Back Again

I’m a sucker for quirky, experimental games. Something like Cult of the Lamb is a bit on the novel side, toying with contrasting gameplay and thematic styles. Remember Superhot? That was a fun thing that took risks. Back Again from Manning Media goes for some bizarre tonal direction and odd themes kind of like those games did, but it doesn’t quite get that stuff right. As for the gameplay, well, that falls flat, too.

Back Again was originally released on Steam in 2021. When I took a look at the Nintendo Switch version, it looked like a cool little first-person 3D platformer. The game has gigantic naked clothing store dummies. The color scheme is very White Stripes, consisting of black, white, and red. And it’s filled with tricky-looking platforming. What could go wrong?

Well, pretty much everything, actually.

When you start playing Back Again, you’re greeted by a mysterious British voice. At first, things seem pretty unassuming. Well, as unassuming as you can get when you’re surrounded by massive naked mannequins.

Back Again Game

The action starts out simple enough. You can walk. You can jump. Actually, things stay pretty simplistic all the way through. In Back Again, you never gain any new abilities. All you do is walk and jump across small platforms and narrow beams. The layouts change over time, sure, and there are a couple parts where your speed increases for a moment, but the core gameplay remains the same throughout, and it doesn’t take long for things to get tedious.

In fact, just a few checkpoints in and Back Again became absolutely frustrating. It’s not that the game is overly difficult. Sure, the challenge is there. But the game just doesn’t feel right. It’s easy to slide off a platform by accident because you moved a hair off from where you’re supposed to be. Sometimes the perspective is a bit off. Oh, and you can’t even invert the vertical controls. Yeah, yeah, that’s not for everyone, but the option should be there by default! Play how you want — I’m just saying the game should give us a choice.

There aren’t multiple levels in Back Again. Instead, the whole thing is just one big path with 20 checkpoints. Sometimes the checkpoints are placed right after a really tough obstacle, which makes sense. Other times, you’ll get through maybe two tough spots and still have a ways to go before you get to the next checkpoint, which feels needlessly cruel.

Beyond those issues, though, Back Again just isn’t fun to play. The platforming is boring and the layouts are uninteresting. This game is just not good.

The same can be said about the presentation. I felt deceived. My eyes were tricked into thinking that giant naked mannequins and a De Stijl motif would make for an interesting visual experience, but alas, even this stylistic direction wasn’t utilized as well as Meg and Jack White would’ve used it. And I have to say, it’s really bizarre seeing humongous naked dummies stuck in the sky flapping around like birds. Really bizarre. And kind of stupid. Like, the game is unintentionally goofy.

Back Again Switch

As you get closer to the end, the British voice becomes more and more concerned. He urges you to turn around. He says you won’t like what you see when you get to the end. Buddy, I didn’t like anything I saw throughout the game. How can the ending be much worse than this? Well, it turns out it’s neither worse nor better — it’s just fittingly weak for what this game turned out to be. Thankfully, it’s all over in just over an hour.

We don’t normally give out review scores here at Half-Glass Gaming, but I think y’all should know: Back Again is totally a 2 out of 10. Play something else instead. Or play nothing. Doing nothing might be better than this.

Disclaimer: I was given a review code for Back Again on Nintendo Switch, but the opinions expressed in this article are my own.

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