Backbone Review (PS5) – Developed by EggNut and published by Raw Fury, Backbone is a detective noir tale that my body, mind and soul were definitely not ready for. A tale of two halves if you will, with the second being mind-bendingly weird. Weird is where most of my life takes place though, so I am all in on that one.
Backbone drips with anthropomorphic characters, oozes with style and tells the tale of a struggling racoon detective, Howard Lator, who stumbles onto a large slice of absurdity. What seemed like a normal case of mistrust and unfaithfulness, ends up being something much, much darker, eerier and nothing like what I expected.
Backbone (PS5) – Anthropomorphic Anarchy
Dark and Gritty
The world you are dredging through is the dystopian city of Vancouver and is full of goons, class-driven division and is surrounded by a wall no one has seen the other side of. It’s brimming with dodgy characters, backstabbing and all the facets you expect in a dark noir tale. There’s tea to be brewed, smokes to be smoked and even a drug called Monkeybutt. Bloody brilliant.
I loved the narrative threads within Backbone, I am not normally a story lover, I play games for the gameplay and the story is a ‘nice to have’ but Backbone’s tale kept me truly invested for every minute of its five or six-hour campaign. There are twists, surprises, funny characters and brilliant writing that all fold into this ingenious adventure.
The second half of the game is just bonkers and really surprised me, the more I say, the worse the experience will be for people who want to play but I guarantee you, it is not what you are expecting. The only flaw with this gripping tale is that I thought the ending came a bit abruptly, left too much unsaid and fell a little flat but I am nit-picking a little because the rest of the game was simply splendid and so distinct. I need to know more dammit!
No Old-School Brute Forcing
Backbone is a modern point and click game but what I loved about it was that not for one second did I not know what my task was, what I was supposed to do or where I was going next. In some point and click games, especially older ones, you find yourself just clicking on everything or randomly trying to combine items together trying to brute force a solution. Not in Backbone though, everything makes sense and flows beautifully from one scene to the next.
During gameplay, you have stealth sections, a few visual puzzles and just generally meander around what can only be described as smoke-filled, pixel-based works of art pulled from gritty crime novels. I really did start to feel like a detective, the great writing and dialogue options really helped with that. I felt there was enough leeway to express what I thought in every conversation.
Character movement was handled exactly as I wanted, rather than clicking on an area to move, you controlled Howard just like in a 3rd person adventure and selected objects with the cross button. Apart from using R2 to run, that is the whole control scheme – simple, direct and with no needless faff. That is the whole story with Backbone really; I started and finished in two sittings and it felt effortless and very streamlined.
A Streamlined, No Faff Mystery
I had no performance issues, zero glitches, I never got lost or stuck and the whole experience was a very pleasurable one. When you take into account these games are not normally my cup of tea and the fact I was so surprised by the bonkers narrative, I really enjoyed the experience. It was just a pleasurable adventure through and through.
Graphically, I was stunned by how amazing the pixel-art was. I am a massive fan of this style of graphics and Backbone has some of the most beautiful artwork I have seen in a while. The lighting, the reflections in the rain on the road and the animations of the characters are all superb. Small details, amazing scenery and lovely pixel-based atmosphere seep out of every crack in the world, it’s simply astounding. The art style really adds to the game’s dark, stifling ambience.
The sound-work is also top-notch. While there is zero voice acting, the music is gritty when needed and deeply sombre when required. Some of the music reminded me of Hotline Miami, as did a few of the cutscenes, maybe it was the animals but some of the tracks were toe-tappingly amazing. Along with the dank yet beautiful graphical style, the music was equally apt and kept you invested in its heavy , noir-steeped world.
A Novel, Unique Experience
Backbone surprised me – what started out as a favour for a friend, ended up being one of my best gaming surprises of 2021. Backbone is stunning to look at, streamlined and completely novel. It absorbs you into its narrative, drags you through its murky streets and leaves you feeling like you want more when it ends. What more could you want?
If you like point and click adventures, weird and wacky tales or just plain beautiful worlds to get stuck into, look no further. I did feel the ending was too short and a bit vague but the whole experience surprised the shit out of me and I bloody loved it. It’s dark, gritty and there is not a button press wasted. It’s over too soon but that is fine, I want to know more……… now!
Review code kindly provided by PR.