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Visual Novel / Backstage Pass

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There’s no business like show business…

Sian Goodin has no aspirations to step in front of the crowds and the cameras - ever since her best friend Adam Eaton became a pop star overnight thanks to Youtube, she's been accompanying him as his makeup artist. However, changes are afoot for the both of them, as they are due to start their first year at Steel City University. After her father incurs a knee injury that keeps him from working for several months and her mother becomes the sole breadwinner, Sian decides to get a job to support herself. She gets contacted by director Lloyd Newton, who needs a replacement makeup artist for shooting a pilot episode of a new crime drama codenamed Cops and Robbers. Her work begins attracting attention from various sides of the entertainment industry and Sian has to juggle her studies, increasing demand for her work, as well as her relationships with her friends and colleagues, and figuring out what she actually wants to do with her life.


Backstage Pass is a Spiritual Successor to RE: Alistair, another Ren'Py-based English-language Visual Novel created by sakevisual. While it is a Romance Game with several potential love interests for Sian, the game also focuses on increasing stats in order to pass other challenges in Sian’s life throughout her freshman year, such as exams, jobs that require a high level of skill, or gaining money from blogging about makeup. There are 16 possible endings, out of which only some focus on romance – it’s entirely possible for Sian to instead form a deep, platonic friendship with a character, become famous only due to her skills, not move up in life at all… or get kicked out of college and fail miserably in her aspirations.

The game was originally released in 2014 to Steam's Early Access program, and saw its first full release on August 23, 2016. Almost all characters (except Sian herself) are fully voiced.


This visual novel contains examples of:

  • Acclaimed Flop: An in-universe example: Vice / Versus, after being Screwed by the Network and not renewed for a second season.
  • All of the Other Reindeer: Nicole tends to get treated quite badly by other models, enduring jabs about her height, her relative lack of success in her career, or about her supposed relationship with Matthew Midnight, though she's usually able to give as good as she gets. She gets really mad however when another model on the reality TV show she's been booked for assumes her relationship with Sian is just a gimmick to boost her career, and then to insult Sian, causes Nicole (and Sian) to lose her temper at the other model. This actually gets her eliminated in the first round of the show round since the argument was filmed, and is framed in such a way that Nicole looks unprofessional for losing her cool, despite not being the one to initiate the argument.
  • Amicable Exes and Working with the Ex: John and Lloyd. It only comes up if Sian is romancing the former, when the latter warns her that John will always put acting first – as he had done during their relationship. They decided they were Better as Friends due to some distance and work issues and remain very good friends in every ending.
  • Backstory: Almost all of the named characters have well-defined backstories, though you won’t see all of them in a single playthrough. This also includes minor characters like Rachel the camerawoman and enthusiastic extra Allison.
  • Becoming the Mask: Subverted with Matthew – he acts very cool and professional when in “work mode,” but is very shy and jittery otherwise. With Sian’s help, he can become more confident, though not anywhere near his professional persona.
  • Belligerent Sexual Tension: Sian and John play around with this trope. They initially genuinely dislike one another but then may come to see they made some mistaken assumptions about each other and reconcile. Should they enter a relationship and Sian comments that she sees nothing wrong with there being fans of John’s Vice / Versus villainous character as long as it’s a fantasy, John plays up the trope in-character as Vice when Sian helps him practice his lines.
  • Be Yourself: The general theme of Nicole's route, realizing she doesn't have to pretend to be somebody she's not to get what she wants out of life or to be happy, by stepping away from supermodeling and instead creating a line of easy to use, streamlined makeup sets with the help of her girlfriend Sian to be sold through her family's company.
  • The Big Damn Kiss
  • Big Man on Campus / School Idol: Adam tries very hard to avert this trope, but his fans on-campus seem intent on making him this.
  • Bishōnen All the male characters qualify, but Matthew stands out, as he makes a living out of it. Him realising he won't be able to stay a model forever and getting more involved with Midnight Cosmetics in another capacity is even a plot point.
  • Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: Subversion – Allison is a genuinely nice and bubbly girl who initially appears to be a slightly ditzy extra on the set of Vice / Versus. Later in the game, she locks herself in a trailer with Celina or Sian (if romancing John), accusing them of ruining him. This sudden change in personality is the result of a bad reaction to a drug meant to treat her mental illness – after a depression-led overdose that almost killed her, Allison recovered by admiring John’s character in his TV series Knight Errant and believing this to be his actual personality. Her condition makes her believe John’s new character in Vice / Versus, a serial killer, is what John is like now after spending time with “Katerina” (Celina’s character) or Sian, and she lashes out against the woman she believes is ruining John. She’s subdued and given help by the crew, who also contact her family. She realises that wanting to thank John was her sole motivation to start acting and can start a charity helping children pursue acting. Ironically, from her perspective, “Katerina” or Sian are this trope, particularly if Sian talked to her and was nice to her.
  • Bland-Name Product: Fuchs Network basically is Fox. Right up to cancelling a hugely popular TV show due to viewership figures. Spacebook, Youtune...
  • Blond, Brunette, Redhead: Potential producer trio John (blonde), Lloyd (redhead), and Sian (brunette). Or at least, Sian would be a brunette in real life due to her ancestry. The other three bachelors count as well, with Matthew (blonde), Adam (brunette), and Benito (dyed green hair).
  • Bookworm: Alvin.
  • Brainy Brunette: Alvin. Sian can become one if she focuses on her studies enough. On Alvin's route, he offers her to become a tutor with him.
  • Bridal Carry: Some wine is spilt in the lobby of an expensive hotel where John takes Sian for Valentine’s Day. When Sian protests against this trope, John compliments her independence but asks her to allow him to spoil her – and that if she likes, she can think about how his clothing designer friend would be mortified that the dress he got Sian got stained.
  • Brother–Sister Incest: Although Nicole jokes about the subject, the trope is averted.
  • The Cameo: Merui, the protagonist of RE: Alistair, appears in a brief scene as a young woman. She now works as a marketing executive for Rivenwell Online.
  • Caught in the Rain: Part of Matthew’s romance.
  • The Charmer: Benito uses this as part of his job.
  • Childhood Friends: Adam and Sian
  • Childhood Friend Romance: Potentially with Adam.
  • Chinese Girl: Sian herself is at least half-Chinese. Her mother even lets out an “aiya!” of exasperation at her father’s antics.
  • Clark Kenting: Played with - when Sian questions if John's glasses really count as a disguise when they go out, he replies that even small adjustments can have large effects. He does say it's more about the attitude, though.
  • Closet Key: Nicole can be Sian's if her path is pursued.
  • Cool Big Sis: Rachel the camerawoman functions as this if Sian works extensively on Vice / Versus. Celina Harroway is more along the lines of an Onee-sama figure.
  • Cool Loser: Sian doesn’t associate with too many people at college, but it’s justified by her work commitments and fear of crowds. She makes plenty of friends at work.
  • Cool Old Lady: Professor Meridia.
  • Country Mouse: Sian and Adam have both had pretty sheltered lives on a small Hawaiian island until going to college.
  • Club President: Alvin is the TA for Sian’s study support group.
  • Cosplay Otaku Girl: Sian can dress up as a Magical Girl for Halloween. Alvin, who makes his own costume, really approves and says she does the heroine justice. They even do a photo pose from a comic book cover together.
  • Cross Player: In his romance ending, John gets a screenplay of a remake of Pygmalion in the mail. Sian says he’d make a lovely Professor Higgins – he counters that they might be asking him to play Eliza. Sian says she’d still watch it.
  • Dance of Romance: Sian and John at the Vice / Versus Halloween Party.
  • Dating Sim: Sian can romance Adam, Benito, John, Matthew, or Nicole. There are also friendship routes with Alvin and Lloyd available.
  • Embarrassing First Name: Snickerdoodle King, the senior makeup artist Sian consults for Vice's scar.
    Snickerdoodle King: You can blame my mother for that.
  • Executive Meddling: In-Universe, Lloyd and John want to make a crime drama with a female lead. The network wants them to add a male co-lead and potentially a Token Romance, which they’re afraid will turn into a Romantic Plot Tumor after a few seasons and take over the show. Sian suggests they instead make the villain the co-lead and expand his role.
  • Extreme Doormat and Shrinking Violet: Matthew, due to his controlling mother more than anything. His Character Development is breaking out of these tendencies.
