Black The Fall
Attack the Bloc
BlackTheFall is an angry game. It’s got a lot to say, and it uses you—the player—as its mouthpiece. You’re a faceless drone, one of many, that needs to manipulate other faceless drones to prolong your tortured existence just a bit longer. That’s the idea, anyway, but you quickly learn that these ‘drones’ are real people just like you, and you’re all gears in a machine much bigger than you.
You need to work through sadistic puzzles just to grab one more glance at a sky that’s supposed to elicit a feeling of freedom, but somehow just seems to suppress you more.
The game clearly takes a lot of inspiration from both of Playdead’s acclaimed platformers, Limbo and
Inside. Thing is, where both of those games really picked apart what mute platformers can do with their puzzles, BlackTheFall fails to do so. It’s an unsubtle game, but where its message is strong and clear (‘absolute power is bad!’), its platforming isn’t exactly inventive.
There’s still some interesting puzzling to be done, but Sand Sailor Studios is less polished than its Danish counterparts. BlackTheFall gives you extra mechanics to round out the game’s puzzle set-up: Laser pointers, command options, cranks, and levers abound, and they help give the game a more robust rhythm, but it lacks something major its dystopian genre rivals have managed to perfect.
It’s a game that came from a Romanian developer, a game that was built under the shadow of Communist oppression, and that starts off by apparently trying to destroy your soul: The initial puzzles are trial-and-error heavy and seem to deeply reflect the narrative the game sets you into— everything is a tool for the ‘machine’, whatever that machine does.
As the game progresses, things ease up a little—getting out of the grinding industrial setting of the game’s first third allows you room to breathe a little, and even gives you a new companion that offsets the game’s bleak tone. This also opens the game up to new puzzle types and in the new outdoor area the game gives you to play in, you get to enjoy a bit more of San Sailor’s take on a decaying industrial world, too. It’s like BladeRunner met Abe’sOddysee at Playdead’s house—if you’re not playing this game for the puzzles, you’ll be playing it for its world.
As the game reaches its final third, you’ll have seen pretty much every type of platformer puzzle from the cinematic platformer rulebook. While the puzzles are tricky, none of them are completed with the finesse of Playdead’s… it feels mean to keep making that comparison, but when Sand Sailor seems to have taken such significant inspiration from the studio, it’s hard not to draw constant comparisons out of the game’s dark, industrious core.
The end of the game ties up the story nicely, but it still feels kind of detached. You feel cold by the end—the oppression the game seeks to communicate is told well via its puzzles, and despite a slightly misfired ending, we came away satisfied and only slightly harrowed. If
Inside and Limbo are special games to you, you could do worse than playing Sand Sailor’s Playdead tribute.
“Its message is strong but its platforming isn’t exactly inventive”
right The game is dark and unapologetically bleak, with spots of red highlighting danger.