“The sacred geometry knows all.”
It’s nice when a short game leaves the player with a lasting impression and that’s exactly what We Went Back provides.
We Went Back is a free-to-play sci-fi horror from indie development studio Dead Thread Games. The game is set within an abandoned lunar station from which the player must find a way to escape. As the game begins, the player wakes up inside a chamber to the sound of a blaring alarm system notifying our protagonist that their cryosleep has been cut short due to the detection of a life form on board the ship.
Something is undeniably amiss.
The game utilises a time-looping mechanic wherein rooms appear to repeat indefinitely until some kind of puzzle is solved. These conundrums typically require the player to interact with particular environmental objects and are relatively subtle compared to certain point-and-click puzzle games that rely on usable items having a conspicuous glow. An eye for detail is key, in this case.
Aside from being a convenient way to maximise the use of in-game environments, these looping rooms also create a mysterious and unsettling experience for the player. Are they the result of some unexplained event that caused our protagonist to be taken out of suspended animation in the first place, or is this simply the breakdown of their mental state?
Visually, the game looks very polished. Textures are high quality giving the game a very realistic aesthetic and the lighting sets a very dark and ominous mood. The lunar station’s interior feels like an homage to the early sci-fi films of Stanley Kubrick and Ridley Scott.
Audio designer and composer Ryan Milford has opted to use very little music in the game. In fact, music doesn’t really play until near the end and even then it’s used rather sparingly, mostly as a clue to nudge the player in the right direction. Most of the audio design is made up of diegetic sounds which help maintain a sense of immersion. There are some jump scares but fortunately they’re quite serviceable and not overused.
Although there is an entity that’s threatening the player’s safety, there’s no combat for them to engage in. The game has an escape room-inspired type of gameplay though it’s this mysterious life form from which players will also have to evade if they are to see the game to the end.
There isn’t a lot in the way of lore-building in this game but what there is is interesting. There’s also a glimpse of an alternative history which adds to the player’s confusion (in a positive way). For the most part, the player is given what is needed to enjoy the game and isn’t encumbered by narrative exposition.
And that’s one of the appealing things in this quick, little experience – the minor details scattered throughout the game. There’s a cryptic message written in binary on a board in one of the rooms. Objects seem different or are completely gone upon revisiting a particular section of the ship. Environments change dynamically depending on the player’s actions and it’s these alterations that cause the player to question their observational skills.
We Went Back can be finished in about an hour and even quicker after the first playthrough. There is a little bit of replay value if the player is curious enough to wonder whether certain moments can play out differently or not. Even if they are content with just the single playthrough, the experience is a worthwhile one.
What Dead Thread Games has created in We Went Back is promising and future projects should definitely be on players’ radars if this is anything to go by. We Went Back is simple in premise but memorable in tension and intrigue.