Imagine, if you will, that pieces of software and applications on a phone are, in fact, sentient beings with consciences and feelings. No, this isn't a pitch for the next Pixar movie, it's the basis for Naraven Games and All in! Games' backfirewall_.
backfirewall_ lets the protagonist take the role of an operating system update on a phone, also known as the U Protocol whom I accidentally named Elizabeth. Your tutorial and acclimation to the game, after some brief fumbling by the current operating system named OS9, is playing through the process of the update and installing it. However, with a change of heart at the very last minute, the update program and OS9, abscond together. The demo released takes you through the almost-update and through saving OS9 from the recycle bin, breaking out into the greater phone area. The writing is witty, and the posters shown on the wall as you progress through the update take a very satirical aim at corporate culture that is none too subtle. Slogans shown include "A healthy Binary Tree is a trimmed Binary Tree" and "Faster Processes Thanks to U."
While there's not a whole lot of plot covered, it sets up an intriguing premise and the character of OS9 is fun and entertaining. The player character of the OS update also shows promise, despite not having much dialogue so far, you're clearly renegade enough to stop the system upgrade, unwilling to sacrifice yourself for the good of the phone, and have a positive, rebellious streak that pushes you to also save OS9 from the dreaded bin.
The gameplay itself is fun, so far it's mostly puzzles. Your character is an OS update so the abilities that you can use all relate to that, using backspace to delete items, changing colors, and sorting bits. A rubber duck is available if puzzles are too difficult, which is definitely helpful, as well as cute. But the puzzles are well laid out, with no moon logic to speak of. Or would it be cloud logic on a phone instead? There are also a few collectibles it seems, though the only one I've found so far is a cute reference to Forrest Gump in the form of a fortune cookie saying I found on the floor.
Voice acting so far is also fun, and the game's setting and art design are imaginative and unique. I can say that I've never before thought about what the inside of my phone would look like if its programs came to life, but I definitely wouldn't have thought my OS would only have a giant floating eye for a head, somewhat reminiscent of Bill Cipher, and I wouldn't have placed it in a desolate but futuristic looking cityscape devoid of life. While I realize on paper that doesn't sound like the greatest design choice, in game it absolutely works.
backfirewall_ is a great choice for anyone looking for a demo to play that's got a unique setting and witty writing. If you're looking for something action-packed, this might not be your jam, but if you want funny voice acting and puzzles that challenge you to look at your phone in a whole new way, backfirewall_ might be the 1 for you.
TechRaptor previewed backfirewall_ on PC with a copy downloaded by the reviewer. It will be launching for PC on a currently unannounced date.