Backbone review – raccoon PI stars in a noir adventure with an inexplicable twist


Phil Iwaniuk

PC, Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, PlayStation 4; Eggnut/Raw Fury
Uncover a grim conspiracy and sweet-talk snooty bears in this genre-hopping indie game

Private investigator Howard Lotor isn’t welcome in many joints in his home city of Vancouver. And it isn’t even because of the trenchcoat or leading questions. It’s because he’s a raccoon – and raccoons are one rung up from dirt, if you ask the dogs, bears, foxes and other bourgeois fauna who live in the upmarket areas.

Like any decent private dick from old Hollywood, then, he’s downtrodden and cynical even before the noir hits the fan. The story begins with a worried wife clutching a photograph of her missing husband, and from there Backbone freewheels through genres and themes, working off an old-school adventure game framework. There’s an exclusive bar, and the experimental drug rumoured to be dealt in its velvet booths; missing girls; conspiracy; cannibalism; and a city whose population has never seen beyond its surrounding walls – enough to tide over a Netflix original, let alone an indie adventure game. It’s true that you’re only ever walking from side to side and hitting a prompt to interact with things, but it doesn’t feel too limited – not even when the puzzles dry up after the first act in the name of pacier storytelling.

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