I was, I’m mostly pleased to say, entirely unaware of the Backrooms creepypasta before I played Backrooms Exploration. Originating on 4chan in 2018/9, the idea is that a person can – at any time – noclip out of reality and find themselves in a network of dingy yellow corridors and empty rooms, walls in the wrong places, with possibly non-euclidean geometry. And you’re not alone.
Thankfully, unlike so many creepypastas, the Backrooms themselves are spooky in their apparent blandness. Which is to say, you don’t have to look at a picture of Momo or Smile.jpg every time you read about it. It’s just a strangely arranged yellow-walled space. This has, inevitably, led to a huge number of Backrooms-based games on Steam (there are, by my count, 67 different games with the word “Backrooms” in their title), none of which I’ve noticed before Backrooms Exploration. So why this one and not any of the others? Because I just happened to play it, and had a good time.
Backrooms Exploration reaches beyond the initial concept, and builds a narrative game taking place in a number of different locations, yet all feeling thematically adjacent. There are grimy mazes through which you’ll want to make sparing use of your torch battery. There are mysterious secrets only revealed when photographed. And there are non-euclidean environments that evoke the dream-like state of being trapped in impossible unrealities.
Everyone’s first question is always: are there jump-scares? So let’s get that out of the way: yes! Loads of them! And they’re bloody terrifying! I am someone who doesn’t jump during movies, but this game had me leaping in my chair. It’s subtle too, which is likely why they work on me – there’s no amount of inoculation through overexposure that prepares you for these bad boys.
Beyond that, what makes this work for me is a light narrative that doesn’t overly get in the way, alongside its willingness to step outside of the immediate meme’s boundaries to provide entertainment. And that it scared the bejesus out of me over and over.
It’s glitchy, and I encountered bugs along the way. It’s worth noting that the developer is patching them out as fast as they’re being reported, though! And honestly, I’ve no idea how this measures up against the Backooms competition. There could be examples that far outdo this, and I’m very interested to find out, but that’s not what we’re looking at today. Today it’s this very engrossing, damned scary, grimy and scratchy mess of corridors and puzzles, and I’m fully into it.
- Mistcloud Games