Game Pass first impressions: Backbone

By Sean Carey,
A benevolent beaver, flirty felines, and a polar bear criminal mastermind who sports a beret and a pair of red heels are just some of the anthropomorphic animals I came across in my short time with Backbone — a post-noir detective roleplaying adventure where you step into the shoes of a private eye who is a little more furry than usual...

Backbone

In Backbone, which joined Xbox Game Pass for PC today, you play as Howard Lotor, a raccoon private investigator who is tasked with tracking down a love rat (actually an otter, not a rat). After skulking about his last known whereabouts, things go quickly awry, and Howard finds himself thrust into the seedy animal underworld, where he is left to investigate and unravel a shocking mystery. I went in somewhat blind to Backbone, and after just a couple of hours spent with the game, I am gripped, not just by its intriguing plot (which I won't go into for fear of spoilers), but also by its atmospheric game world and superbly written dialogue.

The first thing you'll notice about Backbone (aside from the animals that stand on their hind legs and have opposable thumbs) is just how gorgeous the 2.5D pixel art world developer EggNut has created. The dystopian city is filled with character and a moody atmosphere. It's baffling how much detail EggNut has managed to cram into Backbone's various cityscapes using cleverly coloured and carefully placed pixels. Most of your time in Backbone will be spent poring over text and picking dialogue options at the side of the screen, so to have such wonderfully detailed backdrops to fawn over is a delight.

Backbone Xbox Game Pass

When you're not admiring the view, you'll be conducting your investigation by talking to characters and interviewing suspects. You'll be presented with various dialogue options to move the conversation and the game along. However, as I'm so early on in the game, it's hard to tell if my choices will change the plot or if there'll be any consequences at a later stage. When introducing yourself to your furry acquaintances, you have the option to give a couple of different aliases, and I get the feeling that this could potentially land you in trouble if you get caught lying, so your choices might actually matter in the long run. From what I've seen, the dialogue has all been written well — the conversations are interesting, filled with dark humour, and are natural and flow realistically. When you're not interrogating the likes of a drug-dealing squirrel or a jazz-loving dog, you'll be taking part in very simple stealth sections and solving puzzles. The stealth sections aren't anything special, and you can't expect much from a 2.5D side-scroller, but the puzzles seem decent. So far, I've only stumbled across one puzzle, and it was somewhat tricky and inventive — I'm looking forward to seeing what else Backbone has in store on that front.

Backbone Xbox Game PAss

As for the achievements, I unlocked just two in my couple of hours with the game. There are numerous secret achievements with cryptic names, so it's hard to judge just how difficult Backbone's achievement list might be. There are several achievements for completing the game's various acts and likely missable achievements for picking the incorrect dialogue choice. There are also three achievements regarding your aliases: one for being honest and telling people your real name, the other for lying about your identity and keeping the facade up for the entire game, and one where your identity fluctuates throughout the game. It looks like you might need a couple of playthroughs to complete Backbone's list.

Summary

Backbone is perfect for Xbox Game Pass. It's one of those games you wouldn't necessarily stump up the money for unless you were really into it or if it was on sale. I've thoroughly enjoyed my brief time with Backbone and have been charmed by its witty dialogue and wonderfully crafted game world that is absolutely stuffed with atmosphere. I also can't wait to dive into this further and see how its plot unfolds. If you're a Game Pass subscriber and you're looking for a narrative-driven adventure, Backbone is a must. As it stands, the game is only available with Xbox Game Pass for PC, but an Xbox One version will launch sometime later this year.

Sean spent around two hours checking out Backbone and running around a dystopian Vancouver. He played the game on PC and popped just two achievements.
Free Pass
Sean Carey
Written by Sean Carey
Hey, I’m Sean! I joined both TrueAchievements and TrueTrophies as a staff writer in 2019. I’m a big fan of the Metal Gear Solid series and love a good narrative adventure. Most evenings you’ll find me failing to get a win in Call of Duty: Warzone.