Made in Abyss: Binary Star Falling into Darkness (Nintendo Switch) Review

By Sandy Kirchner-Wilson 28.09.2022

Review for Made in Abyss: Binary Star Falling into Darkness on Nintendo Switch

Made in Abyss: Binary Star Falling into Darkness is a mouthful of a title. This new game is an adaptation of the anime and manga Made in Abyss created by Akihito Tsukushi, who kept a watchful eye on this game's development. It was published by Spike Chunsoft Co., Ltd. Having the original creator on board is a very cool way to manage things and should ultimately end up enhancing the experience with plenty of authenticity. The game is an action RPG that promises to offer a unique cave raiding experience, but how good is it really?

An inexplicable abyssal pit has opened up; seemingly bottomless, it draws in adventurers. These adventurers, for generations, have been diving into the abyss making new discoveries and charting each level and its dangers. Many of these adventurers cannot return due to the Curse of the Abyss which affects people differently based on how far they've descended but only when they attempt to ascend again. It's a cool concept and one that marks a limit for the characters of the story.

Players can play two modes, each with unique stories. "Hello Abyss" mode retells the story of the anime while "Deep in Abyss" mode tells a new story, featuring character favourites from the show. Either way the stories are overseen by the original creator Akihito Tsukushi. In both modes players begin in the orphanage, a home for the children of adventurers who have passed the point of no-return in the abyss. Here they are being taught to be "Cave Raiders" to continue the cycle of exploring the abyss looking for artefacts from the past. From here a lot of things happen but ultimately the player character ends up descending into the abyss and encountering both wonders and horrors as they go.

One thing this game isn't scared to do is present the gruesome nature of the anime in game form. While the visual styling is very cutesy, it is far from actually cute. Expect true horror from monsters such as Corpse-Weepers who kill their prey and then mimic their cries of help hoping to draw in more victims. This is partnered with a lot of gore and dead children, so consider this a content warning. Death comes in many forms in the abyss, including falling from height, so expect at least once to see the main character fall with a thud onto the ground and be surrounded in a pool of blood, staring with dead cold eyes. It's horrendous but also lends a lot of weight to avoiding death.

Screenshot for Made in Abyss: Binary Star Falling into Darkness on Nintendo Switch

The story is presented through a mix of gameplay dialogue as well as through static dialogue screens which are serviceable but do not lend to the dynamic nature of the story or the characters. However, every few levels there is a full blown cutscene and these are beautiful, colourful and expressive story moments that the player will remember at the end of the experience. These also contain quick time events on occasion and failure is a game over, so it can be pretty harsh as the auto saving checkpoints are only once per area.

The gameplay loop is all about resource management. There is no building a base or managing a farm here, it's all scavenging and crafting to survive. This is not a fast paced game, there is combat but ultimately movement is very controlled and interactions are very deliberately animated. The controls are pretty standard as far as exploratory 3D games are concerned. Players can climb, mine, fish, jump, die… among many other things. These are all mapped well to the Switch controls but it takes time to adjust to some of the inventory swapping. However, after a bit of time with them it's easy to swap out tools quickly while circumnavigating the hellish denizens of the abyss.

Screenshot for Made in Abyss: Binary Star Falling into Darkness on Nintendo Switch

Initially, levels are split up through visiting a hub, the city of Orth, but soon it gives way to long stints of traversal. Players are quite quickly joined by the character Reg who opens many more traversal options due to his semi-robotic nature. He allows the player to quickly ascend or descend cliffs without needing to manage stamina. Stamina management is quite hard to get used to and involves eating and crafting food that can be used on cliffs where stamina no longer recharges.

Stamina management and hunger management are where the main difficulty lies. The developers made it a massive challenge so that, for example, if a player climbs a cliff that ends up being too large, they can end up stranded on it with no choice but to fall off, die and try the area again. Stamina is also affected by actions like fighting and gathering, however these will still work with an empty stamina bar but will gradually wear the player character down. Naturally there is a menu system; when hitting minus a map screen will open showing the player's location but only with some of the area filled in. Here it's possible to also access the inventory to arrange items and dress the character in the best gear or arrange their inventory.

Some tools have a durability, meaning that in the crafting part of the minus menu it's possible to use resources to reforge tools on the fly to ensure continued safe passage. The craft menu also houses the cooking recipes and cooking means reducing the raw materials being carried in favour of a much more useful item. Every resource incurs a carry weight that adds to encumbrance and once that level is breached the character movement becomes limited, meaning players have to sacrifice some items to continue. A wee example would be the player having 4x200g of tail meat, which can be cooked into 2x200g of cooked meals meaning freeing up 400g of carry space.

Screenshot for Made in Abyss: Binary Star Falling into Darkness on Nintendo Switch

Finally there is the curse of the abyss. This is a state that is entered when ascending the abyss too quickly. Players can avoid the negative effects by taking a quick rest or by descending again, however the effects vary based on how far into the abyss the player has gotten. At the start it causes the character to feel nauseous so continuing to ascend when in the curse state will make the character vomit, increasing hunger and reducing stamina. Later on however these effects change massively, ranging from hallucinations to complete sensory deprivation or total confusion as well as bleeding externally and internally or certain death. During review it couldn't be confirmed how many of these effects are available in game but the threat of them certainly keeps players being careful.

It's a truly interesting little game and it captures the anime's essence really well. The environments and lighting are quite simple in terms of detail but there is a large variety of visual designs to move between. For example, one of the levels is an upside down forest where the game is more about carefully avoiding falling off the world while navigating thin interconnected platforms through the trees. This variety of challenges keeps the game interesting and keeps the player invested in the proceedings. There are some downsides obviously with this game being on Nintendo Switch. These are found in the clarity of the visuals. While most scenes play out clearly and look sharp, some areas have a real low resolution appearance, less so than Kao the Kangaroo but still more than expected. There is a solid enough frame rate however and interactive elements are never obscured by this issue.

Screenshot for Made in Abyss: Binary Star Falling into Darkness on Nintendo Switch

Cubed3 Rating

8/10
Rated 8 out of 10

Great - Silver Award

Rated 8 out of 10

A bizarre adventure through and through, Made in Abyss is an excellent adaptation of a very popular and interesting anime! The gameplay loop, story and design make this a great little adventure game with plenty of unique challenges and gameplay elements. For fans of the anime this is a no-brainer, absolutely buy it and enjoy! For non-fans, if this genre appeals, then this game is one to watch. It's absolutely worth the time it takes to learn how to play it correctly, even if the goal is just to see what gruesome event takes place next!

Developer

Spike Chunsoft

Publisher

Spike Chunsoft

Genre

Adventure

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 Out now   Australian release date Out now   

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