Puzzle game

a charming narrative puzzle game with depth

Backfirewall_ is a first-person puzzle game that mixes tragicomic storytelling with manipulation of the environment inside a smartphone. We recently had the chance to play this intriguing game; here’s what we thought.

Naraven Games’ upcoming tragicomic puzzle game, Backfirewall_, gives us a unique perspective on the everyday life of apps on our smartphones – metaphorically speaking, of course. Our recent playthrough of one of the game’s levels showed that 360-degree environment manipulation, quirky characters, and consistent use of Easter eggs and additional storytelling props through collectibles means this could be an exciting game to watch if you are a fan of single-player narrative puzzle games.

We don’t have a release date for Backfirewall_ yet, but we know it will launch this year on Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, and PC. For more on the game from the developer’s perspective, check out our recent Backfirewall interview.

Backfirewall_ official gameplay trailer

Backfirewall_ is installed in a smartphone, with each level offering us a chance to explore a different element of its inner workings, such as RAM, Wi-Fi, speakers, etc. We assume the role of an update assistant convinced by the phone’s current operating system, OS9, to hinder the next system update which will replace it with OS10. While Backfirewall_ offers many puzzles to solve, its main focus is its narrative and pushes you to explore and reveal many secrets of the game.

I was lucky enough to play at a level that allowed me to explore the phone’s RAM (Random Access Memory), and as such its overall theme was filled with random activity. The room itself was deceptively small at first glance, but the real gameplay of Backfirewall is found clicking on anything and everything you come across, and as such I realized the room itself had four variations different that I could switch via illuminated buttons.

Each version of RAM contained a different element of the four puzzles I had to complete to progress, and after a while I found myself engaging with just about everything in the environment. There was nothing too complicated about what I was doing, and I quickly realized what the game was asking me to do; move from room to room to place blocks in their correct positions, cut down overgrown binary trees – Backfirewall’s foliage – and various other environmental tasks.

Scattered throughout the level, I found numerous pinned notes all over the place that, while unnecessary, made the phone dwellers feel “alive”. I even encountered a few, which like everything I’ve encountered while playing, required me to perform certain tasks. A smart gentleman needed me to get him stuck in a loop state; I admit I didn’t realize what I needed to do at first, but after a little help, I realized the clues were staring me in the face from the start. Everything is cleverly written on various notes and so on in the piece, but in a way that is not cluttered.

While the main focus of my time in the RAM room was to solve the puzzles needed to advance through the game, there were also points that revealed part of the game’s secondary storyline. Naraven Games created a parallel secondary storyline to the game’s main story, which is not necessary for your game but adds extra depth to the world.

As we try to stop the destruction of OS9, the secondary storyline slowly offers a glimpse into the life of the phone owner; it’s a really nice touch that made me feel one of the emotions of the Disney movie, Inside Out; while the owner of the phone was living her best life, i was invisibly fixing issues and improving processes to make sure her device was running optimally, while backing up the old OS…i think.

All in all, I really enjoyed my short stay with Backfirewall_. The one level I played offered plenty of puzzles, additional story arcs, and Easter eggs to intrigue me at almost every point. To be honest, even though I completed the level itself, I came away feeling like I missed something and wanted to come back to recheck. For a game that gave me a reasonably confined experience at this level, its ability to challenge me is an impressive feat.

If this has gotten you in the mood for a puzzling narrative adventure yourself, I recommend checking out Escape Academy, which we wrote about earlier this year. It’s a virtual escape game that follows an overarching narrative about a school that trains escape artists. You can play Escape Academy now on Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, PC, and through an Xbox Game Pass membership.

Backfirewall_ will launch on Xbox Series X|S and Xbox One later this year. What do you think of the game so far? Does it make you question the inner workings of your own smartphone? You will never update the operating system again? Leave a comment below and let us know!