Enjoyable, but better to be found in the genre
I AM ALWAYS irritated when copycat games somehow manage to avoid being condemned as gross plagiarism by simply passing themselves off as continuations of a genre, such as the frightening amount of Minecraft and Clash of Clans clones. Admittedly, Black: The Fall could fall in to this category as it blatantly draws a heavy amount of ‘inspiration’ from the much-lauded Playdead side-scrollers Inside and Limbo, but I genuinely feel that this debut release from Romanian studio Sand Sailor brings enough new elements to the table to narrowly avoid the chopping block.
While I don’t particularly like making comparisons between games, there can be no denying the uncanny similarities between Inside and Black: The Fall. Everything from the mood, design and art style comes across as emulating the brilliant monochromatic side-scroller that drew praise from critics and fans across the world.
Where Black: The Fall diverges from the Inside formula, it does so surprisingly well. The game is heavily influenced by the events that occured during Romania’s oppressive Communist regime which lasted from the end of the Second World War until 1989.
In Black: The Fall’s exaggerated dystopia, you encounter images – like the giant screens showing the hectoring visage of the supreme leader, with his high collar and swept-back hair, or the mass of workers labouring in unison, heads bowed – that have become overused clichés, but which are allowed to reclaim some of their oppressive power here.
You play the game as a worker, using your guile to escape this hellish land, acquiring other worker’s good will to aid your journey, only to leave them behind without compunction.
Another welcome divergence from the Playdead style is that once you get outside – though it is a barren wasteland – the slightly more uplifting change in the colour pallet goes a long way towards cutting through the oppressive murk that occasionally threatens to smother the game. True to the Playdead style, there are a great deal of puzzles that, while not ever truly challenging, do provide a pleasing sense of reward and progress.
The thing is, Black: The Fall is a good game, but it could have been better had not Playdead already released two of the greatest side-scrollers ever made. While the story told in Black: The Fall is deeply personal and resonant with anyone alive during the Cold War era, the sense of threat and foreboding present in either Inside or Limbo is unparalleled. A shocking, moderately enjoyable title, Black: The Fall is good, but there are far better to be found within
Black: The Fall is influenced by Romania’s Communist period.