As far as underrated gems go, Black The Fall is is at the top of my list, while it sits unlisted for so many others. Under the grasp of communism, you explore the dystopian world of this side-scrolling platformer.
This is a setting hand-selected for more than just an eerie atmosphere to elicit a sense of unease from the player; the developers at Sand Sailor Studios specifically wanted to express their discomfort regarding the political climate in their home country of Romania.
Many draw parallels between Black The Fall and games such as Limbo and Inside, but with the unique real-world context and setting in mind, it stands on its own two legs. The aesthetic and the design of BTF as a whole is vastly different and far more distinctive. From the giant, inhumane mechanical robots that oppress the populous to the abandoned civilisations looming in the misty background, every image is striking in its terror.
During your travels through the cold, metallic and bleak facilities of the communist controlled landscape, witnessing untold oppression of the masses as they slave away powering the government, you are greeted by glimpses of optimism, hinting at the reward that escape truly offers. This reward is earned through engaging puzzles that present a challenge as early as the second chapter.
There are so many beautiful moments amongst the horrific landscapes that flourish without an overly complex user-interface to clog them up
Whilst I am terrible at anything that requires intellectual thought in gaming, I did not feel patronised or unfairly pressed as the puzzles gradually and, most importantly, organically rose in difficulty and complexity. Combat is non-existent in the game and so everything is done through stealth and deception but in a far less confrontational manner than most games.
Through making the most of your surroundings, you can get past guards and through highly surveilled areas - puzzles are woven into the foundation of BTF in a subtle way.
To begin with, the player has nothing but their own wit and intellect to survive. However, as you progress, you employ the companionship of a robotic dog and the powers of a stolen designator tool which opens the door to more thought-provoking experiences. Or, if you’re like me, it opens the door to immense struggle as you scramble to figure out even the most obvious of hindrances to your progression but, ultimately, that makes the click of realisation all the more satisfying.
In numerous reviews, from IGN to Metacritic, it is often described as nothing but a shadow of the previously mentioned Limbo and Inside but, from one glance at the Steam reviews, it is clear that players absolutely adore this title.
Sand Sailor Studios specifically wanted to express their discomfort regarding the political climate in their home country of Romania.
There are so many beautiful moments amongst the horrific landscapes that flourish without an overly complex user-interface to clog them up, and whilst the entire foundation of the game is built on puzzles, Black The Fall avoids throwing unnecessary filler at the player when so many triple-A titles do.
It’s short, it’s beautiful, it’s impactful and purchasing the game not only provides a brilliant experience but it funds a new team of passionate developers.