Review: Black – The Fall (PS4)


Black – The Fall makes me realize that we really need to come up with a catchy new term to describe these games that follow in the footsteps of classic side-scrolling action-adventure-platformers like Out of This World (aka Another World) or Oddworld. Although if I had to compare it to any other single similar game, it would be last year’s Inside. It’s hard to avoid this comparison when they both have such a similar structure and feel to them, both taking place in some kind of bleak, fascist alternate future with a striking visual design, where you need to do some tricky side-scrolling platforming and puzzling to escape and survive.

Don’t get me wrong though, this is no mere clone. Black – The Fall definitely has its own distinct style and personality that set it apart from Inside and other such games.

PEDAL FOR THE MOTHERLAND!

Black – The Fall starts out much like Lucius was describing Hob‘s beginning, with absolutely no information given to you regarding the controls or the story. You’re a person that gets off an elevator in a dark building and finds yourself in a locked room with a strange bicycle and a big machine with a counter reading 9999 on it. The closed door on the other side of the room is guarded by a laser tripwire that sets off an alarm, which wakes up a nice little machine gun turret on the ceiling that immediately blasts you to shreds. There’s nowhere else to go and nothing to do but try to figure out how to hop on that bike and see what happens, so you fumble around with the controls until you figure out which button is for interacting, then start pedaling away, which causes the counter to decrement and the machine to clank and wobble as it fills a mine cart up with some unknown material and sends it on its way. I sat through this another time or two before I realized that this process was causing the door to open for a time, so I made a run for it and escaped that filthy bike room. A few seconds later, as I continued to rush down a hallway, I ran right across the path of a new turret friend and was blasted to shreds once again. This is Black – The Fall in a nutshell.

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In Soviet Russia, propaganda distributes YOU!

You’ll quickly learn that you need to approach each new room with caution and be more aware of your surroundings as you start making your way through a subtle wordless tutorial of the basic mechanics of the game. The game sure doesn’t hold your hand. If you’re lucky you might get a small, vague hint in the form of a cryptic little sign in the background that depicts some kind of action you’re supposed to take. This may sound harsh, but once you get your initial bearings you start picking up the ins and outs of the game pretty quickly.

Things continue along these lines for the entire game, as you gain some interesting new tools like the “control laser” and “robo-buddy” (I have no idea what their actual names are since it never tells you), and the puzzles start getting progressively weirder and trickier. It never felt unfair though. It all felt impressively intuitive, despite the game never wanting to directly tell you anything, and there was never a puzzle I couldn’t solve as long as I remained patient and experimental.

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Well, they did say it would be Black.

The puzzles were all of a very creative nature too, and with very little re-using of the same situations. Every room brought something different to the table and you never know quite what to expect each time you enter a new one. For instance, you might suddenly find yourself having to walk down a completely pitch black tunnel with deadly steam pipes blasting away that you can only avoid by listening for the audio cues. You’ll only ever run into this situation once though, which is good, because this could get pretty frustrating in larger doses.

As usual with this type of game, you’ll be able to finish it off in a mere three hours or so, but it is an incredibly well-produced and enjoyable three hours. As far as these kinds of games go, Black – The Fall definitely has what it takes to stand proudly alongside other shining examples of [whatever the hell this particular sub-genre should be called] like Oddworld and Inside. 

Black – The Fall is available now on PS4, Xbox One, Windows, and Linux.

Disclosure statement: Review code for Black – The Fall was provided by Sand Sailor Studios. A Most Agreeable Pastime operates as an independent site, and all opinions expressed are those of the author.

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