PAX West 2018: Backworlds

Tuesday, September 4th, 2018

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When I first watched the trailer for Backworlds, my first thought was that it looked like if Braid and Okami had a baby. As someone who’s quite fond of both of those games, that was enough for it to get my attention. Now, having played the game myself, I still relate it to those two, but it does enough of its own to make it feel like something unique.

Backworlds | Underground area

The game is a side-scrolling puzzle-platformer where you play as some strange-looking (but I think quite cute) green creature, working your way through levels while drawing on the screen with a mouse-controlled brush to alter the environment in various ways. While the ways the brush will affect the world will change depending on the world in the full game – similar to Braid‘s various time powers – the effect shown off in the demo was focused on making platforms and pieces of landscape either appear or disappear. You can use it to help reach new areas, trap enemies, and otherwise solve puzzles that you come across as you progress through the world.

Backworlds | Enemy

The puzzles were fairly straightforward for the most part, since I presume they were mainly there to help the player get the hang of how to use the brush powers as well as some of the various other elements they’ll encounter as they progress through Backworlds. That said, it was still enjoyable to play through, if only because of its fairly novel primary mechanic and beautiful visuals and music. The art in particular was one of the things that really got my attention, with a gorgeous painterly style and the aforementioned creature that you play as. Painting over an area turns it to an inverted black-and-white, and adds a bit of machinery and other modern-world imagery, such as houses and trash bins. It’s an interesting form of visual storytelling, and I’m curious about how that in particular will play out.

Backworlds | Swimming

While the painting mechanic was pretty basic in the demo, the trailer promises more to be done with it, such as painting water to swim in onto the world, giving certain objects magnetic properties, and inverting gravity. The game’s developer with whom I spoke at PAX also promised that the full game will explain the origins of the player character, what it is, and why its head isn’t attached.

Backworlds | Magnetism

As with many of the games I played this weekend, I very much enjoyed the time I spent with Backworlds. The game seems quite pleasant with its art style and music, and even though the puzzles were simple they are still fun and enjoyable to solve. I look forward to playing the full game and seeing the different ways the game uses its painting mechanic, and seeing what more there is to the story and world. Yet another game I’ll be checking out when it comes out on PC in early 2019. The team is also looking into the possibility of a Switch release for Backworlds, but there’s no confirmation of that version of the game at the moment.

About Chris Melchin

Chris is a computer science student who has been gaming ever since he knew what to do with a Super Nintendo controller. He's a fighting game player, with a focus on BlazBlue and Under Night In-Birth games. His favourite games include Xenoblade Chronicles 2, Persona 5, and Little Busters. He started watching anime in high school, and his favourite series is Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood. He also writes Vocaloid music for his personal YouTube channel, and has a (slight) obsession with Megurine Luka.