In political and social sciences, communism is a social, political, and economic ideology and movement whose ultimate goal is the establishment of the communist society, which is a socioeconomic order structured upon the common ownership of the means of production and the absence of social classes, money, and the state. – Wikipedia (most reliable source ever.)
Our civilization at the moment has a lot of political states and a lot have passed throughout the history of our world. Some of the oldest ones are actually still in effect and are still people’s first choice in quite a few countries. Others only have a few supporters left to keep them alive. Each one of those though, defines a society and in many cases, we have to walk in the streets laid down by the votes of the many. In our times though, we are all just subject to the perils of capitalism.
People who can’t stand all of this though, usually rebel and seek a change, one close to their own ideals. The rebels try to escape the reality they are bound to, in order to allow themselves to move on, beyond the boundaries of their currently restraining society. Black, the main character of Sand Sailor Studios’ game, Black the Fall, wants to do exactly that.
BLACK THE FALL is an atmospheric puzzle game set-up in a communist dystopian era. Playing as Black, an obedient factory worker, you get one chance to outsmart the oppressive system, but the road to freedom is paved with puzzles, pitfalls and manipulation. A door malfunctions, an opportunity arises. Once out, what will you do to survive? The game’s explanation pretty much tells us most of the story in its own few words. The game came out on Early Access and is currently being prepared for full release. I first came found out about the game during Hyper Light Up’s visit to Gamescom, when our director went up to get a small interview done with the developers of the game that were set up at one of the booths of the Indie Arena Booth. Right after Gamescom, I had the chance to play the first press version of the game, allowing me to give you a description of what the game is about.
My first playthrough lasted about half an hour, with most of the time spent watching the intro cutscenes to the game that did a really good job with making the suspense of what is going to happen next stronger. The truth is, that the logic that the game follows, somewhat reminded me of Playdead’s latest game, Inside. Those two games came out much around the same time, with both having their own unique attitude that, for me personally, reminisces the pages of Nineteen Eighty-Four, George Orwell’s book. That book taught us that “big brother is watching us.” In both cases though, for both games, our characters are just but the pawn of the story. The pawn that is trying to avoid the numbness of hypnotism and find an escape.
In this game, things aren’t as joyful as the melody of “Sexcrime” by the Eurythmics that walks the same motief, but we do get a dark aesthetic that, together with the tricks of shade and light, manages to give a certain kind of unique tone to the darkness that hides the mysterious and unknown. The darkness we can learn only by going deeper into it to find the light, which may sound abstract, but it is but a metaphor that fits the image. The gameplay is very much like playing Limbo where our character moves on 2 dimensions whilst trying to solve all sorts of puzzles. These puzzles range from simple lever pulls and moving things to controlling other people and machines with the use of a designator tool that allows us to choose how workers move and do things. These puzzles at first glance do not seem to be all too hard (especially for those that are familiar with games like Limbo) and the handling of the character is quite easy and simple, making the player enjoy their time playing the game.
Even though I find it hard to describe the title and I want to avoid the references to Inside, I will have to do that. The first comparison that I want to make is its visuals. The graphics of Black the Fall seem a little bit more solid than those of Inside making Playdead’s title seem a little bit more abstract and much more like a painting. In Black The Fall I had a much darker feeling due to the contrast that there is between red and the rest of the colors that we see in it. The colors used in Black the Fall manage to be combined in a way that the 3D image we get is very fitting to the theme of the game.
But of course, the tricks used to make it what it is, are not only visual, but also aural. In many dark places, sound is your only companion, helping the player guide Black through a path. The only solution was for me to wear my headset and focus on the sounds I am hearing in order to escape as fast as possible. I have to say I was always expecting some kind of a jumpscare as I ran away from whatever was chasing Black. There is of course the added effect of playing the game late at night.
Regarding the technical parts of the game, things are thankfully very well done and most of the things that aren’t can be excused due to the early phase that the game is in. The problems I faced were a constant frame drop which was not all that noticeable since for some weird reason, Steam’s frame count was going crazy in various cases of my character’s movement. I had a few very obscure bugs, but those thankfully only happened a few times, allowing me to enjoy the game in its full performance.
The general image of the title is amazing and definitely very promising. For those that love logic in games, it’s a must-buy title that will offer you a very unique experience. I would like to add something even more personal here, saying that, I do not know what the people of Sand Sailor Studio are doing, but I definitely want to see so much more of this game. I honestly feel as if the game has offered me chocolate for the first time in my life and since I had a taste of it now, I crave it like a demon, wanting to have more of it.
If you liked Playdead’s Inside, then you should pick up this title and experience a whole new take on this genre of games, with a much more political take on the whole style.
I would like to close this review with three phrases that I was taught by Nineteen Eighty-Four. War is Peace, Ignorance is Strength and Freedom is Slavery.
-Vasilis “Eniantas” Kamakaris
(Translation by Konstantinos “Kelfecil” Christakis)