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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.

CHARACTERS

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.

HINTS AND TIPS

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.

ENDINGS AND RANK

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

So...
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?

Latest Blog

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
  • 234930
  • 41
  • 11443

Posts

Max McGee
with sorrow down past the fence
9219
I remember playing this game when you first released it years ago... can't remember what forum I found it on.
Can't wait to download it again when I get home from work and actually finish the thing!!! Hahaha.
I can't figure out the clock winding puzzle. I thought the numbers in the journal would give me some hints but aside from the date of 1931, I have no clue. Any hints please?
Max McGee
with sorrow down past the fence
9219
HINT:
Check the manager's office much more thoroughly. (It's the room where you first meet Wilks.)

SPOILER

4:13:51


If you butt into the safe puzzle later, again, it can be solved by closely examining every object in your environment. Something I hope every adventure game vet is doing anyway. : ) Counter-intuitively (my bad) there are four things you need to examine, not 3, and the safe does not work the same way as the clock, with manual number entry. Just fair warning.

Enjoy!
I'm Enjoying this game and trying to play a good amount of it before I start the second one.
I'm encountering an error every time I try to start this game. It tells me, "The file system2c cannot be opened." What do I do!? I have RPG Maker 2003 installed with RTPe, if that makes any difference.
nozombi, you have to download: Run Time package 2003. Take all the files in that RTP and put into the backstage folder.

That aside, it's a really awesome and enjoyable experience.
The only minor pinch is the use of dragon ball z sound for some monster and excessive use of sensitive child abuse issues just for shock factor.
Max McGee
with sorrow down past the fence
9219
I have never seen any of dragon ball z, because I think it's stupid and/or silly. If I'd known an SFX was from there, I'd probably have removed it.

The intention wasn't to use child abuse issues just for shock value. I believe that that element was internally consistent within the plot, within the twisted "belief structure" of the cult of Mother/the cult of shade. Father Tremble is a horrible, repulsive person, a literal human monster. Also I felt that it was one of the only things, with my own limited understanding of aberrant behavioral psychology, that could begin to explain or excuse
the protagonist's
outlook on life.

Thank you for your feedback on this ancient artifact. : )
I definitely felt like some of the child abuse issues were being thrown in for shock value...up until I realized Tremble was a cultist. I don't know why this was the thing that re-suspended my disbelief, but my suspicion is that maybe it's easier to attribute truly monstrous acts to imaginary monsters than it is to believe a human could perform them. Maybe monsters are a necessary metaphor, allowing us to talk about things that the mind balks at otherwise.

Damn. I may have to get back to writing my review of this after all.
hmm i want to get it but i am afraid of REALLY scary horror games. is it like witches house?
I haven't played Witch's House, so I pulled up a quick LP of it. Witch's House seems to be an adventure game in the tradition of, say, Hell House. It relies on jump scares and general unease to spook the player. It's also very story-lite.

Backstage, on the other hand, is plot-heavy and cerebral. It's also ridiculously hard and has a slightly glitched saving feature, making unwinnable states very possible. Most of the scares in Backstage are psychological or atmospheric, and the game deals with some really heavy themes, hence the polarizing reviews.

Basically, the difference between Backstage and Witch's House is that Witch's House will spook you, but Backstage will leave you with a feeling of disquiet for a couple days.
could you please just say what it is we need to investigate for the safe number cause i am seriously at my wit's end
LMAO NEVER MIND AS SOON AS I POSTED THIS I FOUND IT ;W;
This game was an absolute wonder to play--
As far as I managed to get.
I started chickening out after the elevator room.
I'm going to attempt to play it again while my friend is over at my house!

Wonderful work!
in case anyone else needs it, the RTP files which may need to be copied over include:
system2c.png (system2)
vehicle.png (charset)
absorb1.png (battle)
axe2.png (battle)
claw2.png (battle)
strike.png (battle)
explode1.png (battle)
sword1.png (battle)
main.png (chipset)
dark1.png (battle)
fire1.png (battle)
claw1.png (battle)

and some of the more game-breaking bugs...

Interacting with the paneling next to the (bathroom?) door in Room 14 opens up a traditional rm2k3 menu.

When you play as Wilks and enter Alice's room, you can walk on top of the door at the far end of the room.

In room 204 as Tom, attempting to leave the room relays the message "I have to answer the phone," and makes the character turn around, thus the room is inescapable.

Needless to say also all the "Sam" rooms are essentially the same place, with the same flavortext/doors/etc. Leaving any brings you to the 3rd floor hallway.
Meh. Why so many game-breaking circumstances? Having to load and re-play an entire section 50 times because of bad positioning during a save isn't a good feature, it just takes you OUT of the immersion and atmosphere that you're trying to set up.
Max McGee
with sorrow down past the fence
9219
This game has been out for OVER 9 YEARS and in spite of that this is the first time I've heard about any of these bugs. (In some cases it has been so long I don't remember if those actually are bugs.)

"Having to load and re-play an entire section 50 times because of bad positioning during a save isn't a good feature, it just takes you OUT of the immersion and atmosphere that you're trying to set up."

Oh my goodness, what did you do? That never happened to me. Did you somehow save right in front of a pack of ravening helldogs or something?
Well, I got into a situation where I can't progress any more. I'm supposed to be heading to the subway to get Alice's medication, but I'm stuck in the hotel with 1 HP, no bullets or glass shards and no first aid kits left. I may restart the game sometime in the future, but right now I'm just frustrated.
When I try to run the game I get this Error saying:

"The file system2c cannot be opened."

How can I fix it?
Finished your game:

Ending:
Revenge
Rank:
D
Ending type:
Bad+
________________

I've tried my best, but some enemies you could not avoid no matter what. The story was pretty dark as dark some horror games can be. The protagonist is a very interesting case, really was not sure what to think of him toward the very end. I like your combat system, it makes more sense for RMN-horror games in this fashion, gives you abit of a fighting chance without trying to force frontal attack them like in some others. I ran into a few bugs which has already been reported on the thread.

I give this game...hmm 4/5, it was alright. Btw what the deal was with that piano? Funny hearing some of those rock tracks I've not heard in years, I remember when those bands were popular.