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A new Backrooms variant just got a free demo for Steam Next Fest

 Creature covered in black paint pointing at something.
Creature covered in black paint pointing at something.

If you’ve never ventured into the backrooms before, then rest assured this creepy liminal space echoed within the new variant game simply named Backrooms somehow manages to make your classic office building even more terrifying. Equipped with only a hazmat suit and hopefully a friend or two to use as human shields, you’re tasked with exploring a maze of yellow-wallpapered hallways in hopes of finding a way out.

While the premise is pretty simple, in practice, the backrooms are a lot more tricky to navigate. During the free demo, my group of explorers and I, unfortunately, ran into one killer obstacle. It was all going so well; after being separated for a short time, everyone in the group managed to gather together, thanks to a quick game of Marco Polo using the proximity voice chat. But with no plan, sense of direction, or clue about what was about to happen, we gingerly explored the confusing hallways, hopelessly looking for a clue that would lead us to the exit.

After slight exploration, we came across some black writing on a wall that read ‘Left.’ I barely had time to look at the message before something awoke. Our silence was sharply interrupted by some of the worst screams and howls I’d heard in a horror game - and I’m pretty well versed in how terror sounds. So before anyone had time to let out an iota of a scream, I was already halfway across the map and darting between dimly lit corridors and quickly changing direction every time I heard the blood-curdling scream get too close. In a state of panic, which isn’t uncommon in the backrooms, was all we could think of doing to evade its grasp.

After a painful amount of time, we managed to locate the exit and escape what quickly became a nightmare. I can say with complete confidence that I have never been so happy to see the credit roll on a demo. Honestly, I don’t think my heart could have taken any more howls or Scooby-Doo-style chasing through the uncanny hallways of the haunting setting.

Location, location, location

Character standing in a corner
Character standing in a corner

No one wants to spend their evening listening to the horrifying screams of some strange monster that is out to get you. But what makes the backrooms so compelling is the most terrifying part, which isn’t the creatures but the landscape in which you find yourself.

For those who aren’t aware, liminal spaces are often categorized by uncanny atmospheres and a feeling of being disconnected from reality. This could be anything from an eerily quiet apartment complex, a dimly lit and empty street, or an endless maze of office building corridors. There’s no rhyme or reason behind the backrooms or what you’ll find in them, and coupled with the feeling of separation from the rest of the world, this helplessness goes a long way to compounding the fear you’ll feel when trying to navigate this space with a creature hot on your tail.

The backrooms aren’t just made up of the strange, yellow office building level, though. Typically, players who dare to enter this deadly space will have to navigate their way through countless odd spaces, like car parks, long hallways, or an attic. If you want to escape, then you’ll have to venture deeper into the beast, which certainly isn’t for the faint of heart.

A diamond in the rough

Strange room full of alarms
Strange room full of alarms

There are countless backroom indie horror games, so many that it can be challenging at times to know which ones are worthwhile. However, this variant, titled Backrooms, is quite promising despite the demo being so short.

Design and share your projects in a twisted competition to find out who has made the worst brain teasers

The developers, Found Footage Studios, opted for VHS-style graphics, meaning that the horrors that you’ll encounter look even more terrifying paired with the static and grain. The experience is also built with proximity chat in mind; this feature changes the game and makes it all the more menacing to navigate the backrooms as a group.

I also really enjoyed the simplicity of Backrooms. Many variants of this theme can tie themselves up in knots, trying to make the location frustratingly tricky to navigate. However, the layout in Backrooms is hard enough to make you fearful of getting lost without completely depriving you of your sense of direction.

With that said, if you find that the map is too simple for you and your friends, then you can create your own deadly maze with the level editor. You can design and share your projects in a twisted competition to find out who has made the worst brain teasers, should you feel brave enough.

Overall, the Backrooms demo is an equal parts bone-chilling yet exciting short horror game. If you haven’t played this section of indie horror games before and want to see what all the fuss is about, I would highly recommend giving this free demo a go while you can.

For more ways to push yourself to the limit, check out the best survival games.