A strong narrative focus is at the forefront of Black The Fall, even though there isn’t a single spoken word throughout the entire game. The dark visual style, complete with muted and dull colors with splashes of red to signify danger has a deeper meaning to the nine person Romania studio. Living under communist rule, the developers at Sand Sailor Studio tell their personal history dealing with totalitarian rule and oppressing through Black The Fall.
Although Black The Fall was a success on Kickstarter nearing three years ago, the final version of the game is much different than the initial builds. The gameplay style and appearance has quite the similarities with Playdead’s Limbo and their new title Inside. As a side-scrolling platformer with minimal UI elements, you must interact with the environment through context sensitive locations to bypass puzzles and progress forward. Stealth is essential, as you carefully navigate through a darkened industrial factory, avoiding workers, who will shoot you on sight, and camera, which, you guessed it, also come equipped with guns.
Besides the bright white sunglasses (or eyes), you have a single lit antenna attached to your back, serving as an easy way to both locate you and see if you are working. Later portions of the game expand upon the threats that you must run from, including massive robots that trample anything in their path.
There are moments in Black The Fall where you’ll slowly trudge forward, but most of the platforming requires you to avoid capture or worse. The Communist’s trademarked red lights send chills down your spine, serving as a break in the game’s dark and muted color palette. Death was a frequent occurrence in my time with the game, thankfully restarting is quite fast (almost instant on PC), allowing you to retry through the troublesome area until you can bypass it.
Early on you come across a device that attaches to your arm, giving you access to control the other workers in the factory. Your new found power comes in handy for the rest of the game, as you’ll control your former colleagues into activating switches, opening doors, etc. While sounding simplistic, you can’t trigger your mind control beam through the path of any red lights, as the camera’s will notice you are not one of the workers and take you out, for good. This can lead to frustrating amounts as you repeatedly fail to accomplish seemingly simple tasks.
Black The Fall's uniquely varied puzzles are what kept me playing from start to finish. Without repeating the same element throughout, it always feels fresh, especially with the platforming sections breaking up the different puzzles. There were a few frustrating parts that required me to retry them more times than I would like to admit, but with an instant restart and generous checkpoints, Black The Fall ensures players can keep advancing. As the name implies, there is one section in the game that takes place entirely in darkness, serving as a real highlight of the experience.
Note: Black The Fall was reviewed based on a digital PC copy of the game, provided by the publisher.