At first blush Black the Fall seems like a puzzle game. You control a character to get through puzzles, sneak past guards and use your tools to get break free from the mechinations of Communism. This was my initial impression as I started the first puzzle, but no less than 30 seconds into Black the Fall something just clicked with me. There is a deeper philosophical discussion that the developers have gently placed into the game, and it acts as a double edged sword such that if you aren’t paying attention or just going through the grind of the game then it has totally gone over your head.
The story is amazing and resonated with me, there are no words, no speech, no facial expression but there are a few signs to help you figure out new controls. Sailor Sand Studio’s blurb for the game is as follows “After decades of toil, an old machinist plots his escape from the oppressive grasp of the Communist regime.” With the symbolism that is provided in the game and how Carl Marx defined the tenants of Communism, much of that imagery exists in the game and provides the aspects that drive home the need to break free from the oppression of Communism, but I believe Black the Fall has a double meaning. As a co-founder of Redonkulous Gaming, I have had the opportunity to interview indie game studios and seen the teams break away from the herd and pursue and chase their passions to create some amazing games. It showed me how it is important to not be a lemming and follow the group over the cliff, but to take that chance and leap of faith. The puzzles and challenges in the game symbolized for me that it won’t be an easy road and there are people out there that will try to put you down, but you have to rise above all of that and ignore the naysayers to do what you want and not what you are necessarily told to do.
The gameplay and controls are simple and intuitive. Whenever there is a new mechanic for you to figure out, the game provides a billboard to give you guidance and then it is up to you to remember all those mechanics as you get further into the game. The puzzles consist of some of the traditional puzzles found in all puzzle platforming games, but there are several unique ones as well. Such as controlling other “drones” to help you get past some of the puzzles. As you solve these puzzles it comes back to the underlying story where suddenly you have the power to control and manipulate the environment and people once you decide to break free and not follow the herd.
The graphics and sound are simple, clean and follow a minimalist style. This decision creates a dramatic impact with the game and greatly enhances the story. The graphics and the shading present the game in a dark state that leads to a sense of foreboding and fear for breaking away and going against society and trying to escape the path that has already been decided for you. Sailor Sand Studio’s chose not to have music throughout the game and have limited it to sound effects. Again, this design feature drives home the desolation and feeling of emptiness that would creep up from time to time as you take that risk and chance to go against the grain and exemplifies that the challenges an individual would face isn’t always full roses and parties.
Sailor Sand Studio’s decided to place the game in the backdrop of someone breaking free from his pre-defined role in a Communist regime, but to me the game speaks so many more volumes. I don’t know if this was the intention of the game developers, but Black the Fall has something unique and continues to drive home the conversation that video games can be and are a form of art. When you have an interesting story that can relate to so many people and lives, it can lead to interpretation that was not the original intent. The story for Black the Fall easily deserves a 10/10 in my book. The gameplay was simple and worked well, but there were parts that provided achievements in other games that don’t show up on the switch, and so I did stand there confused for a few minutes trying to figure out a puzzle that didn’t exist. The dark atmosphere really fit with the game, but there were some puzzles that were really confusing and I had to turn up the contrast just to figure out how to get past them and therefore I have to give the gameplay and mechanics an 8/10. Overall the game gets a well deserved 9/10 and should be a game that every player should have whether on their Switch or on Steam. Make sure to let Black the Fall take you on its journey and think about the implications and what the game is trying to say, don’t just speed run through it like how AAA has programmed us to do.