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Here's a demo for POOLS, a Backrooms game with lots of lovely waterslides

No monsters, promise

A spiralling red water slide over an indoors pool made of white tiles
Image credit: Tensori

I have a rule: no more than one post about a horror game per day. The mind can only withstand so much, after all. But POOLS isn't really a horror game. It's just a walking simulator in which you explore a bunch of underground swimming pools. True, their size and layout defy explanation - what is this, a swimming pool for Slender Men? - but look, there are cute covered slides you can ride down in first-person. You know, like the ones you used to enjoy as a kid. Always that element of anxiety though about getting stuck halfway down, am I right?

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And then there's the unease you get when you're swimming alone, perhaps because it's almost closing time and they're turning down the lights, and the water produces unsettling sound effects - splashes amplified by certain arrangements of white tiles, that could be something exiting the pool, or entering it. There are moments like that in Amnesia: The Dark Descent, and there are moments like that in POOLS, which has a demo.

"One could say POOLS is like an art gallery where you look around and listen to the sounds," reads the Steam page. "There are very few things to solve, practically a few mazes. Sometimes the game can challenge your navigation skills. But mostly you're just... there." 'There' being one of those liminal labyrinths beloved of the Backrooms genre/meme - according to POOLS developers Tensori, there's a "Poolrooms" subgenre, too. I did not know this. I wonder how many other flavours of backroom there are. Perhaps a bookshop-themed one next?

POOLS is broken into six chapters, each lasting 10 to 30 minutes. "There's no typical story, no characters to meet, and you won't find any notes in game," the Steam blurb adds. "But as you explore and advance further, you start to notice that the game's world changes around you. Rooms look and feel different. Each chapter has something unique. Constantly you're exploring new places, each with its own kind of mystery."

On the lighter side, there's at least one pool full of inflatable doughnut floats. I used to love those as a boy, though I did once get caught under one and sincerely thought I was going to drown. Anyway! If you're interested in the Backrooms concept, there's a lot more to it - this Wired piece is a good place to start. The full version of POOLS releases on 26th April.

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