steam Deck, even if they were originally crafted around desktop hardware and intended to be poked around with a mouse and keyboard. This is a joy of the portable PC in itself: that if you already have a populated Steam library, a box-fresh Deck will immediately have a selection of familiar favourites to install at no extra cost.
Still. While the Steam Deck doesn’t do exclusives, it does have a killer app. Nearly a year and a half after Valve surprise-launched Aperture Desk Job alongside their handheld, the comedy tech demo remains unsurpassed as a playable introduction to the hardware. Again, there are thousands of compatible games, but if you’ve just recently grabbed a Steam Deck (perhaps via the new official refurb scheme), Aperture Desk Job could hardly be more perfect as an inaugural install.
Granted, that’s entirely by design. Just like how Aperture Hand Lab was purpose-built to showcase the Valve Index’s VR finger twiddling features, Aperture Desk Job is a freebie download that aims to get Steam Deck users acclimatised to their new toy. The titular desk mirrors the Deck’s densely-packed arrangement of buttons, pads and sticks, and almost every interaction is one stop on a tour of gizmos, including easily-missed ones like the gyroscope and microphone.
It’s a comprehensive initiation, even covering how to take screenshots and bring up the SteamOS onscreen keyboard. But what’s most impressive is how, for game with “bring up the SteamOS onscreen keyboard” as an objective, Aperture Desk Job never feels dull. Tutorials are thoughtfully interwoven with jokes and plot beats, establishing a tone that’s more Portal 2 than pre-flight safety video: your first use of the Steam Deck’s touchscreen, for example, is to sign a contract that rants about a time-travelling Jack the Ripper. Minutes later, a crash course in gyro aiming is delivered during a shootout with gun-toting washing machines.
It’s like having The Fun Teacher at school, the one who draws ironic stick figures into their whiteboard diagrams and buys everyone finger skateboards for Christmas. Aperture Desk Job wants you to understand your Steam Deck, but is determined to make that familiarisation process an enjoyable one. And it is – I’ve replayed it several times just for funsies, and not just on my Deck.
Besides, it’s free, only weighs a few gigabytes, and takes less time to finish than the Steam Deck’s battery takes to charge. Also, if you play Aperture Desk Job before the end of the month, you’ll be fully prepped to join our RPS Game Club chat about it, most likely on August 31st. Will you get that calibre of perk by installing Vampire Survivors first? Nope.