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Cart #backdrop-16 | 2024-02-07 | Code ▽ | Embed ▽ | License: CC4-BY-NC-SA

Backdrop is a match-3 style puzzle game which emphasizes thoughtful moves. There is no timer, and you can plan your moves at your own leisure.

The Goal

The goal is to clear the vexed blocks - the ones with the bothered border. You can't interact with vexed blocks directly, so they must be cleared by other means.

The Rules

There are four colors. Each block has an back and center color. Your cursor has a color as well.

Move your cursor with the directional buttons. Press the X/O action buttons to swap your cursor color with the selected block's back or center color, respectively.

When a block's back and center colors match, that block is cleared. Blocks above it drop down.

When a block drops down, if it lands next to a stationary block of the same back/center color and they form a group of 3+ blocks with that same back/center color, then all of them are cleared. This is called a chain clear, and this is also how you clear vexed blocks!

You begin a level with 8 swaps. You get an extra swap whenever you create a chain clear and whenever you clear a vexed block. You win if you clear all the vexed blocks within this swap limit.


The interactive tutorial concisely teaches the game rules.

Levels are randomly generated. If you want to revisit a particular grid layout, write down its seed (shown on the pause/win/lose screens), and you can enter this seed later.

There are 12 difficulty levels. You may have to develop clever techniques to clear the higher ones.

If you clear the final level, a secret reward awaits you...


Backdrop is my first PICO-8 game. I appreciated the focused workflow PICO-8 provides. In a little over a month, I was able to learn the platform, and design and implement Backdrop. I wasn't completely sure how Backdrop would play when starting the project, but PICO-8 made it fun and easy to iteratively design and test as the game was being created.

I put a couple more weeks into Backdrop after its initial release, and I feel it's fun and feature complete now.

I hope you enjoy Backdrop, and I would love to hear what you think!

Version History

V1.0 - 2024-01-21

  • Initial release

V1.1 - 2024-01-26

  • Add limited undo function.
    • If player's last swap did not clear a block, they may press the swap button again to get their move back.
    • The tutorial has been updated to demonstrate this undo feature.
  • Provide two separate "restart level" options:
    • Retry level: Play the same level, with the same block arrangement
    • Randomize level: Play the same level, with a newly-generated block arrangement
  • Minor visual enhancements.
    • Use easing for logo drop, menu drops, block fills/clears, cursor movement
  • Performance improvements.
    • Use rectfill for drawing solid block colors. Use smaller sprites for block color indicators.
    • Draw in-game background only on the outer left and right sides of the screen.

V1.2 - 2024-02-02

  • Expose the random number seed used for generating level layouts, and allow seed entry.
    • When the game is paused during play or when the level is won or lost, the 16-bit seed which generated the current grid layout is shown in the lower left.
    • The game pause menu's second item has sub-option "set seed". Select this option to manually enter the seed.
  • On the bottom of the title screen, instruct new players to play the tutorial. Otherwise, the highest level completed is shown here.
    • Once the last level is completed, a secret is shown here instead. Complete it to find out!
  • Improve vexed block distribution methodology.
    • Previously, vexed blocks were only evenly distributed across horizontal sequences. Now additionally, vexed blocks are better distributed across columns by restricting the maximum number of vexed blocks per column.
  • Add visual feedback and distinct sounds for invalid swaps.
    • When attempting an invalid swap, the block shows a short animation. Also, there is now a different sound for attempting to swap with vexed blocks, as opposed to swapping the same color on non-vexed blocks.

V1.3 - 2024-02-06

  • Reduce possible waiting when making swaps and completing levels.
    • Allow swaps to be performed while other new blocks are being filled, but don't allow swaps on currently-filling blocks.
    • Handle level win/lose processing when current swap and chain finishes (don't wait until fill finishes).
  • Minor visual revisions.
    • Scroll tutorial page changes. Put tutorial text at top of screen.
    • Only show the swap bonuses that are applicable to the mode.
    • Show different blocks on title screen when they're applicable to the mode.
    • Hide current seed while setting a new seed from the win/lose screen.
  • Minor sound revisions.
    • Play a distinct sound when multiple vexed clears occur within a single swap.
    • Play sounds when seed is being entered.
P#140411 2024-01-22 03:50 ( Edited 2024-02-07 01:54)