  • Fair Cop: Vice / Versus’s heroine Katerina, played by former child star Celina Harroway. She even lampshades the trope when Sian is skeptical – on TV, you’re either pretty or comic relief. No one cares about realism.
  • Fake American: In-Universe, John pulls off a standard TV American accent for his role as Vice instead of being an Evil Brit. He’s a trained actor, after all. He also fakes a heavy Southern USA accent when trying to make people think he isn’t John Brandon… including Sian.
  • Fake Relationship: Matthew Midnight and Nicole Partridge are in one at the start of the game. They're actually brother and sister, but Nicole helps Matthew to keep his shyness in check so she pretends to be his girlfriend by going under her real surname, despite the fact that she herself is homosexual. The relationship ends if Sian romances Matthew for real or if she ends up falling for Nicole instead.
  • Family Business: Midnight Cosmetics. On Matthew's romance route, he chooses to become more involved and gets his mother's approval for Sian to work on an ad campaign with him. It's implied the part of the reason they're a good match is that they'd be well suited to running the company together. Also happens with Nicole, in her route, after Sian has an argument with Madeline over her treatment of her daughter. This convinces Madeline to ask Nicole to create a new product line for the company, which she asks Sian to help her with developing. They end up creating the "Working Girl" of streamlined, easy-to-use cosmetic sets.
  • The Fashionista: Nicole is one, which is natural considering her line if work. She also has a sponsorship deal with a local fashion chain to only wear their brand of clothing as a form of stealth advertising. The corporatism of it does wear on her a little, since so much of her look is decided by other people, causing her to buy a truly ugly sweater that is also far too big for herself as a small act of control in her life, since even if she never wears it (which she won't), it was something she got for herself. Sian will also need to be one if she wants to romance Nicole as well.
  • First Guy Wins: If Sian romances Adam.
  • Foe Romance Subtext: In the Vice / Versus universe, between Vice and Katerina.
  • Former Child Star: Celina, who’s jaded and quiet as a result.
  • Gameplay and Story Segregation:
    • On Adam's route, you can call him to hang out every single weekend and (at least judging from the chibis that appear when you go to class or study) study with him several times a week, and you will STILL end up having a scripted fight with him about how Sian isn't spending enough time with him and it's all her fault. Although romancing him and spending every weekend with him at the same time might sometimes avert this.
    • Later into his route, there's a part where Adam has to take a vocal break until the next week, and he isn't allowed to speak at all to avoid further damage on his throat, but if you call him to hang out on that weekend, he will still speak normally and neither he nor Sian show signs of remembering that he is supposed to be on a vocal break. And then, in the next week, he suddenly remembers that and doesn't speak again. What?
  • Gamer Chick: Not explicitly so, but Sian qualifies.
  • Gecko Ending: In-universe, Vice / Versus after it gets cancelled, much to the anger and horror of fans. Katerina shoots Vice and rescues Ryan, but Vice eludes the police when she stops to help Ryan.
  • Geek: Alvin. Sian can help him get over his scruples with telling her about it.
  • Gay Option: Nicole.
  • Genki Girl with Girlish Pigtails: Allison.
  • Hair of Gold, Heart of Gold: Matthew, who takes time to rescue a scared kitten from a tree when visiting Sian’s college. Also Nicole, though it’s hidden under some bitterness.
  • Hands-Off Parenting: Benito’s parents seem to travel a lot, leaving him to live in a tiny studio apartment near the local arcade. In his romance route, they reach out to Sian to reconcile the family, as it turns out Benito was the one who left them.
  • Heroic BSoD: Alvin after Professor Meridia passes away due to a heart attack late in the summer semester. Especially because his mother overcame cancer and he's come to think of Meridia as a mother figure as well.
  • Huge Guy, Tiny Girl: Matthew and Nicole. She doesn't even come up to his shoulders! Of course, they're not actually in a relationship, and the height differential isn't so bad if Nicole ends up with Sian instead, though the narration of their first kiss does mention she still has to reach up a little to reach Sian's lips.
  • I Am Not Spock: In-Universe, one of the reasons John isn’t fond of Knight as a character. He also believes that if he can’t help being overshadowed by a role, he’s not that good of an actor.
