From Naraven Games comes the comedic first-person narrative puzzler, Backfirewall_, which takes players on a journey through the inner workings of our smartphones.
Naraven Games is a female-led game development studio based in Switzerland whose first project, Answer Knot, was released in 2019. Teaming up with publisher All In! Games, the two studios have now announced their new title: Backfirewall_.
Slated to release later this year, Backfirewall_ puts players in the shoes of a program tasked with updating a mobile device’s operating system. But when the operating system goes rogue, and the player’s life is threatened to be terminated, the two must band together to survive – for better or for worse.
In addition to playing a demo of Backfirewall_, Dexerto talked with Naraven Games’ lead designer Lucie Robert to take a closer look at the digital world inside out mobile devices.
A narrative deeper than you’d think
Backfirewall_ may be a comedic adventure filled with rib-tickling dialogue and amusing characters, but its narrative extends beyond humor. Players will be faced with a choice that looms over them for the duration of the experience.
In its simplest form, Backfirewall_ is a tale of survival. The player can choose at any time to update the mobile device making the life of the phone’s user and the programs thereof much easier.
However, this effectively kills the player and OS9, the rogue operating system you befriend at the start of the game. There are also several characters and factions you will meet along the way that either side with OS9 or utterly despise him.
“There are lots of little choices the player can make, even if they don’t realize it’s a choice at the moment, ” stated Robert. “At the end, you will see if a character ended up like this or like that. You’ll see if a character survived, but it’s only if you performed an action before or after certain events.”
These choices will be something players struggle to make throughout the game, but the biggest choice is whether to update the device or selfishly make the lives of others harder so you can continue to live.
While the game takes place inside of the phone, the phone’s user has an impact on the story and the player’s decisions. What can easily be seen as a villainous update program at first can later look like an option for the greater good.
Robert described OS9 as a “loveable a**hole”, and that makes him a much more endearing partner in crime. But there’s a constant struggle to determine who the real “bad guy” is when you learn more about the user.
Exploring a world so familiar
When asked what inspired Naraven to make a game based inside a phone, Robert responded, “The first idea was to create a concept around an object we all know but don’t think twice about.”
Backfirewall_ explores what happens inside of our smart devices by personifying every aspect. Apps and programs are characters, different systems in the phone are explorable areas, and digital terms are made simple by turning them into physical objects.
“We wanted to explore what could happen inside our phones when something random happens, such as an update. What kind of drama or story conflict it could bring,” Robert stated.
And this conflict will introduce players to pretty much everything you would find in a smartphone. “Every level you go through are components of the phone, such as RAM and GPUs. Most of the characters are apps like social media or processes.”
Shortcutting your way through the game
This narrative game is also filled with puzzles, and players have a few tools they can use to navigate their way through the phone. Conveniently, all of these tools are actual keyboard shortcuts you may use on a daily basis.
During the demo, players were only given the delete function allowing them to remove certain objects. But the intro sequence introduces all four tools players will get their hands on throughout the game. They are delete, color, copy, and invert.
“They’re supposed to be reminiscent of shortcuts that computer users already use,” stated Robert. “The more you progress through the world the more obstacles will be in your way since you’re rogue and not supposed to be doing what you’re doing.”
Players can use these shortcuts to make their own path through levels or to have a bit of fun messing with the environment. Being able to delete objects in the first area was fun enough, so adding more tools to your belt could open a world of delightful possibilities.
Backfirewall_ oozes charm and personality, and it’s a game players should be looking forward to jumping into. The experience from Naraven already feels like it will fit perfectly next to similar comedic puzzlers such as The Stanley Parable and Portal.
All In! Games states Bakcfirewall_ is slated to release in 2022 on PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X|S, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC via Steam.