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Black The Fall

Black The Fall

A struggle to escape both an oppressive regime and some dystopian clichés.

  • Text: Jon Calvin

Black The Fall is a dystopian puzzle platformer which has been developed by Sand Sailor Studios and published by Square Enix Collective. First finding success on Kickstarter, the game went on to Execution Labs' game accelerator program, all the while backed by a solid collaboration with Square Enix, and in the game you explore a post-communist industrial world as Black, an old machinist suffering from amnesia who desires to escape the clutches of the oppressive communist regime he inhabits. Crawling through the shadows, you'll struggle to overcome the system and secure your freedom from a dystopian dictatorship that rules with an iron fist.

In a form of fictional surrealism, this game was based on the actual experiences of developers Cristian Diaconescu and Nicoleta Lordanescu, who started the endeavour as an art project to highlight the decades of communist rule that Romania had endured. They further expanded the project into a fully-fledged game as a way to illustrate and express rebellion against the mechanisms of the heavily corrupted system they experienced, and the game aimed to represent their feelings about the communist mentality by expressing themes such as distrust, the dehumanising work environment, and uniformity experienced in the country during this time.

In what is essentially a stealth-platformer, Black The Fall utilises trial and error style gameplay, tasking the player with unravelling a series of puzzles revolving around the oppressive atmosphere you are trying to escape, involving evading and outwitting mass surveillance, as well as dismantling the system that imprisons its citizenry. Mistakes or missteps result in a one hit kill that is unfortunately represented by a generic death animation in which your character turns to a red mist, and in a game that involves dying over and over again, this can quickly become tedious, with the only variation being an awkward drowning animation when you come into contact with water.

Black The FallBlack The Fall

The game world is presented to the player in what the developer describes as 2.75D, but what is essentially a 2D plane of movement with a 3D backdrop, and some level transitions contain hints early on that help you to understand the game's mechanics. In terms of the controls, these are fairly straightforward and what you would generally expect from a puzzle/platform title - you have a button to jump, one to interact, and the back triggers to crouch and run. Pretty early on in the game you also acquire a designator tool that Black uses to manipulate people and machines still controlled by the system. The controls for this are somewhat awkward, featuring the use of multiple buttons to turn it on and off, as well as activate it, and the movement of the pointer is also sluggish and unresponsive at times, which results in an unintuitive player experience.  

One of the more interesting mechanics featured in the game appears about halfway through the story when you liberate a dog-like robot you can give commands to. Your new companion adds a refreshing dynamic to the puzzle system, although the sometimes awkward controls don't help in fostering this new found relationship. Having another entity along for the trip does add to the emotional impact of the game though, an area in which it is surprisingly lacking.

Black The Fall
Black The Fall