Puzzlers rejoice! Skymap Games have helped develop a charming game in Backworlds for the Nintendo Switch. In a wonderfully colorful world, explore to your heart’s content any way that you’d like and solve some of the simplest to most intricate puzzles using physics, backgrounds, and foregrounds. Backworlds will keep you coming back for more as you dive deeper into the rabbit hole of unique puzzles.
Starting out your journey, this strange two-tailed green avatar comes to life into the art style of a colorful child-like hand-drawn world. As you learn how to use the game’s simple mechanics of painting, jumping, and grabbing, it lets go of your hand fairly early on and allows you to explore a vast array of puzzles in an open world.
Approach each environment in any order that you’d like. Do not let the first initial puzzles and environment fool you. It can get progressively difficult as you journey deeper into the world. While there is no obvious story or dialogue, there is no need for it since the game is very fascinating with how it presents itself. Notice a strange contrast between the vibrant world and the grey, depressing background of city buildings, bare trees, and industrial factories. Which one is real? Are they both real?
While each puzzle felt thought out and challenging, some of the more difficult puzzles had me baffled and I had to revisit them once I experienced more of how the game wants me to approach certain obstacles. There isn’t exactly a proper balance in the learning curve since players can explore the world in any order that they want. You may want to return once you get the hang of other puzzles and environments.
Thankfully, there are no fail states or death. If players find themselves stuck, they can simply move on and come back to how they left the puzzle originally. With how large the world is, there is also the helpful inclusion of fast travel so players can go back and try again if they find themselves too far away. Useful features like these help players feel like they can still progress and then come back when they receive that “ah-hah” moment to solve a previously tricky puzzle. It also helps because the avatar is very slow to walk around the area. Patience and the willingness to return to an unsolved dilemma are key.
The biggest focus and mechanic of the game is the use of a somewhat paintbrush/eraser tool. Players can adjust its radial size and use it as often as they’d like to remove or paint back the environment. There are no meters to refill or collectibles to consume for it. It will initially be used to go through objects or provide a barrier between you and enemies, but soon more ways to use the brush will open as you travel further. One example is that there are some sections of the world where you erase the environment and can swim through those areas rather than go through it.
Another example would be the use of gravity and velocity to navigate obstacles. These creative changes restrict the game from becoming stale and players from becoming bored from a repetitive gameplay cycle. Eventually, players will find even more variety when they discover objects that can be used along with each puzzle such as a magnet, anchor, or teleporter. All that variety will become useful once you make it to any boss areas, which are puzzles as well.
Backworlds can have some difficult, frustrating moments with some puzzles. Especially with how slow the character moves. Its charming art style, challenging but fair gameplay, and variety are what can keep players coming back. The game really does ask that you use all aspects of the environment without allowing any hints or flexibility so when players find a solution, it’s a great accomplishment and keeps them motivated. The length of puzzles can vary from one to fifteen minutes provided if you know how to solve them. Calming and sometimes melancholy music also helps keep the atmosphere and tension low so that the real focus is on solving puzzles with a clear head.
Players will not find any action/adventure elements aside from a bit of platforming. Tension would possibly rise a bit when fighting any boss battles. Although the child-like art style is simple, it brings a lot of charm and imagination to it. Four unique levels aren’t a lot when reading a game description, but with how large they are, they offer a variety of detail and opportunity. It proves a lot of love has been put into it all. How each and every branch can be jumped on, object to being pushed, and enemies to avoid matters. Players who have the puzzle itch will love Backworlds.
This review was written based on a digital review copy of Backworlds for Nintendo Switch provided by Skymap Games.