  • I Am Very British: John speaks with a very clean and crisp RP accent.
  • Instant Fanclub: Adam has one at the university and finds them annoying due to their interference with his time with Sian. Hiding from them is even part of his romance.
  • Jerkass Has a Point: Though John comes off as harsh in his opening scene, it’s true Sian could have easily called him to avoid the scene with the security guard at the entrance to Adam’s concert venue. He doesn’t know about Sian’s panic attacks, so from his point of view, it’s entirely valid that she ran from a problem instead of solving it.
  • Keet: Lloyd. Oh goodness, Lloyd.
    • Alvin when he learns Sian knows John and Lloyd personally.
    • Adam when he sees snow for the first time ever.
  • Knights and Knaves: The riddle makes an appearance at the Ren Fair in the independent pathway.
  • Last Guy Wins: If Sian romances Matthew or befriends Alvin or Lloyd.
  • Like Brother and Sister: Sian and Adam always get mistaken for siblings by people who don’t know them well. The only exception is Benito, who makes a living by reading people, and instantly concludes they’re dating if that’s the case. To their great surprise, really.
  • Limey Goes to Hollywood: In-Universe, John actually came to be Adam’s producer and help Lloyd out with his show, but when the latter begs him to take the role of Vice, he can’t refuse.
  • Lipstick Lesbian: Nicole states she has "zero interest in boys" and is beautiful in a traditionally feminine way, but it's also justified since her career is that of a supermodel and her lesbianism is a secret since she poses as her brother Matthew's girlfriend in order to help him keep his intense shyness down when on the job.
  • Lonely Rich Kid: Matthew and Nicole. The former is painfully shy around anyone he doesn’t know well, has a private chauffeur and a huge but lonely mansion at his mother’s behest. The latter barely gets noticed by their own parents in comparison to the older sibling.
  • Love Epiphany: Sian and Adam go through a scene from Much Ado About Nothing late on in the game. If Sian says the dynamic between Beatrice and Benedick is similar to her and Adam, a friended Adam can suddenly realise that he's in love with Sian and ask her out at the end of the game.
  • Luminescent Blush: Sian if John teases her.
  • Manic Pixie Dream Guy: Lloyd for Celina. After her show was cancelled, the former child star started breaking her Contractual Purity quite violently because she missed the attention of the cameras. Lloyd pestered her for two months to join the drama club at school and managed to rekindle her desire to act. They've been good friends since.
  • Master of the Mixed Message: A potentially non-romantic example occurs with Nicole when her overtures of friendship towards Sian are marred by her protectiveness towards Matthew, causing her to act somewhat aloof and rude. When what Nicole intends as a well-meaning, harmless prank by getting Sian to try on and buy a really, really ugly shirt causes Sian to get mad and snap at Nicole that she doesn't know if she actually wants to be friends or is just trying to humiliate her, Nicole realizes what she's been doing and apologizes, even going so far as to try on and buy the ugly shirt herself. Her friendship with Sian noticeably improves after this and can lead to an actual romance later on. Sian later does this herself after Nicole starts to develop an attraction to her, and starts feeling as though some of Sian's compliments about her sound like flirting. Since Nicole knows, or think she knows, that Sian isn't into girls like she is, Nicole ends up coming clean about the attraction because she doesn't want it to develop into something that could ruin their friendship. After the initial surprise, Sian decides that she's never actually thought that hard about who or what she likes, but she knows that being with Nicole feels natural and she puts her at ease in a way that nobody else does, and what they have is more than just a friendship and she'd like to see what it becomes, to which Nicole agrees.
  • The Matchmaker: Nicole tries to be this for Matthew and Sian.
  • Mean Character, Nice Actor: John is nothing like the villainous Vice. It takes Sian a while to realise he’s a genuinely nice person, though. Allison, on the other hand, can’t distinguish between actor and role due to her illness, and assumes Nice Guy John has become evil.
  • Music Is Politics: Adam hates this, and his refusal to play the “game” makes Dale think he won’t last long in the business.
