Wot I Think: Black The Fall

In development for quite a while, Black The Fall [official site] meandered through Early Access (then removed), Kickstarter, and Square Enix’s Collective indie publishing label. And today it’s finally out. But can it survive its inevitable comparisons to Limbo and Inside? Here’s wot I think:

Inside was a game that divided people. Some people – right-minded people – recognised that it was a turgid pile of drivel, while others were wrong. But we need to put those differences aside now, and approach Black The Fall afresh, and sadly note it makes similar mistakes without the same imagination. There are lovely moments, but they are scattered within a lot of unlovely.

Outrageously similar, Black The Fall starts out as yet another side-scrolling-yet-3D puzzle platformer set in the dark. You play some guy. Some guy with an aerial sticking out the back of his shirt, much like the other shirt-aerialled people seemingly enslaved in this achingly heavy-handed representation of a communist factory. To the right you must proceed, until you spring a trap that kills you, reload, then avoid the trap until the next trap springs.

People’s tolerance for games killing them in order to communicate they need to now not be killed varies. For me, I thought Limbo’s handling of this was exquisitely well done, delivered with a deft hand, an arched eyebrow, and a commentary on itself and all of gaming. When Inside tried the same but with all the wit and nuance removed, I found it cumbersome and often plain idiotic. Others didn’t, but it’s harder still to justify Black The Fall’s incessant surprise deaths, so often strung together in groups of three.

And if Inside had the vestigial remains of Limbo’s commentary with its delivery of this mechanic, BTF is just a hollow bleat. Its commentary is reserved for endlessly shouting “COMMUNISM WAS SIMPLY DREADFUL!” at you like you hadn’t heard. (More on this below.) But then it steps out of the dark.

Once the first third of the game is out the way, you appear outdoors into the crumbling remains of this oppressed world, and it’s as if this reveal of what a pretty game it is had an effect on the developers too. While its random-o-deaths are still a problem, the game starts to feel fresher, more reasonable, and less obnoxious.

It doesn’t start to make a lick more sense – this is a game in which the fascistic regime has not only painted pictograms showing how your character can escape from a situation, they’ve even included diagrams of your Xbox controller – but it starts to feel more rewarding. A huge part of that is down to how gosh-darned beautiful it looks once someone remembers to switch the lights on.

Along the way you pick up tools that let you solve puzzles, like a laser beam that can open doors, or even control the brains of other workers via their aerial. Later there’s a spider-dog robot thing, with whom you work in tandem. None of these puzzles are particularly witty in their implementation, nor surprising in their execution, but they’re all – well – something to do. Some puzzles are badly communicated and solved only by tiresome picking away. Others are close to lovely, and satisfying to complete. None make you think, “Gosh, wow, what a brilliant idea.”

Let me give you an example of the sort of problem, even when it’s not just about springing surprise traps on you in the pitch black:

You realise the solution to a puzzle is to command your spider-dog-bot to run ahead of you, drawing the fire of a distant robot. You do it and this affords you the ability to run into cover. You do it again, and it works again. You do it a third time, because the circumstances presented are identical for a third time in a row, but this time when you run across it turns out that the flooring tips up as you run onto it, catching the robot’s attention and instantly killing you.

You could notice the pivot on the flooring, although you could easily as not. But say you did: even if you try to dodge off the wobbly floor in time, the game will still kill you just for triggering the trap. It’s the game saying, “Do this to get over there. Do it again. Do it- HA HA TRICKED YOU!” Which is supremely dickish. It doesn’t help that the solution in this particular example can be found, used, but still not work, which leads to hair-pulling.

It can’t resist going back into the dark near the end, too, and this results in a dull and uninspired ending in which frustrations are driven deeper by even slower movement and terrible checkpointing (which is mostly good before this point). But that middle act does shine, although admittedly partly because the opening and close are quite so poor.

It’s worth noting a technical snafu – when I try to run the game in a resolution higher than 1920×1200, it expands the image above and below the edges of the screen, making it impossible to play. Which is annoying.

