Backbone’s free demo is a beautiful exploration in pixel art

With a sinister narrative twist.

This weekend we attended AdventureX, the annual convention held in London to celebrate all things adventure and narrative gaming. There was plenty there to catch our eye, but an immediate stand-out was the hazy pixel beauty of Backbone. The noir-inspired detective game picks out the best elements of the well-trodden genre, but does them all a little differently.

You play Howard Lotor, a raccoon private detective making a living in a world of emotionally messy animals. The outlandish cases he investigates take you to all corners of this alternative dystopian Vancouver, through seedy bars and lamplit streets, right to the underbelly of this beaten-down town. Aside from the beauty of the scenery, the writing really shines, as Howard attempts to talk his way through the social structures of this world and the inequality that it soaks within.

At AdventureX we played just a short demo that gave an atmospheric insight into the gameplay. Mixing stealth elements with impactful dialogue choices and minor puzzles, Backbone has plenty to keep the player entertained, going beyond the usual noir-genre limit of just gathering together clues. Its world feels familiar yet at the same time refreshing, with plenty of intriguing characters to encounter.

Backbone’s prologue is available to download for free now on Steam. It might just be the most beautiful pixel game you’ll play this year.