The BackDoor series, which comes from a creator called SolarVagrant and so far consists of two games, namely Door 1: The Call and Door 2: The Job, is a small thing, with large ambitions. To me, especially with adventure games, that’s good. Respectable and well-intended. After all, Sequoioideae redwoods start as just a seed in the ground. Blackwell Legacy from Wadjet Eye Games and Nelly Cootalot: Spoonbeaks Ahoy! both started small, in humble territory, but contained more than enough material and ideas to burgeon into larger, more mainstream experiences. I think, with enough time, this too could become a series you hear about more often. Naturally, I’m getting ahead of myself, so on with the summaries.
For Door 1: The Call, you begin as a young man…falling. After what seems like far too much falling, you find yourself in a strange house. The only person who might know what is truly going on is a mysterious individual who contacts you over the phone…or might actually be the phone, seeing that it talks to you and has sharp, untrustworthy teeth where the number buttons are. Turns out, this strange house is on the moon. Your best plan of attack for now is to escape, and that means solving puzzles by finding items, combining them correctly, and examining everything in the environment to use them on. Pretty standard stuff, save for the part about being on the moon and trapped between different dimensions.
For Door 2: The Job, things pick up immediately where the previous game left off, which, for a sequel to a 2013 release, is great for me playing them back-to-back, but others might have forgotten some details, especially like why some items are still there in your inventory. No biggie. Through more guidance from your phone friend/foe, you find yourself in a strange city of a robots. You are tasked with finding a specific robot called Aert, and you’ll know him by his unique scarf. Along the way, you’ll interact with a number of other robots–some more friendly those humans than others– in this familiar city hub and do the traditional thing of collecting items and using them just right to solve puzzles. Eventually you learn that Aert is kidnapped by a gang of goons for the sole purpose of tricking his girlfriend to date the leader.
The first game is obviously much smaller in scope and mechanics. Door 2: The Job really feels like something grander, with colorful characters and world-building and plenty of things to interact with and examine. Let’s call the experienced…enriched. I felt more invested in my tasks, such as catching a rat, fixing machinery, or tricking the shopkeeper to sell to a smelly, untrustworthy human, even if I couldn’t follow the larger, outer layer plotline all that much. Maybe whatever Door 3 ends up being will explain why this animated phone is dictating your duties and mocking you all at the same time.
Many of the puzzles in Door 1: The Call and, much more so, in Door 2: The Job are pretty obvious. From a solution standpoint. For example, you find a locked ventilation shaft grate and know that you’ll need to get by it somehow. You need something to take the screws off. The rub is figuring out how to accomplish that task. Some puzzles even require a bit of trial and error, especially the time-based ones right near the end. Thankfully, when you fail them, the game resets to a checkpoint in the previous room, so it is not too punishing, save for wasting time.
Visually, not too much has changed from Door 1: The Call to Door 2: The Job, and that’s okay. There are stylized and entertaining cutscenes. The pixel art, especially the character portraits, reminds me greatly of Cave Story, and the city, while not huge, does have a personality and some areas to explore. Also, the color palette seems to have switched from soft blues to light yellows, browns, and greens. Don’t let the screenshot at the top of this post fool you as I had to mess with its color to get my large, blocky white letters to read well on top of it. Regardless, while it might be some time until we see Door 3: [Subtitle], I’m eagerly looking forward to it. That said, I’ll never trust an anthropomorphic telephone.