But the biggest issue is the clumsiness with which so much is delivered. Too many puzzles let you go past a point where they can be solved, and too often present seemingly viable solutions that are surprise deaths, meaning so much is a process of elimination rather than inspiration. That, and how utterly ridiculous it is to build a game so amazingly beautiful and then put half of it in near pitch dark.

I want to talk a bit more about the presentation of communism throughout. The developers are Romanian, where communism is clearly a heavy spectre rather than a mere feature in history books. It wasn’t until 1989 that it was overthrown after 43 brutal years, and they state on their website that they intend to talk about this in their games. Great. But I just don’t understand how this was intended to work in Black The Fall.

Discussion of oppressive communism and autocratic rule is not unusual in gaming. Many games portray this with the depiction of cruel regimes, the effects of mind-washing on populations, the act of rebellion by the player character, and drive home their message through subtext, fantastical interpretations, or abstract presentation. But Black The Fall just shows you actual pictures of Lenin on the wall, in between crowds of workers cheering mustachioed faces, or seething in rage at the Statue Of Liberty’s face. This feels so oddly jarring and as a result so overbearing when combined with the science-fiction elements of the game. Robot spiders, magic mind-controlling lasers, enormous robotic killing machines and so on make it clear this isn’t a literal game. So the conflation of these with real-world communist leaders, posters referencing the Romanian Revolution of ’89, and just in case that were too subtle, a really strange final sequence of showing you photographs from Romania’s history in a wildly incongruous way, results in something that just feels way off. It’s as clumsy as an iron fist. Maybe I’m entirely wrong, but I feel like these things can be effective when presenting brutal history, or impactful allegory, but not both together – one seems to undermine the truth of the other.

I feel pretty certain that I’m going to be bemused by other people’s enjoyment of the game’s fuck-you death traps, just as I was after Inside. And frankly, when so many endorsed Inside’s ending, which I found utterly moronic, I feel like I may as well be clucking in the wind. So I don’t doubt that Black The Fall will find its fans. I actively hated Inside, but I didn’t hate this at all. For me it felt far too derivative of Inside (it was of course in development before Inside’s release, but looked awfully different), which was itself derivative of Limbo, and without the precision of either. Utterly beautiful when it remembers to be, but more irritating than fun in execution.

Black The Fall is out now for Windows for £11/$15/15€ (10% off at the time of writing) via Steam

87 Comments

Top comments

  1. Cristian Black says:

    Hey John,

    It's Cristian form Sand Sailor (developers of Black The Fall).
    Just wanted to drop in and thank you for your well written and gloriously funny article. We had a blast reading it here at the studio and we all loved the passion you've put behind it.

    Keep it real,
    Cristian
  1. Matt_W says:

    Since it’s really difficult for me to crawl inside the mind of someone who hated Inside, I’m not sure how useful this review is to me. But, it sounds like if I liked Inside (which I did very much), I’ll probably like Black the Fall? Or maybe it’s like Inside but a little less polished in how it provides guard-rails for the player? Either way, it seems like an inevitable purchase for me.

    • Premium User Badge

      John Walker says:

      Good stuff. I hoped that making my position clear at the top would offer that indication, and of course more explicitly said it at the end. So yes, hopefully that’s helpful.

      • Matt_W says:

        Yeah, sorry, I wasn’t trying to bash your review. (I forgot what comment sections on your reviews start to look like.) I was just kind of voicing my thoughts after reading it. I wish more reviewers wrote like you do, with strongly voiced opinions so that I know where they stand and what they like. I read all of Tom Chick’s reviews, but almost never agree with his conclusions, simply because I know where he’s coming from and he is often able to illuminate aspects of games I would otherwise miss.

    • Kingseeker Camargo says:

      Yeah, I don’t want to jump on the Walker-bashing bandwagon that seems to be so popular these days because I really like the man’s writing; but as someone who thought Inside was rather clever, gorgeous to look at (both for its art style and its animations), tremendously immersive, it had two *great* endings and was overall one of the most thoroughly enjoyable gaming experiences in recent years, I wish this was reviewed by someone who also liked it. As it is, the comparisons in this review aren’t very helpful for me. Still a good read, for what it’s worth.

