Sometimes, a game doesn't need top-of-the-line graphics, an epic saga for the ages, or gameplay systems so varied they can keep players on their toes for hours. All they really need to do to succeed is provide the player with simple mechanics and a fun gameplay loop. Enter Backpack Hero, a simple yet effective low-res indie title that is shaping up to be a go-to relaxation game for RPG fans and indie lovers alike.
Created by indie developer Jaspel, the game is driven by a simple premise: As a small dungeon-delving creature, the player is tasked with finding riches in a series of dungeons loaded with loot. As they go deeper into the depths of these structures and fight off the threats that call the tunnels home, players need to keep their ever-growing backpack organized and capable of storing the increasingly better loot that reveals itself.
The player can also level up, juggle curses and buffs, and balance carrying loot with nabbing equipment that can keep them alive in combat encounters; and that's to say nothing of making choices regarding NPCs they meet along the way.
While this may sound like a lot, Backpack Hero streamlines itself in a way that makes these many mechanics manageable. Exploring is as simple as clicking on the map in the top right of the screen, after which a variety of icons can be selected for different events to occur. Battles, merchants, and special interactions are all clearly marked with different icons, allowing the player to determine how they want their dungeon dive to play out from floor to floor.
Likewise, battling is a similarly straightforward point-and-click affair. After encountering enemies, players can select which items they'd like to use in combat with a limited number of moves. One could spend their entire phase hammering away at enemies with melee attacks; or, they could be more strategic, using debuff items with their first two turns before finally striking a decisive blow. They can likewise bide their time and buff their defenses, turtling through a barrage of enemy attacks until the time is right to launch a counterattack.
It's a deceptively deep combat system, but also one which Backpack Hero players won't have to spend hours figuring out if they don't want to. I had a blast clearing skirmishes whether I was being meticulous and cunning or smashing my way through with brute force, with both methods leading to the same sense of victory and accomplishment.
A big factor in this, though, was the inventory management aspect of the title. After every battle, and after interactions with merchants or NPCs, new items are made available to add to the increasingly large inventory of the backpack. These new items can be rotated and moved around to fit within its burlap walls, a la an inventory management system akin to Resident Evil 4. This quickly switches over the gameplay from RPG mechanics to a relaxing puzzle affair and serves to give a quick hit of dopamine for anyone who loves organizing their items in a particular way.
It's a fun twist on what could have been a standard RPG experience, and I honestly found it to be a perfect central element to hinge several of the gameplay mechanics around. Even after a stressful battle, the act of organizing my inventory put me back in a zen state of mind and ready to dive further into the dungeon's depths.
Topping all this off was Backpack Hero's simple yet charming aesthetic. The graphics are a throwback to 16 and 32-bit titles, offering pixel art and animations that do as much as they can in a 2D style. The music follows suit, offering a retro style which stays within a range between calm and slightly energetic.
It all comes together into an experience that is already on track to be a go-to game for many a gamer. Trust me when I say that Backpack Hero should be on everyone's radar, and is sure to remain there as it grows and improves through its time in Early Access.
TechRaptor previewed Backpack Hero on PC with a copy provided by the developer. The game is currently available in Early Access.