Black The Fall is a game born from real world political history. Taking inspiration from Romania’s own Communist history, Sand Sailor Studio’s debut title follows a worker who seeks to escape the machine of Communist rule. The player takes on the role of Black, a machinist who during his shift after working tirelessly for decades plots his escape.
Black The Fall: PC, Xbox One [Reviewed], PS4
Developer: Sand Sailor Studio
Publisher: Square Enix Holdings
Release Date: 11 July 2017
Price: £11.99 [Disclosure: Game Copy Provided by Publisher]
Along the way, Black will utilize stealth and puzzle solving to move through a factory, an abandoned wasteland, and a city under the steel grip of the government. While playing, Black The Fall has a lot of similarities with Playdead’s indie darlings LIMBO and Inside, the gameplay is similar in that the player will activate certain switches or other interactive objects in order to solve environmental puzzles. Solving puzzles may mean bad news for those that want to eliminate Black, but the character never engages in combat himself. However, while LIMBO shocked the player with gruesome deaths, Black The Fall, shocks the player with images that show what a Communist government will do to ensure control.
During the course of the game, players will see citizens and workers abused and fed propaganda while sneaking around. It overstates what Sand Sail Studio calls “a stance against any totalitarian/authoritarian/egalitarian regime” in the creation of Black The Fall. Most remarkable are that the political commentary is brought to life without a single line of dialogue, allowing the images and environment to speak volumes. Those images happen to be profound and successfully convey the abusive and Orwellian nature of Communistic rule.
The graphics of Black The Fall are almost monotone with red used as a highlight for enemies and their view cones. The minimal style allows the player to take in gameplay cues very easily, but also allows the imagery to appear darker in nature and contrast. Enemies and friendly characters are also clearly differentiated between enemies being blockier and friendly characters appearing more natural and curved. However, over the course of play, I did notice a few small hiccups, like gaps in between Black and objects he is interacting with. But one major issue did occur a few times: the game would come to a dead stop at random moments. It isn’t game-breaking, but in an otherwise atmospheric game, it is jarring and takes the player out of the experience.
The audio design in Black The Fall further drives the comparison to Playdead’s efforts as effects and music come together to truly sell the dystopian world. That music only comes through in certain places, allowing the ambient sounds of the environment to take center stage. The sounds of desolate winds blowing through abandoned streets and machinery continually doing their master’s bidding set the sonic tone early.
One point of contention with Black The Fall is its length. On one hand, it is incredibly short clocking in at under two hours to complete the game. Once you do complete it, there isn’t much incentive to return to the game. Black The Fall‘s only replay incentive is to find secret rooms, but even then that isn’t going to take much time. On the other hand, it doesn’t need to be any longer. Gameplay mechanics don’t overstay their welcome or grow stale, and the game feels complete even with a short completion time. And after all, the highlights of Black The Fall is the story, atmosphere, and political commentary and they shine brightly.
The commentary and story of Black The Fall come from a place of real-world experience and history. The passion for telling a story of the oppression that Romanian citizens experienced comes through in this atmospheric platformer and it’s that passion that allows the title to rise to the ranks of similar games LIMBO and Inside. That passion, however, means nothing without the proper tools, and Sand Sail Studio shows skill with creating an environment that draws the player in and doesn’t have an interest in letting go. Short but well-crafted, Black The Fall manages to become a competent debut effort from Sand Sail Studio.