      • Ravenine says:

        Walker’s a slightly-above-mediocre writer at best, and I can’t for the life of me understand what the fucking obsession with putting writers on jobs they won’t like is. It’s like they’re trying to avoid the bias of having a person write about a genre they like by giving it to people who actively don’t like it. It bloody baffles me.

        • maninahat says:

          Because the alternative would result in reviewers writing only positive reviews, which would help no one? Also, RPS would have to keep expanding its staff just to eventually find someone to like Call of Duty: Whatever.

          • Ravenine says:

            Read my comment again. Giving it to people who actively dislike the genre is again biased, resulting in (biased) negative review, which, again, help no one.

          • maninahat says:

            What makes you think that John hates the “genre”? He has so far positively reviewed one and negatively reviewed two of these sorts of games.

            Also, taking you on your argument, why would giving the game to someone who likes a given genre produce an any less biased review? Surely it would be positively biased and so still have the exact same problem?

          • Kingseeker Camargo says:

            @maninahat:

            This game will draw comparisons to Inside, it’s just too similar to ignore that. So this can’t be a “clean” review anymore, if you will: It’s a comparison with an existing game.

            Giving this to someone who actively hated Inside can only result in an unhelpful review. Which is what’s happening right here.

            I know I like Inside, I want to know how this game compares to Inside’s strong points, because it quite clearly aims to please the same kind of people that enjoyed Inside. This review isn’t giving me any of that. It doesn’t even mention some of Inside’s most widely praised aspects.

            It’s like giving, say, Lords of the Fallen to someone who doesn’t like Souls games. When a game is so similar to another one, chances are it’s aimed to people who *do* like the original. Therefore, a review will necessarily compare both games, and that comparison should be done by someone who actually appreciates the original game and can talk about the kind stuff that fans care and need to know about.

          • Ravenine says:

            I have difficulty understanding why you have difficulty understanding me. I never said to give it to someone who likes it. Ideally, give it to someone who doesn’t care/is neutral about the whole thing. You don’t give the sidescroller addict sidescrollers to review, nor the guy you know hates them. Reviews are inherently subjective, but this is taking it to a new level.

            “Oh, hey, a game like Inside! I know, let’s give it to the one guy out of hundreds of reviewers who hated the fuck out of Inside!” I don’t even.

          • maninahat says:

            By your logic, John shouldn’t be allowed to review Limbo either, seeing as how it is very similar to Inside and so he most probably will hate it. Oh but wait, he really liked that game! I guess that evens out then and he must have a neutral opinion of these things?

  2. Xocrates says:

    “Some people – right-minded people – recognised that it was a turgid pile of drivel, while others were wrong”

    Sigh…

    Is it really that hard… is it really that fucking hard… to accept the fact that disagreeing with someone in a subjective matter does not mean that one side is right and the other is wrong?

    This is literally the reason I cannot stand to read most of John’s articles. By all means, have your opinion, but drop the “my opinion is infallible and everyone else is wrong” angle, which is at best arrogant and frequently disrespectful.

    I clearly need to pay more attention to the name on top of the article.

    • kincajou says:

      This, being on a phone i couldn’t see the author and it’s only at that sentence that i thought “oh… so i guess this was written by JW then?”

      What’s the point of being gratuitously antagonising?
      Aren’t we supposed to be trying to raise the civility of online discourse rather than lower it?

      • WombatDeath says:

        I genuinely find it baffling that people can read the quoted sentence without seeing John’s tongue planted so firmly in his cheek that he’s in danger of injuring himself. Sure, humour is subjective and you don’t have to find it funny, but I can only imagine that there’s some sort of cultural difference in play.

        On various forums I sometimes employ overwhelming arrogance for comedic effect. For example, a little while ago I posted a poll asking people to vote on their favourite flavour of crisp, and then berated the participants for getting it wrong (because the correct answer is, clearly, salt and vinegar). People appeared to understand that it was a joke and not an indication of a personality disorder, and yet John doesn’t appear to get the same benefit of the doubt.

