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Black: The Fall Early Access Preview

black 2014-07-08 23-47-37-52

Black: The Fall is an indie game from Sand Sailor Studio, a small Romanian game development team. It is now in early access via Steam. I had the opportunity to play it, so here’s a small preview of what’s in store right now. For the moment, just the first part of the game is available for you to play, but there are quite a few levels, five in fact, from easy to complex. On the game’s Steam page, the developers are saying this is just 15% of the entire experience, which I completed in around half an hour (although there are some secrets I haven’t found, so I’ll have to replay a few levels). This means that it will take you around 3-4 hours to complete the entire game when it will be available, maybe more depending on how complex the levels are going to be.

Black: The Fall is a side-scroller with a bit of action and some puzzle elements, along with really nice black and white visuals. There’s red blood too and quite a lot of it. Anyway, it’s nice to see that you can go for many play styles and the game is actually tracking that. At the end of each level, the game reveals a pie chart, telling you if you’ve been a butcher, a stalker or a ghost. Let me explain that. There’s combat. You get a pipe or something that actually looks like it and soon after that, a gun. There are probably more weapons in the full game, but for now that’s it.

Of course, you’ll need bullets and you find those in limited amounts across the levels, in barrels that you’ll have to break. The shooting animation is nice, but the barrel breaking and the pipe hitting could use some more work, as they are too slow or sluggish in my opinion. The character moves slowly, unless you’re running, but these two actions could be performed a bit faster, as they don’t feel that responsive. If you run out of bullets and you don’t feel like hiding, the pipe is actually useless against faster opponents.

This brings me to the second mechanic of the game and that’s hiding. There are lots of places you can hide and you can do that by pressing the space bar. By the way, this game badly needs controller support. It’s a perfect fit for it. Anyway, hiding from monsters like huge rats, dogs or some sort of humans (they call them natives) is a key part of the game. You will run out of bullets, no doubt about that. Fortunately, there are some secrets you can discover and they mostly reward you with this precious resource. The trick is that, being secrets, they are hard to spot, especially during the last levels when you no longer move just from left to right, but also up and down. There are lots of ladders allowing you to go to other (hidden) parts of the level to find something or to do something, like finding a lever to open a door.

There not that many puzzles for now and they are mostly environmental ones, meaning you have to figure out what to do to advance. I really hope the full game will include some more challenging ones, but for now they are not that complicated. Levers are a big thing actually, so you’ll have to find them, as well as hide and wait for the monsters to pass by you (which are not that aware of their environment as you might think). There are also platforming elements, meaning you’ll have to jump from time to time and even avoid some moving traps, but again, it’s nothing too complicated and we’ll probably see more of it later on.

Visually the game doesn’t go too far, but the artwork is amazing, as you can see in these screenshots (covering every level available now). The game doesn’t crash, but there are a few small bugs, like monster animations looping. Fortunately, this doesn’t happen often. Sound design is also nice, but they keep it simple and there’s not too much music (although towards the end I was awarded with a nice track).

I think Black: The Fall can turn out to be a nice indie game and I hope they will finish it soon enough. I’d like to see more complex levels, more weapons, more secrets, tweaked animations and more of this nice artwork. Black: The Fall is currently available via Steam with a 20% discount until July 11th, so if you’d like to support them or if you feel that you’d like to play it now or later, then you can give it a spin. It’s quite an atmospheric game and a chilling experience. Probably not for everyone, but certainly for some.

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