Black The Fall

At­tack the Bloc

XBox: The Official Magazine (US) - - REVIEW - Dom Pep­pi­att

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.

...and breathe

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.

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