        I hope it’s down to cultural misunderstanding, because my next guess is that there’s a section of gamers who dislike John’s left-wing tendencies and look for reasons to discredit him, which would indicate a certain unpleasantness.

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      John Walker says:

      Sigh… Is it really that hard… is it really that fucking hard, to recognise a joke?

      • Someoldguy says:

        The modern generation expect jokes to be tagged with emoticons to tell them what to think.

      • Xocrates says:

        I thought jokes were meant to be funny.

        A bit more seriously though. Even if your exact wording implied it was a joke, fact of the matter is you echoed that sentiment straight faced plenty of times.

        Further, being a joke does not change the meaning of what it’s actually being said. There is nothing about it that implies that you disagree with the sentiment (especially since, as I noted, you’ve echoed it seriously before) what you’re doing here is the equivalent of making a racist joke and then defending yourself by saying you’re not racist – the sentiment is still there, you’re just arguing it’s meaningless – which even if it is to you, might not be to others.

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          John Walker says:

          Ho boy. Leaving aside your discomforting misunderstanding of irony, could you link to a good few of these “plenty of examples”? Ta.

        • MonkeyJug says:

          There was no joke.

          It’s just a shit attempt at saving face after the fact.

        • urbanraccoon says:

          You must be fun at parties.

        • ColonelFlanders says:

          The irony of this comment is almost palpable. In response to the first sentence I say: Is it really that hard… is it really that fucking hard… to accept the fact that disagreeing with someone in a subjective matter does not mean that one side is right and the other is wrong?

          I mean c’mon man, if you’re going to lay a sick burn on John at least make it a good one. I know he’s a grumpy fuck sometimes but he is a good writer and will kick your literary arse.

          • Xocrates says:

            This is such a weird response. It skips over the entire point just to argue John is a better writer than me, which… isn’t even in question?

            Like, seriously, nothing you’re actually saying disagrees with me.

      • Urthman says:

        I get the joke and understand the purpose of the joke but am pretty tired of this particular joke. It’s not even a sufficiently low, groan-inducing pun-like joke to be able to enjoy for the badness. It doesn’t seem to have that property of if you repeat it enough times it starts getting funny again.

        • Daymare says:

          I had to read that specific part of the paragraph a few times. At first I took it seriously, then found that was a really douchy thing to say. So I figured, it can’t be meant that way, it’s probably hyperbolic, and probably meant as a joke, following that line of thought.

          Then I re-read the review of Inside again and got uncertain if it was meant as a joke, again.

          So I guess maybe the joke isn’t very fitting, contextually? I’m sure John knows that opinions are subjective and thus, can’t be *wrong*, as he wrote.

          • Wulfram says:

            I think Mr Walker generally operates on the basis that opinions are subjective, and thus he can’t be wrong.

          • Daymare says:

            Sure! His opinions are his own, after all. John’s writing’s just quite … confrontational?

            People (me included) may disagree with the conclusions he reaches — but it’s his review.

            Personally, I really love all those undersea/cutesy games Pip gets excited over. Our opinions line up more, and I’m more into her cheerful writing style.

            But! I still enjoy reading both their stuff, FWIW. Pretty much every writer here has something special going for them.

          • Daymare says:

            To explain what I mean with ‘confrontational’: For instance, John writes about The Boy in Inside dying a repeatedly: “For no reason, for no statement, simply because I guess they thought it worked in Limbo so did it again.”

            Whereas I would’ve thought they did this because that’s the sort of dark games they LIKE to make. (There are also implied narrative reasons, but maybe I know that only because I’ve read the ending discussions afterward.)

            In the same sense that Bloolborne, a game that kills you lots till you’ve internalized the enemy moveset is very similar to Dark Lols. Dying a bunch is part of the shitty, broken, dehumanized world the player character finds themselves in.

            But, you know, opinions. Some just rile people up more.

        • Urthman says:

          So basically the joke was 6/10, rent don’t buy. Brought to you by objectivejokereviews.com

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      Drib says:

      I am fairly certain that sentence was aimed as a joke. Pretty sure you know that, too.

