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Backstage is a "classic" rm2k3 psychological horror adventure game made in one month, in the early spring of 2005, for the first ever Release Something. It is probably my best received game of all time, and I am very proud of it, especially because it was completed in such a short time!

"Hell isn't a place, but a state of mind. Hell lives within us all."

Tom Keller is lost. He has gone astray, and become trapped in a nightmare world that is a twisted mirror image of our own, tormented by horrific abberations, haunted by shattered memories. He is alone behind the world, and to escape, he must come to terms with all of his sins.


Tom Keller is an average enough guy, although one badly down on his luck. On the evening this nightmare begins, he's coming home from a fancy dinner with his wife, at a nice restaurant- where she took him to tell him she was leaving him, and where he still picked up the check. She's kicked him out of the house and had the locks changed, and he's had quite a bit to drink after dinner, and wants nothing more than to call her and give her the piece of his mind. He's already checked into a seedy hotel down town, where he plans to sleep it off after making a phone call. However, he is about to step through to the other side of a mirror that will warp and destroy everything he thought he knew about his life.

Alice Sirafas is an enigmatic and intriguing dark haired woman, the polar opposite in appearance and attitude of Tom's soon-to-be-ex wife Lucy. She seems to know Tom, although he can't remember from where, and she seems to have both a troubled past and a loose grip on reality. However, by the time Tom meets her, she may be his only ally against the shadows that lurk and wait Backstage.

Detective Aaron Wilks is a dedicated and honorable law man, one of the only clean cops in a department rife with corruption. When his partner is killed by a serial killer, and the case file is purposely misfiled, vaulted, and buried by the chief of police, Wilks sets out to find the truth, and get revenge, even though his superiors have specifically ordered him off the case. Putting his career and his life on the line, Detective Wilks tracks the killer to a hotel downtown.

Mask is a mysterious figure who Tom soon meets once he falls through the cracks of this world into the bloody shadows of the next. Although Mask appears to be human, he seems to have some kind of control over the horrifc creatures that stalk the darkness backstage. He explains that he is trying to help Tom, and educate him, but his methods of ‘education' seem more like torture as he stalks Tom through the twisted mirror world he can't seem to escape from.


Backstage is best played in near total darkness, with good quality speakers, or even better, headphones, with the volume turned up high. Not only will this enhance the atmosphere of the gameplay experience, and give the game a fair chance to scare the hell out of you, a dark background will make several of the game's darker areas easier to see, and quality speakers or headphones will let you hear some of the subtler directional cues to the game's audio puzzles.


Backstage has 3 Endings that can be earned depending on your actions throughout the game, and a Rank System that is...broken.

if you enjoyed Max McGee's releases, especially Ruptured Souls...
and if you like horror games in general,
especially Silent Hill...
and you haven't played this yet,
what are you waiting for?

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Review By Indigo Streetlight

This review was mysteriously rejected by staff, but the author passed it on to me so I am passing it on to you.

I say mysteriously not because the reasons were undeclared, but because when I staffed this site this would have easily met our standards for a review to be accepted. I could probably point to ten or twenty worse reviews on the forums right now. Admittedly, I would not have done the review in the form of a numbered list, but I'm not here to CRITIQUE Indigo Streetlight's critique, just to share it. So without further ado, here it is:

"Between Revenge and Redemption - 4 Stars (Submitted on 7/13/2010)

When I think of Backstage, sometimes it surprises me the that term "ideal reader" from my college writing courses comes to mind. Having played Silent Hill 1 through 4 myself, I have a certain body of work to draw upon in the enjoyment of Max's creation. As such, I would consider myself an "audience" that would be most likely to give a game like this a positive review.

From the perspective of fandom, Backstage is absolutely effective in alluding to and exploring many concepts from the Silent Hill universe, including the "Monsters as People" premise and the fact that the Otherworld can never be trusted. The player can never be quite sure if Tom is crazy going in, or if each horror and unhinging of reality is all some elaborate construction aimed at weakening his sense of self--so that a hellish force can lay claim to his soul (That's what I call good, wholesome entertainment right there).

In fact, I can only judge Backstage on how well it transfers the nostalgia, atmosphere, and game mechanics of the SH genre into the limitations of the RPGMaker 2003 software; that is the source of its charm. I would do so in the form of colorful literature--if it weren't for the fact that bulletpoints would save us much aggravation in organization, jumping back and forth and so on. Not all of these are clear-cut pros and cons, but merely observations.

1. The layout of many areas, namely the church and hotel, were strongly reminescent of Silent Hill maps, only more compact. This could be considered an improvement for it cuts down on the number of broken doors to check--always notorious in early SH games.

