Backworlds – Review
Follow Genre: Puzzle game, Platformer
Developer: Logic Ember
Publisher: Skymap Games
Platform: Switch, PC
Tested on: Switch

Backworlds – Review

Site Score
Good: Clever puzzle designs
Bad: Clunky and awkward control scheme
User Score
(2 votes)
Click to vote
VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 6.5/10 (2 votes cast)

A little over a year ago, Backworlds was released on Steam, after nine years of development. That seems like a long time in the oven for a small indie game, but the Steam version of Backworlds received some high praise from the PC gaming community. The dimension-shifting puzzle platformer has now made the jump to the Switch as well. How does Backworlds hold up on Nintendo’s hybrid handheld?


If you were hoping for a carefully crafted narrative, you’re out of luck. Backworlds immediately throws you into its world without an explanation. There is no narrative throughout the game, which is a shame as we quite like the design for the player creature and we wanted to know more about it.


Backworlds brings along cute and colorful aesthetics and an adorable creature that the player controls. We’re not quite sure what it is supposed to be as it looks like a cross between Ike from South Park and a Chinese lion statue. Whatever it is, the creature roams a great-looking world featuring hand-drawn aesthetics. The environments are filled to the brim with little details that bring it to life, from the swirling winds to the roaring waters. One thing that puzzled us is that surfaces you “paint” turn dark. Given that painting is a core concept of the game, it seems contrary to remove color from the world by painting it, and perhaps this would’ve been better had it been reversed.


One of Backworlds’ selling points is that the soundtrack was composed by David Housden, a BAFTA-nominated composer. To the game’s credit, the music here is incredibly fitting for the different environments. The music is soothing yet mysterious and sets a relaxing atmosphere. Given the lack of voice acting and the limited sound effects, it was up to Housden to take the front stage for Backworlds’ soundscape and we’re happy to say that he certainly delivers on this front.


Backworlds is a multi-dimensional puzzle platformer where players take control of the aforementioned (nameless) creature and explore four distinct worlds. The game is built around the concept of two dimensions layered on top of one another, a concept we’ve seen before in games like World Splitter. Backworlds attempts to differentiate itself from its competition by putting a twist on the dimension shift mechanics: players have the ability to “paint” the new dimension on top of the old one -and they’re able to erase what they’ve painted as well. The game is set in a massive overworld that can be freely explored, similar to what you’d see in a Metroidvania game. It consists of separate screens, with each screen acting as a standalone puzzle, and most of these screens have different “exits”, leading you to other parts of the overworld. This allows you to tackle puzzles in a non-linear order, which creates a feeling of freedom. Spread out across the four worlds are blotches of paint that the creature can collect. Collecting a set number of blotches enables the creature to open doors which lead to boss battles. The ultimate aim of Backworlds is to defeat all of the bosses and beat the game.

That’s easier said than done, as you’ll first have to solve a puzzle or two before you can even reach the doors. Puzzle design is probably where Backworlds shines brightest of all, with some really inventive puzzles and fantastic use of mechanics. As you play through the game, you’ll run into shenanigans with teleporters and gravity changing depending on which dimension you walk around in. You can paint over a waterfall to create a path through it, and even use your painting ability to box in enemies so you can safely walk past them. There are a few headscratchers here and there, but overall, the puzzles are fairly manageable and the game ends up being a short but sweet affair.

On paper, Backworlds offers up a decent take on the dimension-shifting concept. The execution leaves a lot to be desired, however. The biggest issue with the Switch port lies with the game’s controls. Moving the creature is done with the directional buttons, and although there isn’t anything inherently wrong with this, we would’ve preferred the left joystick as it would’ve felt more natural. We accidentally kept trying to use the left joystick, but it has no function in this game. The real problems arise when taking a look at the mechanics for painting, however.

Painting can be done in three ways. The first one is the most awkward one, and involves moving a cursor with the right joystick and holding ZR to paint or R to erase. This control option feels quite clunky and erratic, however, and it’s probably the one that should be dismissed as soon as possible. That leaves touch controls for painting when you’re playing the game in handheld mode and gyroscopic aiming when docked or playing the game in tabletop mode. Touch controls are easier to manage, although you still need to hold R to erase while rubbing the screen with your finger, which can be straining on your hands when you’re also moving the creature around simultaneously. Finally, gyroscopic aiming is probably the easiest of the game’s control options and it works okay, but the game lacks an option to recenter the cursor.

No matter which of the three control schemes you choose, none of them is perfect, and they all come with some form of frustration. These frustrations are amplified during the boss battles, which often require a more complex series of inputs in order to perform the necessary actions to beat the bosses. It’s a shame, as this is a game that should’ve been much better than it currently is. Thankfully, Backworlds is also available as a PC title, and as the game was designed to be played with a mouse and keyboard, that’s probably the version you should go for.


Ultimately, we were left disappointed with the Switch version of Backworlds. We really wanted to like this game, as it combines adorable aesthetics with a great concept and some well-thought-out puzzles. It’s a shame to see that everything falls apart because of the lackluster execution of the controls. While we haven’t played the PC version of Backworlds, we’re gonna go out on a limb here and say that if you want to give this game a go, you should pick it up on Steam rather than fork out for the frustrating Switch port.

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Rating: 6.5/10 (2 votes cast)
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Rating: -1 (from 1 vote)
Backworlds - Review, 6.5 out of 10 based on 2 ratings

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