Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Review: Black the Fall [Nintendo Switch eShop]

Going back to the classic Out of This World I’ve been a fan of the “cinematic action-platformer”. Thrown into a situation that you don’t fully understand, hostile enemies all about who will grab or kill you if detected, left to survive with only your wits and some quick reactions. Black the Fall replaces an alien landscape with one that represents a version of our own world, though dramatized a bit with an Orwellian flair. Set against a backdrop of an oppressive, but crumbling, regime it delivers a handful of hours worth of challenges for your brain and sometimes your patience.

Since there’s no dialogue or narration it’s hard to say what the specific circumstances are that you find yourself in, but it seems that you’re a person who is set on escape. To that end you’ll need to run, jump, climb, sneak, and interact with a wide variety of objects (as well as a helpful and obedient robot at times) in order to make progress towards freedom without dying in any number of ways. In general the guards and automated systems you’ll run into will be on high alert so a mix of redirection, evasion, and some creativity will be necessary to divert them so you can get by. Of course you’ll make many mistakes, and those almost always end in death, but thankfully the game has an extremely granular automatic checkpoint system that more often than not keeps you from having to repeat difficult sections or even subsections of your greater tasks.

What’s nice is that over the course of the game you’ll venture through new locales and that greatly changes up the situations you’ll find yourself in. Dark corridors make their way to industrial areas and then progress into more of an urban setting and these changes help you sense your progress. Through the game’s conclusion I was consistently engaged in things and on the hook to see and to understand more. To that end one thing I appreciated was the inclusion of several “off the beaten path” areas that weren’t there to help you progress but to see people and the general state of things. Reminding me a bit of the hidden spots you could encounter in Portal (though not as rewarding) these were a great touch and helped me immerse myself more in the plight of the people in this world.

The name of the game is most definitely trial and error and while some solutions are intuitive there are some that you’ll either need to get a little lucky with through experimentation or perhaps get a little nudge from a walkthrough. Of course after the fact all solutions seem to make a fair amount of sense but there were definitely some cases where the “leap of faith” seemed a bit insane, but then again results will likely vary per person. Some of this is tied to the nature of the solution and other times, even when you know what you need to do, the controls can feel a bit cumbersome, though that can all be conquered with some work. All of this being about puzzle solving there’s also no escaping the fact that this is a one-time trip and once you know how to get through certain sections you won’t likely feel a want or need to return again.

Overall, Black the Fall is a pretty good ride with a bit of a story to tell, though without words and dialogue the interpretation of that story falls on you. Throughout the few hours I played it I was consistently challenged and periodically take aback by some of the clever solutions that could be reached through a bit of experimentation. Cognizant of how difficult the game is and how often you’ll die the fact that you rarely get backtracked much is a relief and much appreciated. If you’re looking for something a bit different, and maybe a little aggravating, it will provide several hours of head-scratching entertainment.

Score: 7

  • Some inventive puzzles that will make you think
  • A generous checkpoint system minimizes the pain of your repeated deaths
  • Some hidden areas along the way that try to help you get more in tune with the situation

  • Some solutions to puzzles are a bit of a guessing game
  • At times when you need to be precise the controls can get in the way a bit
  • This isn’t a journey you’ll likely repeat once you’ve beaten the game