Dementia is no laughing matter, but indie developers RP Studios and Outriders are hoping it can serve as both an entertaining and insightful one in their upcoming short exploratory adventure, Back Then.
Thomas is an "aged man in his 80s suffering from Alzheimer's" who lives in a retirement home and "moves around in his wheelchair, and rarely receives visits from his family." All alone without even his memories for company, Thomas now attempts to recall key details of his past "through the various important objects in his life – such as a wedding photo, his father's dog tag from WWII, his guitar, [and] his wedding ring, among others."
Heavily inspired by the development team's own personal experiences, Back Then promises to demonstrate a "realistic approach" to neurodegenerative diseases. Focusing more on story and discovery than traditional puzzle-solving, the game will provide "narrative completion goals" rather than generic task-based objectives, encouraging thorough exploration to learn more about the protagonist's life. The more Thomas recollects, "more and more objects will appear around the room," but progress won't be entirely linear, as players will need to deal with "creative gameplay mechanics related to Alzheimer's and forgetfulness, where the character starts to remember (and forget) his past and present." Fully voiced and presented in a free-roaming, first-person 3D perspective, the experience will be playable on standard PC monitors but is also being designed with unique VR controls to simulate movement in a wheelchair.
There is no target release date for this game just yet, but Back Then is currently in production for Windows, Mac and Linux with VR compatibility and is on track to be completed sometime in 2020.