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PAX West 2019: EggNut’s Backbone Breathes Pixelated Life Into Vancouver

Posted on September 8, 2019 by Nick Moreno

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Typically when visitng the show floor at any convention, the entire hall is filled with noise from attendees as well as the games they play alongside other booths that produce more than an earful of boombastic filler during the event. While my time at PAX West was enjoyful, it was appreciated to take a break from the incessant tumult when visiting EggNut to demo their current project, Backbone.

Leaving the noisy show floor to British Columbia’s Vancouver, EggNut’s dystopian iteration of the Canadian city ranging from the hiss of rain in the background to the subtle ambient track lingering under the game’s surface, the collection of auditory clutter swiftly drained out once I put my headset on.

Following the story of raccoon private investigator Howard Lotor, you are met with a selection of varying cases that the player must solve through thorough detective work and keen social interactivity towards reaching the resolution of each inquiry. Regarding the demo I played during my time in Seattle, I pursued a case set early in the game which instructed me to investigate the whereabouts of a missing character.

Alike the stripped mammal protagonist I played, the entire cast you will interacted with were also posed as animals who held roles as street peddlers, business owners, and patrons of local businesses. Which sparked me to question why exactly: asking EggNut Co-Founder and Narrative Designer Alex Korabelnikova, she explains that the influence to dress the characters with furry personas is due to an incident during a discussion for a separate title entirely.

“We [the development team] were in a call for a different game at the time when one of the developer’s had raccoons stuck in their backyard,” Korabelnikova explains to me. “We actually used trumpets which helped scare off the raccoons – that later helped influenced the soundtrack for the game.”

Developer EggNut since founded in 2017 has been based in Vancouver, so the studio easily decided to have the project set in the its home city. Complementing with the jazz OST that the game soon earned from the team’s incident, this then lead to a noir-esque filter for the game which brings us to the Backbone we are discussing about.

With the big empasis on learning from your surroundings and investigating the scenes ahead of you, I wanted to grab some backstory on P.I. Lotor, again asking Korabelnikova where she explains that exposition is not a given as she reinforces that all information will be issued through progression of the story regarding detail prior or succeeding the start of the game. Atop of branching out information on the game’s world, relationships is also said to be balanced by your choices made while following the title’s 6 – 8 hour campaign.

Which did present itself during my time of the demo as I failed to form a bond with Clarissa, the owner of The Bite, a dogs & cats only club in Vancouver. This then transitioned to me having to find an alternative way into the building’s VIP area from another character outside of the building.

Sweet talking people is not the only thing that Backbone offers since certain segments of the game will require you to use stealth when entering guarded rooms, platforming on rooftops, and puzzle solving through scattered papers to discover a hidden message: for my hands-on experience, this means deciphering a combination to free myself from a hidden room. Korabelnikova also shared that a ‘smell-o-vision’ feature is currently in development, but was not ready to be presented for the public due to the complexity of the mechanic.

If Backbone’s noir styled storytelling fancies your interest, you can add the game to your Steam wishlist by going here.

Backbone is scheduled to release sometime in 2020 for PC, Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and Nintendo Switch.

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