Black The Fall Nintendo Switch Review
Developer: Sand Sailor Studio
Publisher: Sand Sailor Studio
Release Date: Out now
Price as of Article: $14,99 £11,99
Black the Fall is about gaining freedom, a struggle to break the binds which hold you down. As the protagonist your story is one of struggle. The story is based on a machinist who wants to escape this seriously bleak world. When you finally complete the game it is really rammed home what this fight for freedom was all about. This is a political story and it’s heavy hitting. If you are not really into this stuff you may find it difficult to get into it. Personally I enjoyed the more adult theme. The fact that you have to discover this story for yourself through the game with hardly a word spoken or written is a testament to how this medium can be used to tell a story and this is a game with a story to tell. It tells it in quite a heavy handed way at times. It is full of mature adult themes, which is right up my street, but I can appreciate it’s not up everyones street and doesn’t always make for the most fun material to use within a game.
The sounds in this game are subtle and atmospheric. It draws you into its world without it being in your face. Everything here seems like it was created with the atmosphere in mind, like that was the brief from the beginning. Sound effects and little details make you take notice and there is a constant industrial-type sound running through it which feels quite uncomfortable. Everything is mechanical sounding, enemies will shoot you at first sight and the sound of the shots are terrifying. The sound certainly does a great job of matching the visuals with the moody feel. There is a part in this game which, I have to admit, I was not expecting but it’s actually a touch of genius. It was unexpected as the developers used sound as the only sense you could rely on to traverse a part of the game. I just wish there were more parts like this and Sand Sailor games should be applauded for trying something a little different in Black the Fall.
Visually Black the Fall looks dark, industrial and captures the tone and mood of the story just right. Soviet Union flags draped while the workers work, the light hanging from your back illuminating the darkened path, you come across rooms which depict human beings treated with utter contempt. The bosses beating people down if they step out of line, workers riding bikes to create energy like a hamster on a hamster wheel. It’s an uncomfortable, inhumane place that with each new room new details are there to see and for you, the player, to decipher in your mind as to leave you in no doubt that this is a grim place to be. One you will do anything to escape from.
When you escape the darkness and reach the light, there are some beautiful backdrops and these were a nice change up for sure. There is a good use of lighting in the game but with a game being mostly based in darkness it also shows up some of the games ugly points.
While the visuals do a good job of depicting this inhumane place the Switch version of the game has some problems, namely to do with performance which again rears its ugly head. The game doesn’t seem well optimised for the Switch version. I encountered slow down and the game runs sluggish, which is a shame. As the game is so dark, it is often difficult to see everything you need to see to solve some puzzles especially in handheld mode. It’s certainly not a game that’s great for the eyes.
This is a 2D affair where you move from screen to screen and will be looking to solve puzzles with your character. You are not really told how to play, except for some small pictures along the way shown within the environment.
You may need to get past a guard by crouching and creeping, or hiding in the shadows, to get past scanners. You will even have to use some of your fellow man as diversions. This is just another way the game plays with your emotions. How should you feel about potentially making someone else suffer just so you can gain.
If you are noticed then you will perish in one shot but you respawn in the exact same place so there is no penalty for dying, and indeed no check points, as the game saves automatically. It means that no matter what you do, there are no punishments for perishing which is at odds with everything else in this game. This game certainly reminds me of Flashback in more ways than one with the way it plays.
Within the first hour the game can be very frustrating because of all the deaths you will encounter but persevere and the game seems to get easier as you get further. The puzzles themselves are not overly difficult but some will take you a while to figure out and are satisfying when you do complete them.
There are some platforming elements in the game which add a nice change of pace from solving puzzles but these are not going to throw up too much of a challenge and are certainly not to Limbo or Inside standards of platforming. This game will be compared to those games quite a bit, no doubt, but this walks its own path and while this game is not as good as the other two classics it does a decent enough job.
Controlling your character felt okay but there are times in the game where you will have to use a curser to control other characters in the game, like a point and click, and using this curser was really finicky.
Later on about midway through you will meet a robotic friend which will be your companion for the rest of the game and will be an essential tool to help you with the rest of the puzzles. Your robotic friend will be able to latch onto electronic switches, act as a ledge for you to hang off, or distract huge robots from firing bullets up your ass and can be turned into a box for you to reach higher ledges. I enjoyed the latter chapters quite a bit but again controlling your companion was sometimes a bit of a pain as it was not always the most intuitive. This would certainly work better with a mouse!
Game is $14,99 or £11,99. There are parts in the game that you will find, thinking these are some sort of secret, but nothing actually happens. Only after doing some further research did I realise that these are counted as secrets in other versions of the game and adds up towards a 100% completion. For completionists all the replayability has been stripped away. Whether you find the secrets here or not doesn’t matter as it just doesn’t count. Instead you will find these “secrets” but you will not be rewarded for them. So in essence once you complete the campaign there is nothing to go back for. It doesn’t matter how many times you perish and the chapters are not timed. There is no online modes, no other modes to the game at all and no options to change its difficulty. I am fine with just a story campaign but to take away the secrets which are part of the other versions seems a very odd decision and when you consider the game has a running time of just 2 or so hours then I consider it to be rather short.