  • May–December Romance: This is one of the reasons why John questions Sian’s interest in him – he’s 35 and she’s 18. Rachel suggests Sian places herself in his shoes and tries to imagine herself dating a 9-year-old, which Sian immediately rejects as taking advantage of an inexperienced child. Rachel then also points out that the age difference between Sian and the kid would be much smaller than that between her and John. This helps Sian think things over and prepare an argument why she’s still convinced she wants to date John and persuade him to give things a go. Ultimately, only journalists trying to get gossip about John question her age, and John dismisses the question easily by saying they’re happy together, so what does it matter?
  • Multiple Endings: As per usual for the genre. There are 16 endings in total: romance and friendship paths with individual characters, as well as solo endings where Sian can become successful on her own or crash and burn horribly.
  • My Beloved Smother: Madeline Midnight.
  • Nepotism / Never a Self-Made Woman: John initially thinks Sian only got to be Adam’s makeup artist because of their friendship. He’s proven wrong and can even apologise to her.
  • Nice Guy: Surprisingly enough, all the male characters qualify, ranging from playing it completely straight (Adam, Benito, Lloyd, and Alvin), hiding it behind shyness, coolness, or gruffness (Matthew, John, and Dale).
  • The Nicknamer: Lloyd, who can’t resist nicknaming Sian “Little Wizard.” She transforms people with her makeup brush, which is like a wand, so… wizard.
  • No Pronunciation Guide: The Deep South delivery man who comes to Sian's campus is the only one to pronounce her name See-yann instead of Shahn like everyone else. That's because it's John playing up the Deep South stereotype to surprise her.
  • Old-School Chivalry: Sian’s mother emails her to mention that someone called John Brandon emailed them that he’s looking to court her in John’s romance path.
  • Older Than They Look: Lloyd, John, and Celina are all seasoned pros in their 30s. They look to be in their late 20s.
  • One Steve Limit: Averted with John Brandon and Allison Brandon – no relation. Actually played straight, since Allison Powers made up the surname to justify her being in John’s trailer.
  • Parental Favoritism: Madeline Midnight promotes her son Matthew ruthlessly. Dale mentions she has other children, but doesn’t elaborate. Her daughter Nicole is also a model, but not nearly as prominent or as promoted by her mother.
  • Parental Abandonment: Benito’s parents are never around, constantly travelling around the world. They’re actually looking for him and are very concerned for his safety.
  • The Quiet One: Matthew.
  • Pimped-Out Dress: Sian gets one from John on Valentine’s Day. If not, she gets one from Lloyd for an award show. Her Fairytale Wedding Dress from her and Adam’s wedding also counts.
  • Pirate Girl: Nicole wears a pirate costume to the Midnight Cosmetics Halloween party. If Sian comes to the party and coincidentally wears the thematically-similar Mermaid Dress costume as well, this will help push her onto Nicole's path.
  • Relationship Upgrade: Every romance storyline works like this:
    • With Adam, you start as best friends and progress into a romance.
    • With Benito, Sian becomes his occasional assistant and friend first.
    • With Matthew and John, Sian first works with them, eventually progressing to friendship and romance.
    • With Nicole, they first encounter each other through Matthew, and end up developing a friendship after bumping into each other several more times, despite a somewhat rocky beginning, which leads to a growing attraction on Nicole's part that Sian ends up reciprocating.
  • Replay Value: 16 endings, all of which are quite customised.
  • The Reveal: The identity of the Masque of the Red Death at the Vice / Versus Halloween party. Sian initially thinks it’s Lloyd, while John is dressed up as his knight character from the TV show Knight Errant. The reverse is actually true, and Sian quickly realises that Lloyd probably thinks the Knight costume is hilarious and John wouldn’t wear it unless he absolutely had to.
    • Nicole being Matthew’s sister. They look very alike, but she says they’re dating to people who seem to be bothering him. As she says when Sian wonders how come she never saw it, all models look alike in the end.
    • Allison lashing out and her subsequent mental illness reveal.
  • Sacred First Kiss: Matthew and Sian in his romance.
  • Scars are Forever: In the Vice / Versus universe, Vice has a long, horizontal scar across his cheeks and nose, given to him by Action Girl Katerina when he killed her parents.
