We find out how the 2nd Gen Backbone One takes things up a notch, plus check out Logitech’s MX Brio, Tales of Kenzera: ZAU and more.

When Backbone One first hit the mobile gaming scene back in 2020, the company delivered a remarkably strong mobile controller that was a breakout success from the get-go, easily outclassing well-established competitors. Now we’ve got the Backbone One 2nd Generation, and while it’s not a huge leap forward, the changes are small but mighty.

If you’ve used or seen the original Backbone, you’ll instantly notice that this 2nd Generation model looks mighty similar. That’s because it is. The foundational design of the revision has remained intact because there arguably isn’t a good reason to radically change it.

As a result, the Backbone One 2nd Generation remains sturdy and comfortable in the hands, even when it’s stretched out to fit larger smartphones like my Pixel 8 Pro. The analogue sticks offer good give and the buttons feel sufficiently responsive with a nice click to each one. The biggest improvement of this newer iteration though is with its device compatibility, which now allows you to easily connect your phone, even if it has a case attached.

It’s all possible thanks to new magnetic mounts (two sets which are provided in the box) which can be quickly swapped out to accommodate for various phone sizes. That sounds like a simple change but it’s honestly a big improvement for Backbone and one that will surely improve the day-to-day usability for many gamers.

In the past, for example, having to remove my case each and every time I wanted to boot up a game was an extra step that I often simply wasn’t bothered to take. That’s not the case here and saw me wanting to hook up my Backbone daily. It also means if you’re a PlayStation user the competition between this and the PlayStation Portal becomes much stiffer, as you weigh up the Portal’s beautiful screen and authentic control experience for sheer portability.

My time with this 2nd Generation Backbone was with the PlayStation variant, but if you’re not predominantly a PlayStation user you can still buy the updated design for the regular Backbone variant, which ditches the PS5’s white aesthetic for a simpler black finish, as well as A, B, X and Y in place of the sacred symbols. The USB-C version of the Backbone also supports new iPhones as well which is nice for those juggling multiple phones, but the lightning model will continue to be available.

Love Gaming?

Get the latest Gaming news, features, updates and giveaways straight to your inbox Learn more

The one gripe: Backbone’s connected mobile app, though smooth to use and well-designed, does require a subscription to unlock full functionality. But that’s one misstep in an otherwise solid improvement. Upgrading may be a hard sell for those already using the original model, but for anybody else the Backbone One 2nd Generation is a device close to the top of its game.

You can buy the 2nd Gen Backbone One for $179 from the Backbone store.

Also out now…

Tales of Kenzera: ZAU (Switch, PS5, Xbox Series X/S, PC)

A tale that places grief and loss at its core, Tales of Kenzera is a beautiful showcase for how video games can act as a creative outlet for its makers. The brain child of Assassin’s Creed Origins Star Abubakar Salim, Zau centres around its titular character dealing with the loss of his father.

As he fights to bring him back to the land of the living, the journey takes place in a more traditional metroidvania style, albeit with a little less exploration than I would have liked. That said, the environments you do explore are still rather pretty and show off a great amount of colour, and engaging with the interplay between Zau and the God of death is always interesting.

Yes, combat can feel a little repetitive at times (despite some neat attempts at sun and moon-powered abilities) and Switch performance could be improved, but this is an impressive debut effort all the same.

It might not excel at all aspects of being a metroidvania (especially in the same year as Prince of Persia and the Lost Crown), but that doesn’t mean it’s worth missing out on. It’s also worth pointing out that PlayStation Plus Extra members gain access to the title as part of their subscription. Check it out.

Another Crab’s Treasure (Switch, PS5, Xbox Series X/S, PS4, XBO, PC)

When you think of Soulslikes you wouldn’t typically think of an underwater adventure with a vibe that’s not too dissimilar from SpongeBob SquarePants but that’s what Another Crab’s Treasure offers. Yet while the inherent challenge of a soulslike is ever present, it’s all wrapped in a humorous package that feels completely unique.

The game’s premise, for example, sees you controlling Krill, an aggrieved crustacean who has his shell repoed by a sneaky loan shark. As a result, you spend much of your time chasing your former home while you use all sorts of sunken trash and treasure as temporary shells – each one granting unique stats and abilities.

Much of Another Crab’s Treasure’s enjoyment stems from the experimentation these various shells offer, as well as building out Krill’s repertoire to deal with the array of nasty bosses. Speaking of combat though, it’s certainly not as tight or polished as some other Soulslikes, but it’s perfectly manageable (slightly less so on Switch which disappointingly runs a little rough) and the difficulty thankfully can be adjusted if you are having trouble.

Either way though, if you’re looking for a cheeky challenge, Another Crab’s Treasure may just bring you out of your shell.

Logitech MX Brio Webcam

When it comes to streaming setups, a good webcam is arguably one of the most important investments. So if you’re looking to jump into the realm of Twitch or YouTube, Logitech’s MX Brio is a real winner.

From the moment you pull the MX Brio out of its box, you’ll likely be surprised at home compact this unit manages to be. It measures in at 44 x 98 x 36 mm, but thanks to its more horizontal design, the camera is able to spread its weight across your monitor (unlike those that become slightly more top heavy), and the included mount clip was sturdy enough that I was never worried it would accidentally tumble to its doom.

What’s more impressive though is the Brio’s image quality. Capable of pumping out 4K 30fps or 1080p 60fps video, I’ve been consistently impressed with the level of clarity the lens is able to offer. When you have multiple people comment on how clear your image quality in meetings and Discord calls, you know you have a winner, and that was my experience with the Brio. I was even more surprised by its performance in low light, and found it never missed a beat even on the gloomiest of days.

When it’s not in use, Logitech have smartly included a self-controlled privacy shield that can be easily activated by rotating an outer dial on the front of the camera itself. It might not be as flashy as some other competitor’s like the HyperX Vision S magnetic lens cover, but honestly I appreciated the ease of use the Brio offers and it also prevented me from losing some extra components.

Plug-and-play functionality rounds out what is a pretty appealing offering from Logitech. There’s a supreme ease of use at play for any user, but if you’re looking to use it for Twitch streaming or content creation, it’s without question a worthwhile investment.

The MX Brio is available for $329.95 from the Logitech store.

Planet of Lana (Switch, PS5, Xbox Series X/S, PS4, XBO, PC)

If you like your platformers imaginative and artistically beautiful, please direct your gaze to Planet of Lana. When your home world falls into disarray due to a robot invasion, it’s up to you to front a rescue mission and face all sorts of otherworldly dangers. It’s a simple plot that never feels too overbearing, but it paves the way for plenty of platforming puzzles and tense stealth encounters as you and your trusty companion avoid.

That means combat is not an option here, which is a refreshing change of pace as you often silently stalk your way around environments to avoid detection. The odd insta-fail is an annoying wrinkle, but Planet of Lana’s inherent charm and gorgeous painterly art style will likely win you over all the same.

If you haven’t dipped your toe into this adventure just yet, it’s a real gem on Switch and well worth checking out.

For more on this topic, follow the Gaming Observer.

Get unlimited access to the coverage that shapes our culture.
to Rolling Stone magazine
to Rolling Stone magazine