STAFF REVIEW of Behind Closed Doors: A Developer's Tale (Xbox One)

Thursday, May 19, 2022.
by Heather Webster

Behind Closed Doors: A Developer's Tale Box art Have you ever thought for a moment about what it is like in an indie game developer's day? Well, in Behind Closed Doors: A Developer's Tale you get to do exactly that. Developed by Polygonal Wolf and published by Sometimes You, it is a pixelated adventure in Ethan's life working for a lame boss at an indie video game studio. That is until something extraordinary happens after the phone rings in the middle of the night and you're no longer at home.

From this point on, instead of waking up doing your daily routine and going to work, you end up in an alternate dimension talking to a 'lost spirit' who sends you to battle your way through various trial levels where you have to go up against some basic but rather annoying baddies that you have to fire weapons at for a set time length. Some of them are blue blobs with eyes, that if they touch you it means you lose a life out of your three available health.

As you move through these trials you return to talk to the nameless lost spirit to find out that your mission, whether you want it or not, is to find the parts to a staff for some unknown end goal. So you travel through some caves full of bats, coins and lots of spikes that hurt, to get to the boss dragon at the end so you can claim these staff parts. You are led to believe that you are doing this for the lost spirit. Maybe you are, maybe not, either way your true goal is to get back home. Will you make the right decision to achieve that or will something else happen? Guess you will need to play to find out.

This game uses classic 8-Bit audio, garish colors and basic reto visuals to transport you into an old-school-style game world that kind of reminds me of the graphics from the original Pokemon on Gameboy. The use of bright colors and simple animation is what makes Behind Closed Doors: A Developer’s Tale very old-school in design from the classic era of gaming. While I did enjoy strolling around the different locations and the combination of genres, I still found myself bored and frustrated by having to replete levels because I died. The seamless switches between side-scrolling and top-down shooting were greatly appreciated, though I still don't think it did enough to break up the monotony.

Along with the graphics above, there is a basic soundtrack that has your typical highs and lows of old-school-style gaming. I did like the implied nod to the past with some of the sound effects from collecting coins and firing guns, but the soundtrack itself fell short for me as there was not enough variety of songs played throughout, which makes them just become tiresome after the umpteenth attempt to pass the level.

The user interface is good considering the simplicity of the game. When there is a task to do, a clear and readable word bar pops up and tells you exactly what you need to do. The weaponry usage is straightforward to use, and maybe that is to make up for the controls that were a little tricky. Because of the slippery controls, you will fall to your death and slide into hazards, causing you to re-run the level multiple times. For this reason, the controls for me were a major letdown considering the current tech and tricks available today to avoid this.

While I did find the overall gameplay to be quite a miss, I did enjoy the unusual concept of a game within a game meta, but it left me with a manic feeling of what I am doing in this game. While I really enjoy the concept of Behind Closed Doors: A Developer's Tale and the inclusion of various game styles, it felt as though this could have been executed smoother. Make baddies respawn, add more tracks, give me a little more to do, not just run in circles, and this game could have a lot of great potential. For the low price listed, give it a try and see if you agree or think I'm off my rocker!

**Behind Closed Doors: A Developer's Tale was provided by the publisher and reviewed on an Xbox Series S**

Overall: 4.5 / 10
Gameplay: 4.0 / 10
Visuals: 6.0 / 10
Sound: 4.0 / 10


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