Backpack Twins is one of those games that is very hard to review. That’s not because the subject matter is tricky, nor is it hard to explain in any way. No, it is more the exact opposite of that problem as what we have here is a game that is barely a one trick pony, a game so simple that stretching the review out to meet our required word count feels like a challenge.
So we’ll start with some facts, shall we? Backpack Twins is a game developed by a single developer by the name of Ima Bryn, initially for Steam before being ported to all the consoles by Amata. Wherever you play it, it is being billed as a “hard but fair single player puzzle platformer”. So, is it?
First port of call is the story of the game and it’s here we discover that we are a pair of twins, complete with the most hipster beards ever. But in a bit of fourth wall breaking that Deadpool would consider a step too far, the game itself tells us it is going to put us through a series of tests for no reason, and that moreover we have no family to worry about, so it can do what it wants. And that, dear readers, is the setup, the sum of the narrative – you are in a situation, and you need to get out of it. Think you are up to the challenge?
Graphically and Backpack Twins is retro in style (you have no idea how tired I am of typing those particular words) and features two twins who look the same apart from the colours of their trousers. Lucky their mother doesn’t still dress them the same, eh? They have a fetching line in beards, and the world’s biggest backpacks, ensuring that the name of this game was able to pretty much write itself. From there we are met with a series of screens, delivered via a side-on view of some platforms and some hazards. The idea is to get your twins to the exit of each level, together. A fairly straightforward aim, I’m sure you’ll agree.
The sound is fairly minimal too, except for a distressing squelch when one or other of the twins meets a grisly end on some spikes. With achievements tied to dying a certain number of times, you will fast see that Backpack Twins is going to be a long slog.
So what kind of white hot action and fluid gameplay can we expect from these Backpack Twins? Well, you can jump, and you can duck. That’s about it. Although the twins can stand on each other’s backpacks if they need to jump that little bit higher, but then, how do you help your twin up to the higher platform afterwards? Well you don’t and basically you are left with a single player game in which you’ll need to control two different characters, steering each twin through some peril, before meeting up at the end in time for tea and crumpets.
Of course, you shouldn’t expect this to be a simple stroll to the end. Each screen that confronts our hirsute heroes is strewn with platforms of all the classic types – the permanent, the ones that disappear after being walked on, as well as those that stay solid just long enough for you to make the next jump in the sequence. The description from the beginning, ‘hard but fair’, is very much deserved here.
It’s nice then that the controls are up to the job, and any deaths the unfortunate twins suffer will very much feel like they are your own fault. And make no mistake, there will be some, as later levels feature hazards such as spikes, lava and more to contend with. Even though the twins have a nifty line in underwater walking without drowning, trying this in lava is not a good idea.
This then is the entirety of the game and you can probably understand by now why I said that this may be a hard one to review. Jump, duck, stand on your twin and make it to the exit – otherwise you’ll die, respawning at the last checkpoint that you both managed to touch. Swapping control between the twins to make progress is an interesting concept (albeit not a new one) and so the game goes.
The thing is, Backpack twins is only really one that can be enjoyed in short bursts, usually a few levels, before it starts to get samey and – whisper it – boring. The developers claim that their creation is ideal for speed runners, and will happily record not only the best time you post on the level, but also the last one so you can check if the route you are trying is faster. However, for me, once I’ve beaten a level, I don’t have a huge amount of desire to take it in a second time, just for the sake of a few seconds.
What I will say is that if you have a spare twenty minutes to kill, Backpack Twins will allow you to make a bit of progress towards full completion, wasting a bit of time in the process. And it’s that which makes it feel a little more suitable for something like the Nintendo Switch than the Xbox.
Backpack Twins in on the Xbox Store
- Hard but fair
- Tight controls
- Difficulty ramps up
- Bit samey after a while
- Speed run? No thanks!
- Massive thanks for the free copy of the game go to - AMATA
- Formats - Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, PC
- Version reviewed - Xbox One on Xbox Series X
- Release date - 17 November 2022
- Launch price from - £9.99