Horror

‘The Backrooms Game’ Brings a Modern Creepypasta to Life [What We Play in the Shadows]

“If you’re not careful and you noclip out of reality in the wrong areas you’ll end up in the Backrooms, where it’s nothing but the stink of old moist carpet, the madness of mono-yellow, the endless background noise of fluorescent lights at maximum hum-buzz, and approximately six hundred million square miles of randomly segmented empty rooms to be trapped in. God save you if you hear something wandering around nearby, because it sure as hell has heard you.”

In May 2019, the paranormal discussion board of infamous internet site 4chan featured a thread asking for pictures that felt “wrong” or “off” somehow. One user submitted a photo of an oddly large open room with hideous yellow wallpaper, fluorescent lights you’d expect to find in a dollar store, and the kind of carpet that dominated dentist offices in the early 90s. The photo featured a dutch angle that made it all seem just a little more sinister. Another user contributed the evocative description above, and the Backrooms were born.

As an internet creation, the Backrooms are new to the scene, just now a year old. Regardless, they’ve taken the creepypasta world by storm. Multiple stories, fan art, and games have been created focusing on the endless location. The Backrooms Game is perhaps the most polished interactive experience available, but it’s still underfurnished as a concept. (I apologize for that joke. Let’s move on.)

The Backrooms Game Free Edition gives you all the advice you need at the start: venture as far as you can without going insane. Check your watch every thirty seconds to remember who you are and why you’re there. DON’T LOOK AT IT. And then you’re immediately dumped into the never-ending hallways, tasked with staying alive long enough to find the exit.

Controls are simple as can be: WASD to get around, E to interact, TAB to view your watch. Partial controller support is available, but not necessary for a game like this. It’s essentially a walking simulator, with very little anxiety where reflexes are concerned. The anxiety is supplied by the visuals and sound design, which are rigidly faithful to the original description posted on 4chan. The lights hum maddeningly, the wallpaper repeats endlessly, and the hallways go on essentially forever. If Smell-O-Vision was a thing, this game would include the stink of the old moist carpet.

There isn’t a story, only a goal: escape. The random generation of the Backrooms means that you could wander for an hour or find the exit inside of 10 minutes. There is, of course, a hideous creature to avoid, but it’s laughably easy to do so. If you listen carefully and take care not to sprint around corners without checking what lies ahead first, you may never see it. The game wants you to check your watch every 30 seconds to keep your sanity in check, but the farther you go the more unhinged you become regardless. Prepare for some shifting patterns and extinguished lights.

Currently, there is little reason to revisit The Backrooms Game except to set your own records for distance or fastest time to the exit. Developer Pie On a Plate Productions has a road map for future enhancements that include everything from more monsters and monster encounters to a detailed inventory system. The game is 100% free, but you can choose to support the dev team’s plans for a very reasonable amount of $2.99. The potential for a deeper, richer game is certainly there.

The Backrooms Game excels as an existential experiment in terror and childhood fear… for the first five minutes. Literature majors will appreciate the connection to Charlotte Perkins Gilman and gaming YouTubers will appreciate having another title to squeeze some views out of. Most of us will escape quickly or get bored gradually. Either way, one trip is more than enough, at least until those additional features are implemented.

The Backrooms Game Free Edition is available on Steam.

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