Black the Fall by developer Sand Sailor Studio and publisher Square Enix is an atmospheric puzzle-platformer currently in pre-alpha. It aims to tell a story without any spoken dialog, and from what I’ve seen from my brief glance into the pre-alpha, it does this rather well.
I started the game in a dark-grey room with no explanation as to how I got there. From a quick glance, it looks to be a jail cell. There was a bike in the room that was stuck to the floor and by pressing the interact button I would see my character briefly jump on the bike and then jump off. My first instinct (after jumping on the bike) was to try and head out the door to the right. However, the door wouldn’t open and once I crossed a red line on the ground, a turret shined a laser pointer at me before mercilessly cutting me down. I then spent a few minutes trying to find another way out of the room before I had the thought “hey, maybe something different will happen with the bike if I hold the interact button down”. It turned out I was right, by doing this my character stayed on the bike.
This resulted in lights in the room coming on as a mine cart (most likely powered by the electricity generated from the bike) came from out of the wall and headed towards the door I couldn’t open earlier. The door opened for the cart and a counter on the wall went down from 10,000 to 9,999. Deciding I did not want to do that 9,999 more times, I decided instead to follow the mine cart out.
While the beginning is a bit slow and hard to understand, a few minutes later, I started seeing other people. More specifically, I saw people walking around with antenna attached to their backs as they walked around mindlessly. A few more minutes later I saw large grunts—that somewhat resembled hairless apes for some reason—pointing a laser pointer at some of these people before pointing at a switch. The light on the antenna would flash and then the person would walk over to complete the assigned task, giving the impression that they were somehow being controlled. I found that the further I got through the facility, the more pieces of the story I got. One of the most telling signs for the game’s story was one of the large grunts saluting a portrait that reminded me of WW2-era commanders.
The game itself is in a 2-D on-the-rails perspective—you can only move left or right, as though you are on a set of rails, with the ability to jump and fall—although there were times where the camera angle would shift or the path you were on would bend around the corner, thus giving an illusion of free movement. As for the puzzles, I found a great many of them to be rather unorthodox. For example, the first time I saw one of those hairless apes commanding one of the antenna-wearing workers, my character was observing them from a ledge. It was obvious I needed to get down to where the ape was, so I tried to land behind him so as to not get spotted. This resulted in me learning that my character couldn’t survive a fall from that height (and to add insult to injury, I heard the ape start laughing). After a few more failed jumps and minutes staring at the room, I suddenly got the idea, what would happen if I tried landing on top of the grunt/ape. As it turned out, the grunt broke my fall and was knocked unconscious. After I finished laughing, I decided to move on. The game is filled with many such puzzles that require unconventional ways of thinking to solve.
Now, this is normally the part of the script where I mercilessly tear into the game’s faults, but as this is a preview rather than a review, I have been told to play nice—though in due fairness, the part of the game I was allowed to play was rather enjoyable. My only real complaint would be about the design of the first room. I found the first room sort of confusing and would have appreciated some sort of prompt or hint to tell me that I could hold down the interact button. Aside from that, I found the game very enjoyable.
Overall, I had a lot of fun playing this sneak-peak of the game. Many of the puzzles were confusing, which simply made it that much more satisfying to finally find the solution. Additionally, as mentioned before, the game does a great job of telling a story through scenery and atmosphere alone. If the game can keep this pace the rest of the way through, then I can see it doing rather well.
I would rate this preview a 9/10.
Watch Black The Fall Steam Trailer:
You can take a look at Black The Fall on Steam.