Pools Is Just Another Backrooms Game, But I Still Played It


Pools offers a unique, monster-free gameplay experience with chapter-changing environments and heightened sound designs to keep you on edge. The game creates an eerie atmosphere with subtle horror qualities such as mannequins, whispers, and hand-like shapes, turning your thoughts into the enemy. Pools stands out among other Backrooms games by removing the element of being hunted, challenging players to navigate through levels alone with their own fears.



Abandoned exploration is often elevated when a creepy urban legend is behind the location’s origin. Descending a rogue set of stairs buried in the wilderness leading to an underground labyrinth of bland, boundless rooms that feel strangely familiar is the principal setting of the Backrooms – a paranormal myth hailing from 4chan depicting extradimensional expanses of empty rooms. This nightmarish environment becomes more exhaustive when there are endless levels to navigate and strange creatures to hide from, but the latest video game to be inspired by this concept relies on liminal spaces alone to do the heavy lifting.

Developed and published by Tensori, Pools offers exactly what it says on the tin: a series of white rooms half-filled with water to emulate giant swimming pools. Exposing players to the rudimentary fear of getting lost, which is a potent element of the Backrooms, Pools is categorized as both a walking simulator and a psychological horror, and the latter may be baffling to the uninitiated – what’s so scary about swimming baths? In my opinion, Pools is just another Backrooms game, destined to join the other 500 indies of this ilk in a surrealist graveyard (because let’s face it, nobody plays these simulators for long). However, Tensori promised unique features that piqued my interest, since my longing to step back into this hellscape had been building.

Related The Backrooms Urban Legend Deserves A True Horror Game While it is an excellent atmospheric adventure, The Complex is but a taste of what a Backrooms game can be.

Pools Bins The Monster ‘Hook’

Still from Pools of a red slide going into a swimming pool with rubber rings and windows on the side.

After watching the first trailer for Pools, the developers released gameplay details confirming there would be no monsters, no UI, no dialogue, and no music. The thought of nothing chasing you within this maze would have immediately taken the wind out of some players’ sails, since that is often the terrifying hook to get interested parties to play. Players often need a goal in sight or some interaction through NPC chatter and foes to run scared from, but Pools doesn’t offer this.

So what is Pools compensating with? For starters, chapter-changing environments that keep gameplay fresh as you explore and heightened sound designs that effectively ground you in the present and amplify your surroundings without music to take the edge away. There’s also feedback from the water, replicating the slow-motion feeling often experienced in dreams. This, understandably, won’t sound too inviting to some, but to me, these elements all enhance the unnerving, dream-like qualities of the Backrooms where it’s you against your fears and the unknown.

To dial up that melancholia, several pools come with slides (yes, the slides are functional) and colorful rubber rings that ease you into a false sense of security.

Pools’ level design is another interesting factor and there are six chapters on offer, each taking around 10-30 minutes to complete. Described as being an “art gallery”, every chapter serves different chambers to get swallowed up in, and the white-tiled designs tap into the nostalgia of frequenting swimming pools as a kid.

To dial up that melancholia, several pools come with slides (yes, the slides are functional) and colorful rubber rings that ease you into a false sense of security. Then, similar to how a dream develops, there will be a dark corner or a tight space you can’t get out of to flood that unsettling trepidation back into your playthrough. Additionally, the water changes color depending on the depth of the pool, which also adds an ominous essence to plunging and effectively triggers Thalassophobia.

Related There’s A New Backrooms Demo, But Better Takes On The Idea Already Exist The new Backrooms demo looks the part, but more creative takes on the concept already exist out there.

Tell Me You’re A Horror Game, Without Telling Me You’re A Horror Game

Still from Pools of a red flume wrapping around a white pillar within a swimming pool.

Accompanying the visuals, audio is also used to bring Pools to life through soft ambient noises that may as well be defeaning in the complete silence of Pools. Since every room boasts unique architecture, the sounds and echos alter to accommodate the size and shape of the chamber, making this game a real playground for the senses. Removing the music and UI is a good tactic to make you feel like you’re experiencing these rooms firsthand, and the auditory feedback is another technique to make this visit feel as close to reality as possible.

Described as being “relaxing, uncanny, eerie, hypnotic, and immersive”, Pools also contains those subtle horror qualities because it wouldn’t be a Backrooms game without one. A fleet of mannequins, whispers in the dark, and curious hand-like shapes appearing around door frames are enough to supply the added dread of being watched or followed. There’s also the existential question of: “Why am I stuck wandering around pools?” Luckily, players who like a good narrative twist get this question answered, but the real beauty of this simple walking sim that’s taken the gaming world by storm is its ability to turn your own thoughts into the enemy.

As a previous skeptic doubting its originality, Pools is a fantastic exploration of your own, dark psyche.

Titles like Escape the Backrooms flaunt the same chilling spread of endless areas, but there’s always the tension of being hunted by, who I like to call, the entity Mr. Squiggles – because it looks like a kid’s chicken scratch. The fear of being caught or chased is the driving force behind several Backrooms games, but Pools got rid of that element completely and left you entirely alone with your irrational thoughts. I like to think Tensori’s game has become popular because it’s a raw test of nerve to keep traversing through the chapters without wanting to switch your PC off, and not down to some marketing ploy. Though I was skeptical at first, I can now safely say that Pools is a fantastic exploration of your own, dark psyche.

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