System: PC | Publisher: Dead Thread Games
Developer: Dead Thread Games | Reviewed On: PC
An abandoned space station with limited functionality? Cryptic puzzles? Lurking beings of unknown origin?
Yep, I'm game.
We Went Back is a very short first-person horror game set on a rotunda-shaped lunar space station that has been part-destroyed, its occupants expired or long-gone...or so you think. Standing at a perceived 30-50 minute experience (quoted by Steam) the game appears to be a test or a teaser for what could potentially be a full-length horror game - something akin to Alien Isolation but on a small scale. The game took me 106 minutes which is far longer than it should have taken, more on this later.
You begin the game with a set of basic 'instructions' or controls, being able to only interact, zoom and run. The lack of extraneous controls is both a blessing and a curse and makes for a far simpler experience in contrast to games of a similar genre and style. I'm actually unsure whether this made the experience more immersive or not; additional attention on the environment and its nuances was, most probably, the reason I was startled at various sections.
The environment you find yourself in after emerging from a stasis capsule at the very beginning is satisfying, lighting being one of the key positives about the graphics Dead Thread have managed to create. The rendering is simple but effective and is nothing more than it needs to be in this setting, and as you would expect on a space station, modularity is our friend. One thing I will say is that Dead Thread seems to have copied sections of the station over and literally just pasted them, which is abundantly obvious by the items strewn about on surfaces and floors...they are the same in multiple sections. However, Dead Thread are probably all too aware of this and it may be intentional with the description mentioning that the game is 'time-looping'. In fact, to compound this theory, you may notice, if you're not too scared to pay attention, that not all items in the 'pasted' sections are the same. A lab rat in the preceding section may be alive in its glass box as opposed to decapitated in the section you're in now, or not present at all.
It actually seemed similar to something Valve might produce and even the movement of your player seemed to mirror this impression. Whilst we're on movement, it should be noted that there's not much you can do and therefore not much you can get wrong with only 'run' as an extra control to your directional buttons and mouse pan.
linearity seems to be a concurrent theme throughout this short experience. You are not able to progress further around the station once you have started your journey to solve the cryptic clue, which is the console password to escape this looping nightmare, until you have found the next piece. I might also mention here that although it is fairly easy to find said piece, as it will be one of the only items you can interact with within each section, it's not always so easy to actually find it.
It took me longer to solve this than most because I made the mistake of retracing my steps, once I found a clue, back to the puzzle board (one of the only sections you can actually do this without hitting a self-locking door) which meant I didn't trigger the subroutine in the code to progress the game. I was fairly quick to clock onto this though and pressed on.
Aside from a singular gratifying puzzle you are met with the ominous atmosphere of the story, laid thick from start to finish. What's more, is that you are subjected to some rather fantastically freaky company:
The first time you meet this handsome fella is fairly early on in the game and absolutely slices through your relaxed state like a hot scythe through flesh. From here, I was all but too aware of what potential fear-jerkers may come my way, and let me tell you that there's a few!
This amazingly friendly ghoul is on the station with you, lurking in places unseen and unheard, waiting to descend on you. Dead Thread's ability to captivate the horror in these moments where you cross paths, pricking multiple senses with corresponding mediums, is excellent and it's obvious that they have a knack for this aspect of the genre.
There really isn't much else to say about this short experience other than that it was an enjoyable one which makes me hope that Dead Thread go on to make more of these bite-sized (and free) games. What I would expect from them next, however, is a full-length production, utilising the skills they indisputably have.
Solve the code and escape. Worth the play and the fright for not much commitment of time.