  • School Festival
  • Secret-Keeper: Matthew is the only person who definitely knows that Nicole is a lesbian, though Nicole also says she does think her mother is aware as well, but due to their strained relationship hasn't bothered to find out. Sian becomes the second person to definitively know when she and Nicole decide to explore their burgeoning relationship, and it gradually becomes less of a secret from there, culminating in The Big Damn Kiss and a declaration of love in the middle of the mall.
  • Shipper on Deck: Nicole for Sian and Matthew. In their own ways, Rachel and Lloyd for Sian and John – both drop their usual goofiness and give Sian good advice about John’s character and how to reconcile dating a co-worker with her own work. Matthew himself becomes one to Sian and Nicole late in their route.
  • Significant Green-Eyed Redhead: Lloyd, whose main significance is giving Sian an in into the TV business.
  • Sleep Cute: Sian finds John sleeping in a break room on set after she misses the last bus He’s not asleep and finds her attempt to remove his hat amusing. Sian herself falls asleep on the beach in their romance culmination scene after an extended swim chase.
    • Sian can also have one with Nicole after Nicole has an argument with her mother about doing an episode of a supermodel reality TV show and storms out, spending the night with Sian in her dorm room. They end up sharing the bed and have a small tender moment before falling asleep.
  • Smart People Wear Glasses: Both professors at the college, TA Alvin, and experienced actor John wear glasses.
  • The Snark Knight: Dale the photographer.
  • Spiritual Successor: To Re: Alistair.
  • Squee: In his route, Alvin eventually gets his wish to meet John Brandon. First he can't speak, but then, full Fan Boy mode comes out on top.
  • Stage Mom: Madeline Midnight ruthlessly advocates the career of her son Matthew. As a former model and key Midnight Cosmetics stakeholder, this is more about advancing the legacy and the company than living vicariously through him. She doesn’t seem to care that much about advancing her daughter Nicole’s career.
  • Stage Magician: Benito is more of a street magician, but he’s trying to break into the business.
  • Stage Names: Models Matthew Midnight and Madeline Midnight - their actual surname is Partridge. Matthew's sister Nicole has the same surname, though not alliterative in her case.
  • Stalker with a Crush: Allison isn’t this – she just wants to thank John for helping her through her recovery period. Thankfully, Celina has encountered straight examples of this before, and resolved to learn about them in order to protect herself from future occurrences.
  • Star-Crossed Lovers: If Sian shows up to the Midnight Cosmetics dressed up as “that Vampire Hunter from that one TV show,” Dale seizes the opportunity to take her picture alongside Matthew, who is dressed as a vampire and play up this trope.
  • Star-Making Role: In-Universe, Knight in Knight Errant for John. He’s trying to shed the image now, as he's grown very tired of it (despite thinking the series is good).
  • Stepford Smiler: Nicole isn't as bad as some, but she's hiding a fair amount of bitterness and even self-hatred behind that perfect, supermodel smile of hers, being used to prop up her older brother's modeling career while her own is starting to stagnate has taken a toll on her self-worth and strained her relationship with her mother Madeline, who is unsupportive and critical of her, not to mention having to put her personal life on hold to pretend to be her brother's girlfriend. She gets over a great deal of these issues and even starts to reconcile with Madeline if Sian pursues a relationship with her, with people who know Nicole well remarking later in the route that this is the first time they've seen her so genuinely happy in a long time.
  • Stern Teacher: Professor Couvalt, at least to students who don't take college seriously.
  • Sugar-and-Ice Personality: Celina Harroway, the famous actress. She’s quiet and appears cold, but is a nice person otherwise.
  • Sweeps Week Lesbian Kiss: Played with. When another model sees Sian and Nicole share an intimate embrace, she accuses Nicole of attempting to use the "edgy lesbian" act as a way to boost her career. Nicole gets quite offended at the idea she'd use her sexual orientation as a gimmick.
  • Teen Genius: Benito, or so the game claims.
  • "Well Done, Daughter!" Gal: Nicole's relationship with her mother, since Madeline focuses all her attention on Matthew and can be very dismissive of Nicole's career. Sian can help the two of them begin to reconcile in Nicole's route by convincing Madeline to ask Nicole to take on more responsibilities in the company.
  • Yoko Oh No: When Adam mentions Sian as his girlfriend during a TV interview, the internet may not react well.