I’ve often lamented about how the quality of campaigns hosted on Kickstarter varies considerably. Some end up producing titles which make me proud to be a backer, like those for Dreamfall Chapters and The Long Dark; and others make me feel like hanging my head in shame or hitting it against a wall. Sometimes you get unlucky and end up giving your money to a project which turns out to be an unplayable game (The Gallery: Six Elements) or one which simply fails to materialise (Last Life – more about that later this month).
But that’s the joy and risk of crowdfunding: you have to take the rough with the smooth and look forward to those moments where more than one worthwhile campaign appears on your radar. This is just what happened to me when I was browsing through the platform one evening recently. Backbone by EggNut and 1980X by Hi-Bit Studios are both very different in terms of their stories and gameplay, but look so amazing I couldn’t resist making a pledge towards each.
The former is a dystopian noir adventure set in Vancouver, where players step into the shoes of private investigator Howard Lotor. The Kickstarter page tells of a ‘challenging, thought-provoking storyline featuring themes of power, corruption, social decay and systemic discrimination’ and ‘how our environment shapes us, and how we influence it in return’. Howard’s life is interrupted with the appearance of a powerful technology that can blur the lines of conventional order and change society forever.
Besides the fact that the protagonist is an anthropomorphic raccoon and the game makes use of lovely pixel art, the thing that appealed to me the most about this one was the description of the gameplay. In your role of detective it’s necessary to collect evidence, interrogate witnesses, connect the dots and follow leads; you’re able to move forward by your own rules as each case has numerous trails and it’s up to you to decide which to follow.
Smell is the most powerful sense in the animal world and Howard will be putting it to good use in Backbone. He must hide in multi-level environments and mask his scent using garbage bins, allowing him to stealthily follow suspects through hostile locations or quickly evade his pursuers. He’ll also be making use of ‘The Artifact’ if he can learn how to use it: a mysterious object which, looking at the promotional video, appears to give our protagonist special abilities such as the use of a mutated bear claw.
It’s pretty obvious how much I love pixelated graphics and the developers have put a lot of effort into the visual style for their game. They call it a ‘modern take on the classical retro adventure look’ and it has such a lovely, moody quality about it – check out the image below. The lighting, lens flares, dust particles and neon signs all add to Backbone’s cinematic feeling, and I can’t wait to get the opportunity to explore the dark and overgrown alleys of Vancouver.
And I’m not the only one, as Luke from Hundstrasse recently revealed he’d also become a backer for the project. It was more than successful in meeting its fundraising target of $63,000: the campaign hit over 150% of this goal by the deadline at the end of May. We’ve now just got to wait until July 2019 to get our hands on the game; and if this post has piqued your interested in Harold’s world, you could consider pre-ordering the title.
There’ll be a post next week about the 1980X Kickstarter campaign, so stay tuned if an ‘over-the-top arcade action meets coming-of-age drama’ release which ‘blurs the lines between game and reality’ sounds like your kind of thing. In the meantime, head over to the Backbone official website to find out more about EggNut’s project.