Tails: The Backbone Preludes review – Noir your place

Tails: The Backbone Preludes is a gritty story where you decide the fate of the characters.
Tails The Backbone Preludes Title Card
Image: Eggnut

Combining two art styles that many don’t think about putting together is a feat worthy of respect, especially when the artist is able to completely nail it. When paired with themes that scream bleakness and the futility of some actions, then you get something that gives off exactly the vibe that it wishes to. It leaves you with a feeling of despair when the game is over, and that’s impactful.

Tails: The Backbone Preludes serve as a prequel to Backbone, so developer Eggnut had some experience crafting the world before this game. The game seems improved in a lot of ways, especially visually, over its predecessor. While Backbone was a visually impressive game, it seems that players were torn on it overall. Tails is the developers’ chance to tell more stories in this world, hopefully resonating with more players.

Four separate victims of the system

Clarissa Tails Dialogue Grandpa
Image: Eggnut

For those who are unaware, the Tails and Backbone games take place in a post-apocalyptic dystopian world where humans are gone or never existed in the first place. Humanoid animals live in a society where the different Kinds, the placeholder for race, are treated differently based on their species. Because of this, the Apes run the civilization while other animals do the labor and other hard work.

It’s an allegory for our actual world, where a select few decide much of the future of everyone else who’s just trying to get by. You don’t see many Apes in Tails, instead, they’re relegated to the background and spoken about in whispers. Instead, this game focuses on four different characters over the course of some of the most important periods of their lives, with players deciding how they go.

Each story starts in a pretty nice place, with players’ choices determining what happens in the next Act of the story. You’ll cycle through each character per Act, meaning that you’ll need to complete them in order before moving on to the next character. This is a benefit to the story, as it forces you to sit with the decisions you made while having to make even more.

Tails Larry College
Image: Eggnut

The alternating characters also help the overall feeling of the game build more tension as you’re not quite sure what could happen next. There was a sense of anxiety and despair building toward the end of the game that I couldn’t identify or shake, and it managed to pay off in the end. However, the game very much leaves you wanting more, with no real conclusion to these four stories outside of some text.

The game feels like it needs one final chapter, one last wrap-up from one of the characters in the game or someone else. While players can go from this game directly to Backbone, it still feels like Tails could have gone just a little bit further with its story, cementing the fates of the different characters. It’s less impactful when you’re reading what’s happening to them on a final screen as opposed to actually seeing it.

In a game as beautiful as this one, it’s really a shame to see it take the easy way out with a simple text-on-screen ending. When you invest so much time in a character, it’s less impactful when you just have to read about it like a second-hand account in a newspaper.

If you talk, you can sort it out

Clarissa Tails City
Image: Eggnut

Much of Tails will see the player navigating different dialogue menus, usually in the hopes of getting something or making a point. Something that was really interesting was how many of the dialogue choices would notify you as having an impact. You really never know when a throwaway comment will come back to bite you later in the scene.

Near the beginning of each character’s story, you’ll choose a personality trait for them that will dictate their dialogue choices throughout the game. These will provide different benefits, like allowing you to find out clues that would otherwise not be there. This is pretty cool, if a little one-note in its execution, with the dialogue being the only real impact of these personality choices.

Tails Sorting
Image: Eggnut

It’s really cool when a situation manages to work out in your favor due to you selecting the right dialogue options. One short scene has you eagerly looking around for a missing piece of a clock hand. It was satisfying to talk a con woman and her child into letting me take a photo of them for an art project. While it had no impact on the actual story, this little moment was really funny to me.

There were also really cool moments in the game where players can take part in sorting mini-games that have exactly zero impact on anything. Usually, there are shelves or something that needs tidying up. It provides a nice break when you’re able to sort some knickknacks on a shelf or feed your pet to get away from the constant dialogue.

Larry Tails College Dorm
Image: Eggnut

Overall, the game is about seven hours to beat the first time, with it likely taking less with each subsequent playthrough since you’ll know what to expect. Admittedly, there’s not much interest in playing through a second time, especially right after finishing it. Players will likely feel the need to sit with the conclusion of their stories before diving back in.

The Final Word

Tails: The Backbone Preludes is a really beautiful noir story that might go over the heads of some of the average player base. The dark themes and conversation mechanics are reminiscent of Disco Elysium but on a much smaller scale. It’s nice to live in this world for a playthrough, taking in the darkness of this dystopian city, but it might not be one players feel like returning to after the credits roll the first time.

7

Try Hard Guides was provided with a PC review copy of this game. Find more detailed looks at popular and upcoming titles in the Game Reviews section of our website! Tails: The Backbone Preludes can be purchased via Steam or the Epic Games Store.

Christian Harrison

Christian Harrison

Christian Harrison is a writer and gamer, the latter he's been doing for the last two decades. When not working, he enjoys streaming the latest show or spending time with his family and friends. Contact: Christian@tryhardguides.com

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