Atmospheric, engrossing, and rife with anthropomorphism, the prologue for the upcoming noir-inspired adventure game Backbone by EggNut certainly perked up the ears of many gamers. What’s on offer in this free-to-download Steam demo – of which can be completed in about roughly an hour – is an entertaining dive into the gloomy world of vice, excessive neon lighting, and furries.
Howard Lotor, a raccoon private eye with a self-deprecating sense of humour, must dig up clues regarding a married woman’s husband and the suspicious activities he’s been getting himself into. The trail leads him to a fancy Jazz club, but things are not quite as they seem to be. It’s definitely gripping stuff, full of intrigue and shady things taking place away from the public eye.
While pixel art video games can come across as a bit gimmicky these days, Backbone is anything but. Any praise this side-scroller receives for its detailed visuals, slick animations and luscious lighting is undoubtedly justified. There are some great lighting effects, from the dreary alleys to the luscious, neon-lit streets of Vancouver, BC. The music is appropriately chilled and noir-esque, though there are a few rooms which could’ve at least done with some atmospheric noises at the very minimum, since rooms with no noise whatsoever can be misleadingly eerie. The look and feel of the whole game is simply breathtaking.
You’ll have to examine the environment and interrogate people via a handful of dialogue trees for clues. The writing itself is engaging and pretty funny at times, too. Voice acting will be a feature in the full release, which sounds promising, but what we’ve got here is great as it is. In the demo, you’re given a little bit of freedom to tackle certain scenarios, though on the whole it feels a bit streamlined. Luckily, there’s no need to go hunting around for hard-to-see clues, as you’ll be given notifications if there’s anything of interest, thus saving you the need to click around aimlessly. At certain points, you’ll enter point-and-click mode to interact with things.
You’ll have to use stealth to progress further, of which is pretty self-explanatory: just crouch, stay in the shows, and don’t bump into anyone. Getting caught will either set you back by a minute or two, so it’s thankfully more of a minor inconvenience rather than an irritating punishment. Not particularly complex stuff on the whole, but it’s gratifying enough.
It’s surprising to see there were no teaser trailers or additional hints on what to expect in the actual demo. According to the Kickstarter page, what we can expect in the full 2020 release, are chase scenes, the ability to (literally) sniff out clues, the ability to mutate, and plenty of thought-provoking themes. There was a devious puzzle in the demo, so we can likely expect more of those, though there have been promises that there will be no “hand-holding” when it comes to solving them.
The prologue of Backbone is a satisfying taste of great things to come. It may be a bit light on the gameplay-side of things, yet the story-telling aspects, visuals and the general feel of the whole experience no doubt make up for it. You can tell a lot of love and effort has been put into the demo alone by its skeleton crew, which makes the whole thing even more impressive. Best of all, it’s coming to consoles alongside the PC. This one is definitely worth keeping an eye out for.
Download Backbone: Prologue from the official Steam page here. Be sure to share your thoughts on the game in the comments below!