2. The use of music was mostly acceptable, but at times struck me as ear-filler for areas that could be dressed in original tunes (and still portray the same moods). In my opinion the clips which accompanied the otherworld activation (with the blowing snow) and the forboding "cult drums in the hallway" were used to the best effect. On the other hand, the tinny tune used for Tom's first long chat with Alice was enough to make me look over my shoulder--the only way I can describe it is "a feeling of self-consciousness" due to the geek-factor.

3. Some might consider the battle system in Backstage "primitive"; however, I noticed that the inability to change weapons made some areas more like puzzles, i.e. that you were more likely to make it to the next area if you destroyed monsters in a certain order. In my first play through, this involved some trial and error, in my second matters were much easier since I knew which golem-creatures to avoid or when to pick up certain weapons. Still, there's always a little bit of thought which goes into the otherwise automatic battles: if you have some extra medical supplies sitting around do you hold off picking up the glass shard, punching out some demon dogs so you can save the shard's defensive capabilities for more damaging Hunter-type creatures?

4. Graphical limitations did make key-finding a little more challenging. In Silent Hill, a camera angle could shift to tell the player to "Search Here", but Backstage has none of these luxuries. And you usually don't expect to find a dirty toilet in an otherwise clean hotel room!

5. The plot-lines for the most part were well done; my only qualm here is out of three branching paths, only one (Revenge) delivered the true identity of Mask with sufficient dramatic impact. In the other two paths he loses some thunder in revealing himself too early (without the scenes with the psychologist to bring everything together). Though I still like the scene where a certain character--while walking beside another--flashes and changes into Mask; you can't get much cooler than that in the 16 bit world.

6. There is one complaint I have which applies to Backstage and Silent hill 2 equally: the inability to save other characters (NPCs) from certain damnation. As an added twist, it would have been nice to see Tom completely deny his memories along with the input from the Otherworld and actually return to a normal life with his wife Lucy. Afterall, that tuxedo he wore in the beginning had to come from somewhere..."

I sure hope that Indigo can make whatever minor changes need to be made to this review so that staff can accept it to the site.
  • Completed
  • Max McGee
  • RPG Tsukuru 2003
  • Adventure
  • 11/12/2008 11:48 PM
  • 10/05/2020 04:47 AM
  • 11/13/2008
  • 234904
  • 41
  • 11443


Yeah, I could use some help getting unstuck. I'm at the part where there's this screaming guy in the bathroom; I've got no key for the clock and the only number clues I've got are the registries in the hotel manager's room. I'm wondering if I missed something outside or underground, but right now everything's locked and I can't go back.

To add a touch of critique here, it would be an improvement in the game interface if it let you run when you wanted to and allowed you to switch weapons / defensive items (If there's a way to do this, other than changing the order in which you pick them up, I haven't found it.)
Max McGee
with sorrow down past the fence
Both of those features are available in the sequel (check it out).

Anyway I installed rm2k3 on this computer JUST to try and resolve this for you.

annnd...after fifteen minutes of looking through the editor, I cannot seem to find where I hid the goddamn brass key. this is just WEIRD, it is really really really bothering me.

Unfortunately, I need to go inject myself with some HUMIRA pretty pressingly. I will try to resolve this later. (Remind me if I haven't come up with it in a couple days.)
I found it after you confirmed that it was a key I was looking for. In the room with the psycho girl it was the old "item in the dirty toilet" trick.
Max McGee
with sorrow down past the fence

In this case, thank YOU! That would really, really have bothered me.

(There is another point soon where a lot of people get stuck. Don't hesitate to ask.)
I bet you're talking about getting the numbers for the manager's safe combination; that was no sweat!

I made it all the way through to the Revenge ending, and I'm gonna see if I can get another one.

Btw, I loved being able the pick up a shotgun shell and use it without the gun; brought back memories of that Shoot-em Up movie it did :D
Max McGee
with sorrow down past the fence
I was totally unaware of that bug!

++You might also like page...
did someone say angels
I'm stuck trying to find the fourth floor key. The diary page says it's in a room in the third floor but there are only three rooms I have access to on the third floor and I can't find a key in them anywhere.

EDIT: It's also possible to get stuck in a room on the second (?) floor. If you try to leave, it says "I need to answer the phone." but the line is dead.
Max McGee
with sorrow down past the fence
A lot of people get stuck around this part.

I am pretty busy/swamped but I will look up the way to proceed in the editor and PM it to you when I get a chance. (Remind me in a few days if I haven't by then.) Alternatively anyone else who knows the answer can post it.

