Looking to the past is not new to the world of entertainment but it is actually a rather consolidated practice, even in the world of video games. We look at the history of humanity, at more or less important events and at historical periods that in one way or another have left their mark on entire populations by forging the world in which we currently live. For those creators who want to comb through the dusty pages of bygone days, there is really plenty of choice. But you know, having a choice is not enough and conforming to a handful of big impact issues is considerably simpler and commercially ideal.

This is how the ___s have become some of the most obvious and widespread enemies of video games and that most of the productions have focused on the great wars, especially in the recent past. Sand Sailor Studio has, however, chosen a very different path and, thanks to the support of the ubiquitous Kickstarter, has decided to tell an atypical story for a video game. The Bucharest-based team chose to talk about their country, to show the situation that characterized Romania before 1989, before the deposition, trial and execution of the tyrant Nicolae Ceaușescu.

The road taken to transport us to this particular historical period is by no means taken for granted but it is in effect one of the most interesting elements of a project that has changed considerably over the years, evolving and becoming progressively more complex and ambitious. Black The Fall chooses the path of the puzzle-platform to try to propose an interesting alternative to the dominance that the games like Inside and Little Nightmares are having in recent years.

Years? Decades or maybe more? The feeling of being a small cog is getting stronger, being in a constant state of alienation is inevitable, this is life and basically it will always be like this. The regime has decided and the regime knows what is best for the people, it knows what to do to grow stronger and prosper with one interest only: its own self-preservation. Waking up every morning becomes more and more difficult, you cannot resist a life of this type forever and even an old train driver at some point needs to look for something new, to go further, to try to escape from a life that human has almost nothing left, to simply have hope.

Thus begins a story of escape from a dystopian world which in the intentions of the developers wants to represent life in Romania dominated by the communist regime. It is a particular but interesting choice and on balance right: to represent delicate themes, difficult situations and real problems through a futuristic setting, inhabited by robots, increasingly twisted machinery, brainwashing and the suppression of all freedom. Situations and concepts clearly exasperated but symbolic of elements that were really part of the authority of the communist regime that characterized the nation before the revolution and liberation.

The developers themselves explain it to make people understand the work done in recent years. There is the will to show maddening propaganda, censorship, authority that does not respect any individual freedom, alienating work in incredibly degrading conditions and the impossibility of possessing opinions contrary to those indicated from above. A game world represented in a convincing way and that knows how to convey the feelings of degradation and oppression that are at the center of the themes so dear to the Bucharest studio. A sick and astonishing charm for attention to detail and style.

Approval and hard work above all.

The game world has a very successful impact and is combined with a gameplay that thrives on lights and shadows but which overall does not make its uncertainties weigh too much. The fact that it is the game mechanics that are not convincing in every aspect is most likely linked to the very concept of Black The Fall. which was initially born as a mobile prototype.

Controller in hand the work of Sand Sailor Studios is a mix of purely platform phases in which it is necessary to calculate precise jumps and escape from dangerous situations with perfect timing and puzzles related to the use of lasers and various types of machinery but above all to a sort of super-technological multipurpose glove and to a robot that after about a third of play will become our inseparable companion in adventures. The interaction with this curious little robot adds a further layer of complexity to the puzzles that make up the bulk of our anonymous protagonist’s adventure.

Between enemies to overcome in the most varied ways, stealth sections, various types of contraptions and phases in which we will hide in plain sight, homologating in front of the eyes of cold robotic controllers, the game experience can be challenging and varied at the right point. However, as mentioned above, there are defects for both the platform and the puzzle portion of the title. The problems are basically two: first of all the jump and movements of our alter ego are not perfect and there is a degree of inaccuracy that has led us to some avoidable deaths. Fortunately, this is a particularly limited problem and is limited by the progressive familiarity with the control system.

A crowded square in front of a distant and oppressive symbol.

The second problem, also absolutely circumventable, derives from the fact that the robot that accompanies us and with which we have to interact moves in the scenarios even in depth, requiring a certain precision when we order it to move to a certain area. There are therefore some puzzles that to be solved require absolute perfection and a certain amount of trial and error caused by the imperfect use of our robotic helper. Defects that do not affect, therefore, the quality of the game but that distance it from the best exponents of the genre.

The work carried out on a technical level certainly has an atmosphere. The audio does its job mainly thanks to the metallic and cold sound effects of a world in which humanity and the importance of life itself are only secondary elements, necessary to keep the mammoth and indestructible machine of the regime going on. A power machine that does not look anyone in the face and is represented by placing a lot of emphasis on white, black (the project was initially born as exclusively monochromatic) and above all red. It is in general the feeling of abandonment of the world outside the factories that reigns supreme, a meandering feeling of lifelessness that permeates everything that is not closely linked to industry and the growth of central power.

Black The Fall collides with its own imperfections, with defects from the point of view of the gameplay highlighted by certain sections but fortunately less evident for much of the adventure of our anonymous hero. The work of Sand Sailor Studio has the great advantage of being able to demonstrate one’s identity and stand out without following the mechanics of the puzzle-platform so much in vogue in recent years.

From a black and white project to something much more ambitious.

Slower and less immediate, more gameplay and less atmosphere (even if the scenes with a notable impact are not lacking), the Romanian software house has chosen to focus more on the half puzzle of the genre, favoring more static and reflective situations without being excessively cloying and bizarre. . Considering the variety of situations that we will face in the approximately 5 hours necessary to reach the (curious) end credits, Black The Fall is a definitely successful experiment, a video game that, with a dystopian and apparently distant setting, knows how to make us live a true story, delicate, unjustly ignored and definitely worthy of being told.

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