      Edit: Whoop, John beat me to it.

    • Legion23 says:

      Thank you for the pointer. I only just realised that the articles I have problems with on this side are written by John Walker.

    • Ralsto says:

      Aw. He’s deleting posts that actually call him out on his bullshit too. How adorable.

    • lupinewolf says:

      Wow man you do your best to make the review interesting and give it character and people give you shit about it. What the hell do they want? There’s not even a scoring system here, it’s clearly all about “this game gave this particular person, whose tastes you come to know and hate/love by reading more from them, this feeling or another. Also puns, musical references and old-man rants.” Lighten up people damn.

      • dozurdogbite says:

        Xactly!

      • maninahat says:

        No! It’s extremely important to me that strangers validate my opinions on games I have already played and like. In no way are reviewers allowed to write for those who haven’t played the game who aren’t me, nor should they be expecting people to understand jokes, nuance, or conflicting opinions. I find all these things to be a personal insult.

    • Xocrates says:

      To clarify, because I believe I came across as more confrontational than I really should have.

      I am not trying to put in question John’s integrity as a journalist, or the validity of his opinions. I think he does a good job at justifying his opinions, even where I disagree with either the point or the form of the argument(which happens often enough that John’s reviews are largely meaningless to me).

      That said, I don’t like his writing style. It’s hard to tell how much of it is a persona or not, but fact of the matter is it often comes across as arrogant and lacking in empathy (or as others put it, a “grumpy fuck”), which makes it read like it is unnecessarily aggressive and confrontational.

      I am fine with letting it live, so long as I can ignore it. As I mentioned, I started reading this by accident because It looked like an interesting enough game and literally the only reason I replied is that the statement I quoted managed the double whammy of both highlighting everything I don’t like about John’s style AND being an example of one of the very few “pet” peeves that trully annoy me.

      To sum it up, I have no vendetta against John. I’m merely not part of his audience, and being here was an accident.

      • patstew says:

        Is this an american english thing? Or are you a non-native speaker? I’m not trying to pick on you or criticise your posts but I have difficulty imagining that someone brought up in in the UK would understand that sentence literally. If that kind of dry humour goes right past you, I think you might be missing a significant amount of stuff written on RPS, not just by John.

        • cpt_freakout says:

          It’s probably just a personality thing. I’m not a native speaker and was most definitely not raised in the UK and I immediately recognized it as a joke and laughed (in fact, the whole review and John’s style in general is pretty funny). That’s just how it is – some people can’t find the humor in jabs like that, so all you can really do is agree to disagree about what’s funny and what’s not and that’s it.

        • Xocrates says:

          Non-native, if you wish to know.

          And for what is worth, I did understand that it was meant to be taken as a joke. I just find it to be a really obnoxious one.

          It does not help I’ve grown tired of the “cynical critic that’s smarter than everyone else” shtick that was (and still is) everywhere years ago.

          • noom says:

            I think what you’re missing is the very British self-effacing tone of that comment. He’s not shooting for a joke in a setup>punchline way, it’s just highlighting the fact that John accepts his opinion differs from the consensus. Call it a character quirk that you don’t like maybe, but it’s only obnoxious in a deliberately comically overstated way to underline the subjectivity of opinion.

            Hmm. I did not expect to be deconstructing John Walker’s metahumour when I woke up this morning. Hope I’m not too far off the mark…

          • Xocrates says:

            Except the joke is the opposite of self-effacing. It would be self-effacing if the “right-minded people” were the ones who disagreed with him, which means that even if you interpret the joke as being ironic – and there really is nothing to imply it is since John evoked the sentiment seriously before – it comes across, at best, as a humble-brag.

          • Merry says:

            Except the joke is the opposite of self-effacing.

            I’m sorry, but you’re simply not getting the joke here and it’s becoming embarrassing.

            On top of that, it’s very strange of you to be complaining about what you thought was John ridiculing people who don’t agree with him, and in the process doing exactly the same yourself.

            Please don’t come back with “I wasn’t”, “I didn’t”, “I wouldn’t” and just drop it please.

