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Backfire – a punishingly different shooter

Developer: Joel Rochon
Price: $3/£3
Size: 387 MB
Version: 2.0.2
Platform: iPhone & iPad


Backfire is an arena shooter that places you on the back foot from the very beginning. The game’s title references the fact that your little craft can only shoot backwards, which is a tricky technique to master.

It’s not that defence is the best form of attack here. Strategic cowardice is. As such, your early time with Backfire will be spent mastering the curious, sweeping handbrake-turn that passes for an attack run here.

There are some truly fearsome baddies

Add in a bunch of enemies that are both extremely aggressive and generally faster than you in a straight line, and you have an arcade experience that encourages you to be unusually tentative. It doesn’t help that those enemies also have the nasty habit of grabbing you in their maws and squeezing the life out of you, requiring you to frantically hammer the screen in order to pull free.

It’s not like your rearguard action packs an immediate sting either. Lacking range and firing at an excruciatingly sluggish rate, your initial pop gun is limited in every sense of the word. You’ll need to collect soul coins from downed enemies and then spend them wisely in the game’s shop between attempts.

Enemies will latch on to you

Thankfully, this store grants access to shotguns, sniper rifles, flame throwers and more, though all have their own handling quirks. If a weapon packs a destructive punch, you can bet there’ll be a corresponding penalty to your movement or ammo count.

Besides these weapons, the shop will also enable you to unlock passive abilities that increase your craft’s health and bolster the potency of its weapons, among other things.

The flame thrower is very satisfying to use

The really smart move here is having your purchases carry over to your next run. Backfire is an incredibly punishing game that makes no bones about grinding your nose into the dirt, but none of your failed runs ever feel futile.

The game has actually been out since the beginning of 2019, but the recently released version 2.0 adds a new mode called Purgatory. This is essentially a wave-based score attack mode that asks you to maintain a constantly eroding score multiplier by tempting enemies into close-quarters combat. It also hands out a choice of random upgrades as you work through the waves, giving it a slightly different roguelike flavor to the main game.

Purgatory mode is a new addition

Whichever mode you’re playing, Backfire will make you work for your considerable pleasure. There’s an immense amount of satisfaction to be drawn from learning its systems and progressing through the game, digging in and chipping away those gleaming moments of fun.