Post-noir Backbone sleuth game turns Vancouver into dystopia

The game allows the player to explore the city and engage in elaborate dialogues inspired by old-school CRPGs

A beautiful and disturbing game set in an anthropomorphic dystopian version of Vancouver pits the player against a grim storyline involving classism, racism, and murder.

Spine, a post-noir sleuth adventure role-playing game developed by games studio EggNut, puts you in the shoes of Howard Lotor, a rough and tough trench coat and a private investigator wearing a tie. After years of small business, lonely evenings, and barely scratching it, Lotor is drawn into a job unlike any before him. A modern take on the classic point-and-click adventure, the gameplay lets you explore the world and engage in elaborate dialogue inspired by old-school CRPGs.

The prologue to the game, now playable on Steam, shows the city through high resolution pixel images and 3D effects such as dynamic lighting, heavy rain, fog and neon lights. The stunning graphics are complemented by an impeccable soundscape, including what the game developers describe as “dystopian doom jazz.”

Playing the part of Lotor, you start by talking to a pregnant otter named Odette about her husband who just hasn’t been himself lately. Besides acting weird, Odette says her husband comes home late often smelling someone else’s perfume and something … herbal (it’s Vancouver after all). Your task is to gather information and evidence about what Odette believes to be her husband’s infidelity.

The case seems simple, Lotor even calls it “easy peasy” on his to-do list. So you start by walking down Granville Street which Lotor says smells of wet concrete and overpriced fast food – some things don’t change, even in alternate realities.

The investigation doesn’t go well at first, the other characters are leery of talking to you, almost immediately seeming to be suspicious of you. Part of that is due to the line of work you find yourself in, but a bouncer from jazz club The Bite highlights a darker theme, not allowing you in due to your kind – a raccoon. It seems that only members of the upper classes than yours are allowed in, especially the wealthier and more desirable cats and dogs.

Lotor however continues with the help of an old acquaintance named Larry who has had a hard time and hangs out in a grunge-filled alley. Through puzzle solving, code cracking, and suspenseful stealth sequences, Lotor discovers something much darker, pitting him against the systemic and oppressive hierarchies of power of the city itself.

The full game is slated for release on PC on June 8.

About Johanna Gooding

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