(I think the second thing you said is not, in fact possible (it would have been reported by now, it just would have) but I can't be entirely sure.)
This game is awesome and ROCK!!!! \m/
A great game overall. Aside from the mature themes, the game had a unique plot
full of twists and turns. Probably deserved better rating several months ago
when I finished playing it.
Finally submitted my review after three and half months.
Max McGee
with sorrow down past the fence
better late than never. I look forward to it (I think).
Your submission, Backstage Review, was denied. Reason was: "This is an awkwardly laid out review that is too concerned with comparing the game in question to another game that the review's reader and perhaps even the developer has not played ((Lol, amazing assumption right there)). There is little in the form of true critique.".

It would seem that presenting any comparison between your game and the silent hill series was completely unmerited *grins* I suppose I'll have to pm my input directly to the creator so that he can judge whether it is useful or not.
The game is awesome! It was super scary with the music and the background. I'm stuck a bit. Can you please tell me where to find the VCR? Thanks.
Max McGee
with sorrow down past the fence
I believe that the video tape is actually a complete red herring.
I've quite literally JUST registered to this site to say one thing...

"I have to answer the phone"

I'm not usually one to play Rm2k3 games, seeing that the text is always screwed up for me, but I gave this one a try because it looked awesome...And it was.
I laughed at the whole 'They look like monsters to you?', reminded me of SH3 and I also enjoyed the several MCR references, I.E the part where he asks Alice for the keys to the hotel, or the music that plays in the GOD DAMNED ROOM THAT I'M STUCK IN!

I'm in that one room that you have to go in like 3 times with Aaron, and keep answering the phone until eventually you see mask and a rather dead Sam. But now that I'm back to using Tom, I figured out the note so I would have to find the combination for the lock and then use the key that would be inside to reach the 4th floor, all I knew was that the combination was in one of the third floor rooms. So I went looking around and found nothing until I accidentally stumbled back into the room I was in, walking past dead Sam and looking around, I found several clues in there, the numbers, and the letters on the gramophone...thats all well and good and I'm sure I can guess the combination now...but whenever I try to leave, it says "I have to answer the phone". If I go to the phone, it just tells me the line is dead, and I still can't get out, I figured this might be a glitch that has carried over from when I was using Aaron and some switches haven't been moved correctly in the game mechanics...

To cut a long story short...HELP.

EDIT: The problem is that there is a duplicate room of 3D4 on floor 2...But you can't escape the room on floor 2
Max McGee
with sorrow down past the fence
Unfortunately, I made this game over five years ago. : (

I have had several people report this problem. One year after I made the game I knew what to tell them. Two years after I could still remember. Even three years after. But now...I honestly cannot for the life of me think what to tell you. I'm really sorry. Do you have a save before that part? I certainly know that the game is beatable, and that 99% of players DON'T encounter this glitch. So if you can reload a previous save, and not do whatever mystery thing it is you're doing that makes the game angry...that is the best advice I can give you.

I really wish that someone had written a walkthrough at some point.
Well, I got ahead of that error and completed a game that was longer than I thought it would be.

The puzzles were kinda fun, but the most difficult puzzle was finding ammo...looking in every pot or barrel just to keep myself alive. I got the good ending, and I wish I knew how...
The boss fights were very well done, but unbalanced, and yet seemingly easy to cheat. The first boss was next to impossible, and thats why I loved it, the last boss kinda came out of nowhere and was laughable.
But still, it only took you a month to make the thing, and it is amazing for a rm2k3 game...

Hell, I might even write out a walkthrough on it soon.
Max McGee
with sorrow down past the fence
Even better, write a review!

Glad you finished it. : )

I kind of agree with you on the bosses. They're hard but easy to cheat at, especially the last one. The bosses are weird because Backstage is really a pure adventure game but kind of tries to become an action game for the bosses and kind of falls on its face. If you don't cheat, however, they are at a pretty good level of difficulty. But it is tempting to just SPAMSPAMSPAMSPAMSPAMSPAMSPAM the final boss to death since I failed to put any cooldown of any kind on how often you could shotgun him in the face.

The ending you get (and there are at least two very different endings with one that is a variation on another) depend on how you interact with Alice. That's all I can say without *spoilers*.
Whew, I don't know. I gave this one a go, but this one was a bit freaky even for me. And this from a guy who likes horror movies. Then again, I've always loved Resident Evil but never completed Silent Hill since it always scared the shit out of me. I may give this one another try, but probably in the daylight some time and not at night. Yeah, I know, call me a wuss, but the funny thing is I'd like to actually be able to sleep and not dream about this.