Friday, August 17

Review: Behind the Screen [Nintendo Switch eShop]


It’s always fascinating to play games that come from foreign developers that appear to have been originally intended for their native markets. We all have cultural norms and shared appreciation for symbolism in specific things tied to where we grew up, and when you then take something from a place that’s very different that foundation is removed, by default making the experience a bit odd. Behind The Screen has elements that feel like they probably have contextual meaning but even beyond that it has an odd and sad story, yet sucked me in completely and compelled me to finish it just to see where the ride would ultimately lead.


Your main character, Yu Ming Wang, is obviously a troubled soul and what’s somewhat fascinating as you go is the disconnect between his somewhat fantastical perceptions and “reality”. I put that in quotes because through news footage and reflections of people around him you do get different versions of events, but because of elements of your experience seen through Wang’s eyes you get the sense that their versions aren’t very accurate either.


In terms of the gameplay itself story beats are broken up by a variety of minigames, some of which are puzzles or involve stealth early on but further in typically involve fights of some kind. No two mini games are quite alike, with each throwing in some variation to keep things from feeling redundant. As a warning, there are a few fights that border on feeling unfair, the one towards the middle of the game almost putting me off completely. Thankfully, persistence will generally see you through as you’ll come to see attack patterns or simply luck out with the combination of attacks it happens to throw at you.


From start to finish Behind the Screen had me had me off-balance and trying to reconcile the truth between Wang’s perceptions and the reality other characters or news reports were relaying. I’ll warn that the translations aren’t always great, so there are spelling and grammatical errors throughout, but in general it never felt like this was an impediment to understanding what’s going on. If you’re open to something odd, that’s somewhat light on gameplay but just thoroughly different, it’s worth a look.


Score: 6.5

Pros:
  • A strange and pretty tragic story seen through multiple lenses
  • Had a quality that demanded I finish the game, just to see where things ended up
  • The variations between the mini games, even between genres, helped keep things more interesting

Cons:
  • Some mini games are far harder than others, and random changes per attempt sometimes help but other times make them tougher
  • If you’re looking for a game that’s light and relaxing this is 100% in the opposite direction
  • Lack of cultural context and some poor translations can make understanding some moments difficult