Black The Fall (PlayStation 4) Review

By Gabriel Jones 10.07.2017

Review for Black The Fall on PlayStation 4

Nobody can remember when society collapsed, nor can they recall their lives before they were imprisoned. Today, everyone serves to prop up the machine. In return for unwavering obedience and constant work, they're provided the bare necessities: food, water, and propaganda. Though this inhumane process has extinguished the lives of many, it has never broken their spirit. Deep within the most oppressive factory, a place where natural light hasn't been seen in decades, one man makes his escape.

Inspiration takes many forms. Some might look at a beautiful sunset or a single leaf floating in the wind. From that single vision, they're able to craft anything, from a haiku to a thorough deconstruction of a controversial policy. Arguably, it's impossible to summarise the Socialist Republic of Romania in a single video game. Over the course of fifty years, Romania experienced unfathomable hardships under a cruel regime. Hundreds of thousands of innocent people died in custody. Even those that weren't arrested still suffered immensely, due to atrocious laws, such as 1981's Austerity policy. Though times have changed, there is always the lingering possibility that history will repeat itself. Rather than attempt to compartmentalise everything, Black The Fall chooses to carry the inspiring message of resistance, and hope.

The one constant in this game is darkness. The factory is designed so that people can only see exactly what the government allows. The guards utilise designator tools - which function as laser pointers - to "guide" prisoners to their next task. Most of the lights are red, designating their importance and threat to everyone. The only other lighting comes from the propaganda machine. Every TV screen, without fail, displays images of the glorious leader. It's a creative implementation. Those that don't want to be brainwashed can't change the channel or even turn their head. Over a long enough period of time, they come to embrace the few images allowed to them, simply because that's all they can ever see.

Screenshot for Black The Fall on PlayStation 4

As one can expect, escaping this facility will be a hellish endeavour. There are numerous puzzles to solve, and mechanics are introduced in a sensible and intelligent manner. At first, the protagonist will be acquainted with the simple tasks of running and jumping. Before long, he'll have to contend with guards. There are automated turrets everywhere, so all the guard has to do is say the word, and the slightest hint of disobedience is immediately snuffed out. There aren't any weapons, so the only way forward involves avoiding the aforementioned red lights.

In time, the player-character will happen across a designator tool. This gives the game a sort of "point and click" aspect. By aiming the laser pointer at various objects, one can flip switches, or direct other prisoners to assist in tasks. However, both guards and turrets will notice when the designator is being used, so be careful when aiming. This aspect of the game is pretty interesting. Not only does it serve as a clever feature, but it's also natural and appropriate, given the circumstances.

Screenshot for Black The Fall on PlayStation 4

If the protagonist manages to escape the facility, he'll soon discover that his life isn't in any less danger. The world has already succumbed to pollution and decay. All of the rivers and lakes have become toxic. Ruins can and will crumble underfoot. Mechs with enough ordnance to level an entire city patrol the remains. Indeed, the communist regime has cast a very large shadow. It is in this destroyed land that he'll find a companion of sorts. A robot, about the size and stature of a dog, will follow him as he makes his way through the remnants of civilisation. The diminutive yet indestructible robot has many uses, and is imperative to surviving this leg of the journey.

At first, the little robot gives cause to be wary. While a bit of humour in the face of a bleak atmosphere is always appreciated, the "wacky adventures" of a man and his robot would be far too jarring of a tonal shift. Thankfully, this isn't the case here. The protagonist recognises the automaton as a tool, and little else. It sounds heartless, but outside of some quirky behaviour, the robot doesn't exhibit signs of affection or even sentience. In fact, its master is whoever happens to have a designator tool. Furthermore, there are scenarios where it can cause the death of the protagonist. It's like smashing one's own finger with a hammer, just on a larger scale.

The implementation of all of these mechanics is handled quite well. The player usually has all of the knowledge they need in order to progress. Checkpoints are reasonably placed. While deaths are frequent, they're never unavoidable. As long as someone is paying attention, they shouldn't have too much trouble surviving. The puzzles are frequent, clever, and never repetitive. There's never a point where someone will run into the exact same problem, only with a very slight twist.

Screenshot for Black The Fall on PlayStation 4

It's also great that the game relies on framing rather than garish visual indicators. It gives the problem solving the right amount of focus, without spelling everything out. They're also designed so that the player doesn't merely stumble upon the solution. Their level of investment is always appropriately rewarded. Therefore, the less thought they put into a problem, the less they're likely to proceed. Occasionally, there will be a puzzle that's probably a little obtuse for its own good. At times, the answer might even be simpler than one would expect. Admittedly, there was a bit of a forehead-smacking moment after figuring out how to make use of a wrecking ball.

What really brings this game together is that no matter what, nothing gets in the way of the story. The controls are serviceable, and won't fail the player at critical moments. The puzzles, even at their most difficult, never grind progress to a halt. The almost absolute lack of cut-scenes really helps in keeping everyone engaged. There are many powerful moments. Every scene is significant in its own way. Also, it's worth looking for the most subtle details. They really add a lot to the experience.

Screenshot for Black The Fall on PlayStation 4

Cubed3 Rating

8/10
Rated 8 out of 10

Great - Silver Award

Rated 8 out of 10

As with similar titles in the puzzle-platformer genre, Black The Fall lacks replay value. Still, this is a fantastic game and an exemplary showcase for what the medium is capable of. All of its elements are designed so that they don't conflict with one another. The visuals are stylish, but never at the expense of playability or comprehension. It relies on the background to tell its story, and superbly crafts the surrounding area with puzzles. No matter what happens, the player is always able to follow exactly what's going on. This is all accomplished without a single written word, and it's absolutely brilliant.

Developer

Sand Sailor Studio

Publisher

Square Enix

Genre

Puzzle

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  8/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date TBA   Australian release date Out now   

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