Blackhole was one of our favorite indie games at Gamescom this year, and we’re finally getting the opportunity to review it – here’s the story on why we like it.
On the very first day of Gamescom this year, we swung by the Indie Arena booth. A large booth, divided up into tiny booths for indie developers to showcase their latest, greatest and upcoming videogames. One of those games was Blackhole, by Czech developer Fiolasoft – and our first impressions were excellent. We’ve since then taken a look at the full game, which we’re reviewing today.
Blackhole is a 2D puzzle platformer with a sci-fi theme and story. In the game, you and your spaceship, the Endora, get trapped inside a multi-dimensional anomaly – and it’s up to you so save the day. The rest of the crew has to be saved, and the ship needs repairing as well. Not a small feat if you consider that you used to just be the guy who made coffee for the rest of the team. Aiding you in your quest is Auriel, the ship’s artificial intelligence. Later on, previously saved crew members will also start helping out – not just progressing you towards the end but also developing the story.
For a platformer, there is a ton of story development – including voiceovers and plenty of conversations in between levels. Though well done, this can become a little much when you’re focusing on the actual gameplay. The team has recently announced a “less dialogue” mode that trims down the amount of conversation while retaining the gist of the story.
Binding everything together is the central platforming mechanic, which involves you entering and exiting levels from a single portal and having to pick up various “selfburns” (that look like gems) along the way. You require one to complete the level, but can pick up three in total. Though the game is labeled as a ‘hardcore’ platformer, you can usually grab at least one of the selfburns fairly easily, allowing you to progress through the game. This is a great gameplay mechanic that allows players to ramp up the difficulty level to suit their skill level, although you’ll eventually be sent back if you didn’t collect enough selfburns to progress to the next level hub.
Because you have to collect all of your selfburns in any given level in a single run, this can become frustrating – but this is another area where the team has listened to fan feedback. They’ll soon introduce an easier mode, where your progress is saved and selfburns no longer have to be collected in a single run.
Collecting these selfburns sounds easy enough in theory, but requires you to touch gravity switches that rotate the world around you – allowing you to walk on walls and ceilings and reach areas that previously were not available to you. The rotation might also present you with new dangers – and new problems to solve. Water may become electrified, and obstacles may fall into spaces that previously seemed okay to go through.
Presented in a simple, cartoon-like style, Blackhole is instantly accessible and fun – both thanks to the excellent level design and the quality of the story development. Aside from the improvements that the team has announced, they’ve also released an entire extra campaign free of charge that’s several hours long – Fiolasoft provides excellent fan service. It was one of our favorite games at Gamescom’s Indie Arena, and now it’s one of our favorite puzzle platformers of 2015.