          • Xocrates says:

            I was going to drop it. But now you’ve baited me back in.

            Maybe I’m just not getting the joke. Fine. I can live with that. I already admitted I’m not one of John’s audience.

            But I do have a problem with you accusing me of ridiculing those who disagree with me, which I’ve tried very hard not to do. Re-reading my previous posts I’ve done my best to avoid attacking other users or their opinions, often choosing to avoid replying altogether if they don’t directly address my points, which I’ve been trying to clarify or defend.

            As far as I can see, the closest I got was the throwaway “I thought jokes were meant to be funny” line, because it’s such an obvious comeback to the “it’s just a joke” defense that I found it hard to resist – and yes, the irony here does not escape me.

        • kincajou says:

          Same here, i’m a non native speaker and understand this “joke” as a concept but as cpt_freakout says it falls flat for some.. in this case for me it’s just needlessly confrontational (irrespective of the intended outcome) a bit like someone saying “i want to punch xxx in the face” i can understand they are not serious but it doesn’t do anything for me other than think “well, that’s needlessly agressive”

          In a similar vein apparently the python’s “thin mint” sketch in the meaning of life is comedy gold (oh, the amount of times someone’s quoted it and got the room laughing…) but to me it’s just… well, disgusting.
          And i do understand the surreal part of it and the facial/body mimicry that people find funny… i just can’t get past the disgusting element of it all…

          so we are just different people, my main point was simply to say that for me the “joke” could not have fallen flatter than a certain whale in the hitchhickers guide to the galaxy.

          Agree to disagree, no?

          • Merry says:

            for me it’s just needlessly confrontational

            Oh please. You don’t like what you thought John meant, so he shouldn’t have written it?

          • Xocrates says:

            @Merry: And you don’t like that we don’t like it, so we shouldn’t have commented?

            John’s as free to say what he wants as we are of disagreeing.

      • kincajou says:

        I’d been thinking on howto clarify my feelings, you have done so better than I could have.

        Thank you for the thought out and reasoned comments :)
        (also RPS, please have the author names pop up on mobile devices! sometimes i’m not in a mood that’s receptive to johns style and we all end up here!)

    • australopithecus says:

      For Christ’s sake, if you can’t detect irony when it’s this obvious, perhaps you’d be better sticking to RPS fan-mag PC Gamer, where they sign-post every piece of humour with a “just kidding guys!”, presumably to dampen the righteously indignant comments of the semi-literate or American /sarcasm /joke :D ;)

  3. Someoldguy says:

    Way back in the dawn of PC history, our school computer lab had a single Apple II and a handful of Tandy TRS 80’s. Most of our computer games were eagerly typed in by hand from computer magazines. Whenever anyone actually owned a computer several of us would cluster around it breathlessly watching them play exciting new games. New games loaded from tape instead of typed, ready to play in a few minutes instead of an hour or more. Awesome!

    Memory is a tricky thing, but I’m pretty sure it was someone with richer than usual parents who came back one term with a BBC micro and showed us his new adventure game. You were stuck in a dark tunnel and had to escape. A command prompt beckoned.

    >walk
    “You walk cautiously along the tunnel. A spike stabs upwards from the floor, impaling your right foot. You are dead. Start again? Y/N”

    >Y
    >Hop
    “You hop cautiously along the tunnel. You narrowly avoid a spike that stabs upwards from the floor”
    >Hop
    “You hop cautiously along the tunnel. An axe swings down from the roof and decapitates you. You are dead. Start again? Y/N”
    >Y
    >Hop
    >Crawl

    I could go on, but you get the idea. The whole thing was a terrible idea back in 1979 and it’s a terrible idea today. At least in 1979 it was original.

    • Premium User Badge

      Nauallis says:

      lol yeah. And the fact that the “fun” that this apparently creates is tantamount to the stress relief of getting over one’s frustration at irritating game design, not anything fun that the game itself is actively providing.

    • Freud says:

      Games back that far were one man affairs. It’s possible that the designer, who was intimately familiar with the game didn’t realize how hard or random it could be to others.

