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Metascore
76

Generally favorable reviews - based on 18 Critic Reviews What's this?

User Score
6.5

Mixed or average reviews- based on 13 Ratings

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  • Summary: Backbone is a post-noir roleplaying detective adventure. Become raccoon private eye Howard Lotor as you interrogate a diverse cast of characters, collect evidence, and explore dystopian Vancouver, BC inhabited by animals.

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22 Minutes of Backbone Gameplay
Score distribution:
  1. Positive: 11 out of 18
  2. Negative: 0 out of 18
  1. Jun 7, 2021
    100
    Howard's journey ends far, far away from where it began and each step continuously develops the emotional investment for everyone in this world. While there are minor mechanical issues such as the "interact" input not always being immediately responsive, each element of Backbone is polished and expertly crafted. Backbone is a must-play GOTY contender that deserves every bit of mainstream recognition it receives, and exceeds the usual reach of its genre, making for a compelling experience that even those with little interest in point-and-click adventures will find difficult to put down.
  2. Jun 7, 2021
    90
    Backbone tells an enormous story within a tiny runtime, and it never feels like too much. New wonders, new horrors, and fresh plot twists are chucked your way with reckless abandon. Yet, you never feel too lost. A little lost, surely! All the better to capture that sense of dark waters closing overhead. Between the clever mechanics, the compelling narrative, and the gorgeous pixel art, there's a real fire lit beneath you from the very start. If you're looking for a detective story with glistening fangs, glittering eyes, and sharpened hooks, Backbone will be perfect for you.
  3. Jun 14, 2021
    80
    Backbone is a simple game to play, meaning that the dialogue and theme development had to carry the experience. While the narrative rushes to an uneasy finish, the story gives you a lot of meat to sink your teeth into.
  4. Jun 7, 2021
    75
    Promising and lovely, Backbone can't live up to its stellar early chapters, but there's still a worthwhile experience contained within.
  5. Jun 17, 2021
    70
    Backbone presents the player with an intriguinging world, populated by interesting characters that drive it’s often depressing and strange story home to what feels like an eventually inevitable conclusion. It’s just a pity that the minute-to-minute gameplay is not only uninspired, but it’s also rather boring.
  6. Jun 11, 2021
    70
    Backbone is a grim, unhappy tale that didn't sate any of my hunger for a good murder mystery. However, if you are looking for a deeply interesting world with complex and unsettling themes which will stick with you, I'd still recommend you give it a go.
  7. Jun 8, 2021
    60
    Is Backbone worth a look? Yes, particularly if the idea of playing as an anthropomorphic animal appeals to you. There are times when it’ll have you on tenterhooks and there are several characters that are strong enough to stand out. It’s admirable that this was achieved on a small budget, but ultimately the developers have tried to cram too much in for Backbone to be truly successful.

See all 21 Critic Reviews

Score distribution:
  1. Positive: 2 out of 5
  2. Negative: 1 out of 5
  1. Jun 9, 2021
    10
    Backbone won't be for everyone, but it's a genuinely incredible ride that I'm glad I went on. The art is beautiful, and it's the kind of storyBackbone won't be for everyone, but it's a genuinely incredible ride that I'm glad I went on. The art is beautiful, and it's the kind of story that sticks with you after you finish playing it. I really loved this game. Expand
  2. Jun 24, 2021
    9
    This review contains spoilers, click expand to view. Echo en falta algo más de jugabilidad y puzzles, y ciertas partes de la historia y escenas hay que cogerlas con pinza para entenderla y pasarlas por alto, pero por lo general, en diálogos, personajes, historia, BSO y apartado artístico es excelente. Si es verdad que el final me dejó un poco frío al principio, y el concepto del Artefacto, o lo que hay detrás del muro me dejó un poco con la miel en los labios, ya que se explica y revela muy en superficie. En general, ha merecido la pena los meses de espera, estoy esperando a que pase unos meses y pueda rejugarlo, explorando más los diálogos y el lore. Expand
  3. Jun 19, 2021
    5
    This review contains spoilers, click expand to view. I've never reviewed anything on Metacritic, but had to say my piece here. My husband purchased this game on his Steam account and refunded it after we did a full playthrough of it.

    Look: I've followed this game's development for 2 years. I've
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  4. Jun 20, 2021
    5
    TL;DR
    If the Backbone demo was Game of Thrones season 1, then the full game faithfully captures the confusion and letdown of GoT season 8.
    TL;DR
    If the Backbone demo was Game of Thrones season 1, then the full game faithfully captures the confusion and letdown of GoT season 8.

