Tails: The Backbone Preludes Review – Wag Another Tail

    Title: Tails: The Backbone Preludes
    Developer: Eggnut
    Release Date: February 2, 2023
    Reviewed On: PC
    Publisher: Raw Fury
    Genre: Adventure

A prequel to the 2021 release, Backbone, Tails: the Backbone Preludes explores the backstory of the protagonist, Howard Lotor, along with three other characters named Clarissa, Renee, and Eli. Through the choices you make across various acts, the four playable characters will change as you go through their lives in a dystopian-styled Vancouver. For better or worse, they will either come out as the good people they started as or became corrupted by the influence of those around them.

Like with Backbone, Tails: the Backbone Preludes has you make various choices through dialogue and spend time talking with your closest friends and allies; in the case of Howard, it would be with his best friend and roommate Larry, and the friendly, if slightly clingy Wisconsin.

Your choices matter, which alters the opinions of those around you. For example, one important choice early on is defining a personality trait. This trait will drive the character from that point on and influence their journey. This could prove beneficial to them in the long run or warp them into someone cold or sinister.

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Each act has you swap around the four characters across small vignettes of various parts of their lives, with the story’s themes changing from light-hearted friendship to a dark and cynical view of a criminal empire. Howard’s story begins with him as a college freshman, and together with Larry, he tries to find his purpose in life. Still, when something happens at the College, Howard is thrown into his first case, slowly becoming the person he is in Backbone.

Renee’s story, which is probably the most complex, involves finding a case that bothers her surrounding a house fire that might have been caused by the police force as well as political apes. It ultimately drives her to find out the truth.

Unfortunately, this causes the relationship with her husband Lukas to become strained, and the central part of Renee’s story is trying to have Lukas see the truth in Renee’s claims which involves memorizing each case file and information Renee has and making decisions that will either leave him convinced of his wife’s theories or cause him to be more distant from her as a result. However, Renee might be able to find the truth behind the fire, but at the cost of her marriage.

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Clarissa’s story see’s her growing up in a mob-styled life, and unlike Howard and Renee, it takes place throughout various points of her life. When a close relative of Clarissa dies, it leaves her deciding that she needs to grow up fast and join the mob life with the help of her uncle.

Still, she’s conflicted with her father, Carlo, as she becomes involved in more and more of his shady business. During the dialogue, she can defy her father or become just as cold as him. However, moments in her story where she chooses to become independent or stand up to a higher power may have harmful or fatal consequences.

Finally, Eli’s story is a sci-fi tale involving him and his partner Jorge coming across the Artifact from the original game and doing research for it. As they slowly begin to realize the extent of the Artifact, it also becomes clear that their superiors might have ulterior motives for what they have found.

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Tails: the Backbone Preludes has a root chart system that appears at the end of every character’s level, showing the critical decision you made in that character’s story. At the same time, it’s an excellent system to remember what choices you made during their narrative.

However, it unfortunately only appears at the end of every level. There’s no other way to bring it up, even when you’re in the middle of a level. On the other hand, with how short each of the character’s stories is, it won’t be long until you can see the chart again. You can also view the other options you made for the other characters you’re not currently playing as.

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Backbone’s beautiful pixelated art style returns as you revisit locations from the previous game and view the incredible landscape a pixelated Vancouver offers. There are even moments where your character can simply sit down for a few minutes and relax or do the jobs they’re associated with while admiring the scenery.

Tails: the Backbone Preludes also has a few light puzzles throughout each story, where you must complete a simple chore such as washing dishes, sorting out shelves, or changing records. Upon doing these, the game will do a split screen showing a more pixelated detail of the area you’re sorting out.

You will also be given small side quests, which could prove beneficial to the character who asks for your help; one such example is helping Wisconsin with a school-related activity in Howard’s story or seeing how professional you are with doing your job in the case of Eli’s story.

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But despite Tails: the Backbone Preludes’ beautiful art style and the intriguing journey that each of the four characters takes, there are still a few bugs that I encountered. One such bug can even soft lock your game if you save at a specific part, which gives you a black screen after starting a new level. Another noticeable glitch was a strange static noise that could be heard during gameplay.

At the same time, the background music tends to drown it out; going into a quiet area or pausing the game will cause the static sound to get louder and make it much less hard to ignore. Unfortunately, the only way to get rid of it is if you mute the game itself, which could hinder the experience for some players due to the jazzy and ear-catching soundtrack.

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Tails: the Backbone Preludes tells an intriguing prequel that easily hooks the player with its story and characters, despite its glitchy flaws and potential soft locks. For those wanting to get into the Backbone universe, then this is an excellent place to start and the perfect way to introduce yourself to Howard Lotor’s life along with a genuinely charming supporting cast.

A review copy of the title was provided by the publisher for review purposes

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