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Backbone is a controversial game for many (As evident by our review). Players were drawn into a beautiful yet dangerous post-noir world filled with relatable characters and tragic stories. Few games could make you emotionally attached with the characters in such a short time like Backbone. Yet, it all came crashing down after the second act. Underused gameplay mechanics, a railroading narrative devoid of player agency and a rushed final act that came out of nowhere sealed Backbone’s fate with the fans. Howard Lotor deserves a better, fleshed out ending to his story. If it’s not already apparent from the title, Tails: The Backbone Preludes is not the sequel the fans have been yearning for. Instead, it’s sort of an apology from the developers, taking whatever that worked best in Backbone and doubling down on them, while letting go of what didn’t.

Developed by Eggnut and published by Raw Fury, Tails: The Backbone Preludes is a 2D post-noir narrative adventure game released for PC via on February 2, 2023.

Tails: The Backbone Preludes

Making You Care

Tails: The Backbone Preludes is a prequel to the events of Backbone. But instead of playing as a single character, the game tells the story of four characters. In addition to Clarissa Bloodworth, Howard Lotor and Renee Williams from the first game, players are also put in the shoes of Eli Abbas, a scientist working for the Man…or I should say, the Ape.

 Clarissa’s story traces her rise to power and is provides a much-needed depth to one of the big baddies of the original. Howard’s story is a heartwarming tale of his university life and provides more context to the relationship between him and Larry. Coming straight from Backbone, I was almost in tears by the end of this segment, since you know the fate of these two. Renee’s story is something most players will be able to relate to, and it showcases one’s struggle with balancing a relationship with obsessive passion. The highlight of Tails has got to be Eli’s segment. Eli is a part of a two-man team who uncovers the Artifact from the first game, and the segment is a whirlwind of emotions.

Taking criticisms to heart, Tail now has a branching narrative with at least 3 different endings for each character. Each choice you make branch and overlap, leading to different outcomes and highly varied dialogue options. The game also has a NG+ that lets you see your past choices and a ‘save anywhere’ option that provides the prequel with something the original desperately lacked – replayability. There’s also a trait system in place for each character that grants trait-specific dialogue options. However, this system seems a bit underutilized, as the only scenario I found it to be of any use was Howard’s segment in Act 3. Due to the trait I chose, the quest line seemed to have a different outcome in this act. In other acts, the trait system is only limited to special dialogue options that doesn’t do much.

Shards of Glass

Tails is divided into four acts, and the first playthrough may take players anywhere from 3 to 4 hours to finish. Rather than each character having their story told in one go, each story is divided into 4 small chunks across four acts. While slick, I’d much rather preferred if each act was focused on a single character for the sake of continuity. Just as you get into the groove of things, one segment cuts into the next, hampering the flow. As for gameplay, they are mostly the same. The game’s progression largely revolves around dialogues, and there are only a few sections where you have to solve light puzzles and do a really boring ‘arrangement’ mini-game (like 4 times). Also, some of the sections (especially Renee’s) are painfully short. On subsequent playthroughs, you can get through those in under five minutes.

Tails: The Backbone Preludes is solely reliant on storytelling, and the game succeeds in telling a compelling and emotional story that’s devoid of any WTF moments like the original. The gameplay leaves much to be desired, but that’s the case with these narrative-driven adventure games these days.

Slick and Stylish

On top of the engaging story, Tails: The Backbone Preludes is aesthetically brilliant. The first game was no slouch in this regard either. The game uses a unique visual style where pixel art characters are superimposed on high-quality 2.5D backgrounds for eye-pleasing results. There are also subtle art style differences between each segment. There are lots of varied backgrounds jam-packed with detail and style. The Backbone series is easily some of the best-looking indie games out there. As for sound design, they are once again brilliant. While lacking voice acting, the characters this time occasionally uses grunts during dialogues. The background score is pretty damn good, with it even featuring several original songs during gameplay. Tails: The Backbone Preludes is hands down an audiovisual treat one shouldn’t miss.

Tails: The Backbone Preludes

The game runs flawlessly on the Steam Deck. However, I couldn’t find any in-built controller profile for the game and Steam’s inbuilt controller profile’s mouse emulation wouldn’t work on some of the puzzles properly. I had to switch back and forth between several controller profiles to get through these efficiently. Something to keep in mind if you’re getting the game for the Deck.

Real Talk

Tails: The Backbone Preludes is the developers’ move of getting rid of the sour taste left behind by Backbone. The move largely pays off thanks to an emotionally moving narrative that emphasizes player-agency, relatable characters and extremely good-looking visuals. The gameplay may be a bit too bare bones, but the story more than makes up for it. Now that the past is fixed, can we have the full-blown sequel with all the unrealized gameplay mechanics the series very much deserves?

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