Backpack Hero – PS5 Review

Backpack Hero is a rogue-like mix of turn-based tactical RPG and inventory management sim genres and it comes to us by way of developer Jaspel.  It’s been around on Steam for half a year now but has finally landed on PSN.

In Backpack Hero, you play as Purse, a rat from the town of Haversack Hill who starts to investigate a series of creepy underground tunnels when her mother goes missing there.   Ruled by an evil king, your town is in ruins and over-run with his guards.  So it’s up to Purse to enter the tunnels, solve the mystery of what happened down there and grab enough loot to rebuild Haversack Hill.

So, Purse starts her journey in the tunnels, and that’s where a short tutorial will teach you the very basics of the game (the more complicated stuff comes later and is mostly told through dialogue box conversations).  You start with a backpack, a sword, a shield and some food and you will need to squeeze your gear into the backpack using a grid-based Resident Evil 4 inventory system.  The contents of the pack stay visible during combat and you’ll need to click on an item (well, whatever the non-mouse version of that is) to use it.  So, if you want to hit an enemy, you select the sword and so on.  The combat plays out in a turn-based way and you can see what your enemy is going to do next, so if they’re about to boost their defense, that might be a good time to heal.

After defeating a foe you’ll level up and that will let you increase the size of your pack and you’ll also get some loot.  The loot can be weapons, armour, food, potions and accessories and definitely an important part of the game is finding the best way to store them all efficiently.  It’s quite clever though.  You might get items that add a passive buff to adjacent equipment or you might find a weapon that needs space around it or else it might damage you.  There’s a degree of complexity to it all but it’s all pretty intuitive and if you enjoyed that sort of thing in Resident Evil 4 (and indeed Diablo), you’ll love it here.

Your opening mission is set across three floors and ends with a boss battle.  Later missions add to this and change your starting load out, which adds some variation to the game too.  But, anyway, when you finally climb out of the dungeon, you’ll be back home in the town and here you’ll discover a whole new chunk of gameplay to get into.

After a little tutorial based around destroying and constructing buildings, you’ll create a shop and here you can sell your loot in order to raise resources that will then be used to create more buildings, each of which adds new features and rewards.

Homes raise the population of your town, a library lets you research new tech, sawmills and farms gain you resources passively while you go on your adventures and there are plenty of other structures which will ultimately act as a support network for you.  It’s a bit clunky and not explained in the most intuitive way but it adds a lot of depth to the game.   And with a village full of characters offering you opportunities to go on new adventures, build new buildings or unlock extra characters, there’s a lot to unlock.

On the face of it, that’s a lot of game for your £15.49 and we can see why Backpack Hero has its admirers but we had some issues.  On a basic level, some of the menus aren’t very intuitive.  This is clearly a game that was designed for mouse and keyboard but there are a lot of instances of button choices being inconsistent.  The overall meta-structure of the game isn’t as well explained as it needs to be and what is explained is via tedious text conversations or pop up windows on that awkward interface.  Most annoyingly though, your rewards for adventuring aren’t great and so it takes ages to unlock things, which makes the early progression pretty tiresome.

And then there are the rogue-like aspects.  This is very much a game where your loot rewards make the difference between success and failure.  If the random loot gods smile upon you, progress is much easier.  But if you keep being given the same items over and over, you might find yourself woefully underprepared for later encounters.  That can be true of a lot of rogue-likes but usually that is tempered by giving you plenty of optional encounters to build yourself up with, where as here you don’t get many of those.  Sometimes, you’re just going to fail.

The presentation isn’t going to win any awards either.  The simple 8-bit visuals are quaint and the music, while a little insistently annoying, is of a decent quality but the NES aesthetic isn’t the best for getting information across to you in an efficient manner.  Also, in combat the animations are especially lazy.

Look.  Your mileage may vary.  This is essentially doing to item management what Balatro did to Poker and you might find yourself entirely smitten with it.  But, for whatever reason, we just didn’t enjoy our time with Backpack Hero as much as we expected to.  And it’s telling that actually the best fun we had was with the game’s Quick Mode.  Here you have all the characters unlocked and just get to go through adventures without worrying about town building, research or the worries of cartoon rodents.  And maybe that’s what the game always needed to be.  Certainly the story does the game no favours really.

Anyway, we’re not about to warn you off of trying Backpack Hero.  The inventory management stuff and core combat is actually pretty good and the Quick Mode streamlines that for you.  And if you love town building, and spending days and weeks on that sort of thing, then that’ll offer even more bang for your buck.

Backpack Hero
7 Overall
+ A great core concept
+ Inventory management works well
+ Combat is generally fun and strategic
+ Quick Mode cuts out a lot of faff
- Luck can play a big factor
- The Story Mode is flabby and can be tedious
- UI isn't very optimised for consoles
There's a lot going on with Backpack Hero. The Resident Evil 4 inventory system paired with some tricky turn-based combat makes for a fun and original concept. It doesn't feel quite ready for consoles though and is weighed down by a cumbersome story mode, although a very welcome quick mode cuts out a lot of the faff if you just want to pack and fight.


About Richie

Rich is the editor of PlayStation Country. He likes his games lemony and low-budget with a lot of charm. This isn't his photo. That'll be Rik Mayall.

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