I am a complete sucker for 2D platformers, even more so if they have mechanics that let you manipulate the environment, and artwork is always a plus. This is why Backworlds hits just the right platforming itch. Developed by Logic Ember, a games studio founded by Juha Kangas and Anders Ekermo, a pair of game industry veterans, Backworlds is as wholesome as it is challenging.
Backworlds is a multi-dimensional puzzle-platform game that you explore and progress by painting. While it is a simple platformer, with some of the same elements you know and love in the gametype—moving platforms, enemies, and ledges that take a little love to clear—the game separates itself from others by making the player move between two parallel worlds, each with its own unique set of properties all by using your brush to flow seamlessly from one to the other. While traversing the map may seem simple, you have to solve environmental conundrums by using each world’s physical properties to your advantage. As each level becomes more detailed, you have to use the skills you learn across the previous ones to progress. But it’s not just the physics you consider; you also get the chance to use your own creativity to craft original solutions to the game’s puzzles.
Now, I know you’re thinking, how do you paint your way through Backworlds? Well, the answer is both simple but also dynamic. While you use the d-pad to move forward and backward, the right thumbstick is used to paint sections of the world around you. When you do, the colors change and some of the objects painted change too. Certain rocks become transparent, allowing you to pass through, running water disappears, and a few other neat tricks happen.
Now, at first, I adjusted the setting using the up and down buttons on the d-pad to make my brush the biggest it could be. And that worked, at least for the first level. But, as you progress, you need to become more selective in the areas that you paint. Some necessitate using the finest brush while others don’t, but thankfully the learning curve to that end isn’t necessarily steep.
That said, the painting aspect adds a challenge to Backworlds and elevates the environmental puzzles to a status that keeps you engaged as a player. Even for me, someone who spends a lot of time playing platformers and finds them relatively quickly to move through, the challenge that the need for creativity added was exactly what I needed. One of the more challenging aspects of the game is using moving platforms. These can disappear when in a painted area that drops you, but in some instances, you will need to paint over specific blockades in order to progress. This forces the player to think about the thickness of the brush, where they’re placing the paint, and also see the next step past getting on the platform.
One of the larger issues with platformers is repetitiveness or the feeling of playing the same area multiple times. Thankfully, the painting mechanic helps a great deal to keep upping the game. In addition to that, though, the game’s art is the most stunning element of the Backworlds. All hand-painted, the setting is wholesome, the characters are adorable, and the contrast between the main world and the painted one is beautiful to look at while also helping ease gameplay. Additionally, as you play and need to utilize new mechanics, the level features directions written in the background to tell you which buttons to press. This helps guide you, but it also doesn’t remove any discovery of how to use these elements.
Overall, Backworlds is a short and sweet game that offers up ample amounts of wholesome and challenge in the best way. Painting your way through the world isn’t just a gimmick; it’s an integral part of the game, which is important for niche travel mechanics. Plus, there are a few surprises in-store, including teleportation. So if you’re looking for a game to play on the go and puzzles to keep you focused, then Backworlds is definitely for you. A port from the PC, this one takes full advantage of the way you play your Switch and just works.
Backworlds is available on the Nintendo Switch on May 20, 2021.
Overall, Backworlds is a short and sweet game that offers up ample amounts of wholesomeness and challenge in the best way. Painting your way through the world isn’t just a gimmick; it’s an integral part of the game, which is important for niche travel mechanics. Plus, there are a few surprises in-store, including teleportation. So if you’re looking for a game to play on the go and puzzles to keep you focused, then Backworlds is definitely for you. A port from the PC, this one takes full advantage of the way you play your Switch and just works.
Kate Sánchez is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of But Why Tho? A Geek Community. There, she coordinates film, television, anime, and manga coverage. Kate is also a freelance journalist writing features on video games, anime, and film. Her focus as a critic is championing animation and international films and television series for inclusion in awards cycles.