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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.


Fourscore and seven chapsets ago.

It must have been about five years ago today that I began working on Backstage. I completed it in one month for the very first Release Something, on GW, which was initiated by Lys. In that time, so much has happened...I was a freshman and I had all of college to look forward to. Now I'm an unemployed and disheartened adult.

/me reminsces.

Anyway, happy fifth birthday, Tom and company.

(Once or twice I have thought about remaking this. That probably won't happen.)
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