The promising indie title Black The Fall has been released, and it doesn’t disappoint – it’s no surprise this was picked up by Square.
When we first saw Black The Fall, it was tucked away in a giant booth filled with dozens of indie game producers and studios, all showing off their latest creations. Sand Sailor Studio’s game immediately stood out to us, because it looked so polished and full of atmosphere – a bit like a cross between Inside and Deadlight. We clearly weren’t the only ones who were impressed, because Square Enix got behind the title as well, and released it as part of their indie/Collective label.
Clearly inspired by the darker sides of the communist regime under the Soviet Union, the game has a gloomy atmosphere. It crafts an “alternate reality” around this notion as well, incorporating notions of robotics and advanced video surveillance while remaining familiar. Against this backdrop, it’s your task to escape – and what unfolds next is a hybrid of puzzles, platforming, stealth and cooperation.
This cooperation stems from your relationship with a robot pet that you befriend along the way, as well as a tool that you find which allows you to manipulate other characters in the game. Color and sound are also used effectively to signal that danger is close – for example by using color against an otherwise gray backdrop or delivering audio cues which require you to listen very carefully.
Although the game clearly evokes memories of titles like Inside or Limbo, it manages to innovate on this concept by adding a “buddy” dynamic or sorts. Your friendly robot pet is able to distract the cameras for you, can help you reach difficult places and can even throw switches to help you. Against the bleak backdrop of an oppressive communist regime, it’s a blossoming friendship that serves as a beacon of hope and light.
Aside from the atmosphere, what makes or breaks a game of this type is its puzzle design – which for the most part is very well done but it does feature a few moments where frustration can briefly kick in. This is usually because of controls that feel a tad “unfair” because you know exactly what you need to do but need to be extremely precise about, but it can also be because some puzzles can only be solved through a bit of trial and error. It’s never enough to halt your progress for too long though, and you’ll be able to reach the end of the game in about four hours – which is decent when you look at the length of a game like Limbo.
Black The Fall is a great addition to the puzzle platformer genre, with an interesting take on real-life history embedded within otherwise familiar gameplay. The inclusion of a buddy is nice and adds character to the game, elevating the title to something more than just a copycat and a worthy purchase for anyone who enjoyed the games mentioned in this review.