      There wasn’t any beta testing or early access in those days.

      • Someoldguy says:

        No it genuinely was like that, and deliberately so. There were absolutely no cues as to what was coming next. You just had to die, work out the word that saved you from death, add it to the chain of proceeding words and then go through the sequence again to find out what the next death would be.

    • Fnord73 says:

      Lol.

      “>l at door”

      “Door has spikes. They will sting you.”

  4. Freud says:

    Someone who thinks Limbo is amazing and Inside terrible seems to just randomly take a position and dig in, which given John Walkers review history probably isn’t that far from the truth.

    Limbo and Inside are minor variations of the same tune.

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      John Walker says:

      There’s always the possibility that I expounded on the differences at length in the linked Inside review, and summarised them here, but you could always just write about poor old Straw Walker instead! So much more cathartic when you don’t need to think.

      • Freud says:

        I’ve played both games. I have as much experience of Limbo and Inside as you do.

        • Premium User Badge

          John Walker says:

          That’s lovely, but doesn’t do an enormous amount to support your “random position and dig in” thesis.

          • Freud says:

            The games are sibling games. You being ok with Limbo’s random deaths and hating Insides (which had fewer of them) is a bizarre stance. The games share the same themes of free will. Inside has the stronger puzzles and more interesting world. Liking one of them and disliking the other doesn’t make any sense.

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            John Walker says:

            Unless one were to consider the arguments made.

          • Freud says:

            Alternatively consider the arguments made and come to the conclusion they don’t make any sense. A point, ironically given your insistence on others reading what you write, I have to make for the third time.

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            John Walker says:

            You were way better in the ’20s.

    • cpt_freakout says:

      There can be vast chasms in minor variations that allow for quite different interpretations, Sigmund. I mean come on, if I dream of cows and my mother, it’s not the same as if my mother dreams of cows and herself, right?

  5. Shazbut says:

    Somehow, despite Inside being apparently an objectively bad game, I experienced it as if it was a masterpiece.

  6. Quite So says:

    I only died a few times playing Inside, so I can’t speak to how the game experience would be if I had toes for thumbs. It’s quite possible the game is terrible, but I didn’t notice because I rushed through it.

    I’m tempted to get Black the Fall, but I’m concerned that I may end up solving the puzzles too quickly to appreciate how awful they are.

  7. Cristian Black says:

    Hey John,

    It’s Cristian form Sand Sailor (developers of Black The Fall).
    Just wanted to drop in and thank you for your well written and gloriously funny article. We had a blast reading it here at the studio and we all loved the passion you’ve put behind it.

    Keep it real,
    Cristian

  8. fuggles says:

    Man.. did not enjoy limbo. It’s weird despising a game but knowing others like it.

    Still, this has robots! And a title I can’t parse. And it’s beautiful.

    Now the fall, that was a great game.

  9. gi_ty says:

    Damn, I laughed a good few times during reading this article. Then I got to the comments and guffawed several times. Don’t ever change John. Your articles always get the best of the internet to come out with their hilarious posts. I can’t believe how thin skinned people can be.

    • Freud says:

      Doesn’t seem all that meaningful to dress up trolling as reviews, but it would explain his views on No Man’s Sky and Kingdom’s of Amalur.

  10. QWERTZ_KNIGHT says:

    Man, did i not like this Article.

    • Premium User Badge

      Harlander says:

      Man, I didn’t mind this comment, but it was hardly the apex of the form.

    • Merry says:

      Man, did i not like this Article

      I think you’re missing a question mark there.

      • Robert The Rebuilder says:

        Man, did? i not like this Article

        Fixed.

        • QWERTZ_KNIGHT says:

          Oh, i obviously hurt your feelings. Doesn’t change the fact that this is a pretty awful Article. I recommend you get a grip, instead of bitching about different opinions.

          • Spudnik says:

            Hey

            I knew a young fella called QWERTZ_KNIGHT once. We worked on the line together. You know, he once told me a story where in he tried to inject custard up his bum to enable him to get an erection to satisfy his lover.

