Backbone Is Back

The Dystopia of Backbone

Backbone is a post-noir roleplaying adventure game released  June 8th. Player’s navigate a seedy, dark version of Vancouver, BC, as a Private Investigator raccoon named Howard Loto. After a routine investigation involving a cheating husband, things become vastly more complicated, and Howard must fight against the oppressive powers of the city.

With the aid of some anthropomorphic friends and acquaintances, you’ll be able to uncover secrets and truths to hopefully put an end to some not-so-good animals. Reflections of real-world social problems are at the forefront of this detective genre game.

Backbone Video Game
image credit: EggNut

How Does A Raccoon Snoop?

Backbone’s gameplay is straightforward. Players will side scroll through the cityscape and perform basic platforming like traversing the ladders and stairs outside an apartment building. You’ll also do your fair share of sneaking while you try to slip past dangerous or unsuspecting figures, which is done by crouching behind waist-level objects like tables and counters. The majority of the gameplay will focus on interacting with all of the people throughout the city.

You’ll be able to choose from a few dialogue options as you speak with people while trying to find more clues to further progress the game. Depending on the option you choose, you’ll get different responses. This can also affect how you need to progress through the game.

For example, if you irk someone and they kick you out of a building, you’ll have to find another way inside to complete your sleuthing, whereas if you were to choose more friendly dialogue options, you might have never been escorted out in the first place.

Regardless of your choices, though, you won’t come to different conclusions or fail a mission. The options to choose from aren’t right or wrong. These options reflect how a player feels about a situation.

How Does Backbone Hold Up?

Backbone’s visuals are a combination of 3D effects and 2D pixel art. The dynamic lighting and weather aspects on top of the 2D art style create a unique and gorgeous visual aesthetic. The pixelated art style is very refreshing as well.

The description of the soundtrack by EggNut is “dystopian doom jazz,” which is accurate.. Danshin and Aroof Aftab are able to channel the classic noir atmosphere in their music and the tones and emotions of the characters too. The writing is particularly well done by touching on genuine modern-day issues of classism and racism. The gameplay handle these themes in a very sincere way.

These heavy topics can make for very poignant moments of storytelling. These big topics can occasionally lead to open-ended plot points, which at times feel unfulfilling.

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Written by Trevor Forrest