    It genuinely pains me to write a bad review of this game. Second only to Larian Studios’ Baldur’s Gate 3, Backbone was my most anticipated game for 2021. When the demo was released in 2019, it oozed with potential: a gripping plot; high-stakes, nonlinear gameplay; a unique, noir setting; consequential choices. For my money, Backbone had the makings of a GotY candidate. Unfortunately, the full game fails to maintain the inspiration that made the demo so promising. To its credit, the things that Backbone does well, it does really, really well. The art direction and the character designers should be commended. But sadly, this only intensifies the disappointment over finished product: a linear progression through an increasingly chaotic and absurd narrative. Sometimes, the whole is less than the sum of its parts.

    Pros
    - The pixelated world is consistently charming. The characters are well-designed and each district of the city has a unique, authentic feel.
    - The choice of an anthropomorphic universe creates a fantastical distance from reality that allows the game to tackle heavier themes without becoming depressingly grim while, at the same, evoking more empathy than a human cast might.
    - The characters are engaging and well-developed. Each has a unique and (mostly) consistent personality, masterfully conveyed through their dialogue and their animation.
    - The protagonist, Howard, is refreshingly flawed and vulnerable. His foil, Renee, is immediately likable, and their relationship provides some of the most engaging interactions in the game.

    Neutral
    - Sound design fluctuates between being appreciably emotional or intense, to awkwardly silent.
    - Puzzle and stealth elements are introduced and then immediately abandoned.

    Cons
    - Choices do not matter; a fact the game seems to realize and lampshade by Act 3. Backbone is 50% walking simulator, 50% visual novel.
    - What begins as a gritty, grounded narrative gradually spirals into Kafkaesque absurdity. The tone dissolves from harsh reality to depressing nihilism, in an effort to make some philosophical point about ontology that clearly went over my head.
    - In what seems like an effort to discourage criticism, attempts at social commentary are shoehorned late into the game. The potential for a thoughtful examination of morality is discarded in favor of quick attacks on popular strawmen (eg. men, the upper-class, wealthy individuals). Plot holes are similarly stitched together with such attacks.
    - The ending is rushed. While I imagine it was intended as a cliffhanger, it feels more like a non sequitur. The intent was probably to leave the game open-ended for DLC or a sequel, pending its reception. Sadly, it will be an uphill battle to recover a plot mired by philosophical incoherence and political soapboxing.

    Overall, the game took me about 5 hours to complete, and I interacted with almost everything I found. I’ve read some were able to complete it in as few as 3 hours and others spent as long as 7. Since all the choices will inevitably lead to the same results, there is little replay value apart from the extreme achievement completionists. Criticisms aside, I sincerely hope we see a sophomore project from EggNut. They clearly have talent on their team and I would gladly give them a second chance. If you are as charmed by the setting as I am, you can do worse than Backbone, but given the diminishing returns of the time spent on the game, I recommend catching it on Xbox Game Pass or at least 50% discount.
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  5. Jun 10, 2021
    3
    If you played and enjoyed the original free Prologue that's been out for over a year, then you've played and enjoyed the only actual gameplayIf you played and enjoyed the original free Prologue that's been out for over a year, then you've played and enjoyed the only actual gameplay and most of the good storytelling. From there, no further puzzle-solving and no deductive gameplay exists - the game shifts directly into an on-the-rails visual novel and stays there through completion.

    This is not a bad thing if the novel has good writing - but Backbone's full game appears to have been written by committee consensus. It's all over the place. The original plot twist from the Prologue is quickly discarded, new plots are launched, and none of it is ever resolved. Character motivations seem sandwiched in, reliant on real-world sociopolitical viewpoints which either aren't shown in the game or are directly contradicted by it.

    One major character, for example, is angry about the rich abusing the poor in a very specific way that I won't spoiler, but in the actual game the poor are never targeted in this way - bankers and the like are. You know, the middle-class and rich types. Another major character, late in the game, attempts to morally justify mass murder against these same "class-warfare" victims by saying they're all violent towards women (despite the protagonist having first-hand knowledge that this isn't always the case). This same person claims that the post-apoc society in which she lives treated women as second-class citizens and therefore what she's doing is trying to launch a revolution - great idea, except nowhere in the game do we see women as a class being treated worse than men as a class. These and other instances of misplaced real-world commentary come off sounding like Alex Jones ranting about gay frogs.

    It seems like the writing staff was more of a committee and everyone just agreed to throw everyone else's ideas into the mix. The result is a jumbled mess of incomplete and occasionally incoherent plotlines that stumble along before dying in a literary wasteland.

    All of that being said, the art, atmosphere, music, animation and ambience are all top notch. There's tons of details in the scenery, and also quite a few "sidequests" which add occasional tender moments. If you can imagine getting some pasta in a lovely bowl with a fine silver fork, and then you discover that the sauce is decent but the noodles were botched - well, that's this game.

    The Prologue is still worth your time, and still free on Steam. The remainder of the game, aside from the scenery and such, is at best a letdown... and if you pay full price at $25 for all seven hours or less of it (my experience was 7, other people report finishing in as little as 3), it might actually make you feel ripped off. If you still want the full game, wait for a 50% off sale and it's probably worth your time.
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