            Funny story. Both he and and the Merman were covered in custard. The strange thing is he demanded his merman be top half fish! Not sure if he just couldn’t live without access to a delightful penis or just loved kissing a fish.

            We never got to the bottom of that one. He was soon transferred to the jellied eel factory. Interestingly his move was associated with an increased in jellied eel abuse cases investigated by the metropolitan police.

            They were salad days. Nice to hear QWERTZ_KNIGHT is still alive. Lovely boy, stank of fish and blood.

  11. Laurentius says:

    Discussion of oppressive communism and autocratic rule is not unusual in gaming.

    This is bonkers, discussion of opressive communism, at least those that is real is completely absent in games.

    “Many games portray this with the depiction of cruel regimes, the effects of mind-washing on populations, the act of rebellion by the player character, and drive home their message through subtext, fantastical interpretations, or abstract presentation.”

    Oh yeah that, generally fairly typical dystopian opression that no-one living under real opressive communism won’t be recognizing. No, it wasn’t some dude that have a monument in every city, it was Lenin. Yes, communism rule in USSR and Eastern Europe share many similiarities with other opressive regimes, yes some are are real nature of those systems but it was also unique and specific in many aspects and these are completely absent in video games.

  12. DeFrank says:

    Wot I Know

  13. jecomans says:

    I read I think three other (aside from Walker’s) reviews of Inside, and all made a point that Inside never repeated a situation or puzzle, being fresh throughout. Then played it, and like JW correctly said, everything is repeated. And repeated, not built upon in a interesting progression. I’ve no idea what those other reviews were on about, and thought it was such a let down after Limbo. This game has been on my radar for years, but I think I’ll take John’s word on this one.

  14. Spudnik says:

    I, in fact, agree with Xocrates. This game is shit!

  15. VisibleMachine says:

    What about Inside though?

  16. cosmitz says:

    As a Romanian, let me shed a bit of light. The game is completely crawling in absolutely every detail with elements which, i’ll be frank, are entirely cultural to romanians and almost impossible to translate across. What some people see as just backdrop, i saw as the struggle of my parents sitting in line for hours to get some basic commodity. The secret listening room under the very-romanian-style chruch? That’s the romanian Securitate famous for tapping and listening in everywhere, with moles and spies at every corner to catch anyone saying anything ‘bad’ about former Dear Leader and the State.

    As a gamer, sure, the mechanics were a bit staggery and lacking the wonderful flow and touch of Inside, the puzzles were here and there, hit or miss, as well as the way the player interacts. Some solutions need true outside-the-box-thinking in a game that supposed to be about inside-the-box puzzles and that doesn’t mesh well. But for the 1.5-2h it takes to finish it, it’s bearable.

    If you’re wondering wether to play this, just think on this for a bit. This game is as deep and complex “lore”-wise as Inside, but this isn’t about untangling some story threads of a horrible totalitarian regime. This is about a real totalitarian regime and its overthrowal. Peopled lived it. We lived it. And minus mechs and laser fields, everything in the game is almost on-the-nose real.

    Consider it more akin to Valiant Hearts, if lacking all the flavory text to actuall be educational.

  17. Nahadoth says:

    Great review. Not only was it well written and entertaining, but I now am sure these types of games are definitely not for me and even Limbo is something I should avoid.

  18. Marclev says:

    Just finished this and I think it felt more like playing the computer game equivalent of walking through a memorial museum, the likes you get in several European countries that had a recent(ish) autocratic regime. The puzzles (somewhat disappointingly) actually got easier towards the end, as the game becomes more focused on hammering home it’s message, which as you’ve said it’s about as subtle about as a sledge hammer. Still, I found it quite effective and the ending sequence powerful. Some points about the review:

    It’s harder still to justify Black The Fall’s incessant surprise deaths, so often strung together in groups of three.

    I didn’t feel there were many surprise death, as such. Most (if not all) were quite well telegraphed and I never really felt like the game was unfair.

    Its commentary is reserved for endlessly shouting “COMMUNISM WAS SIMPLY DREADFUL!” at you like you hadn’t heard.

    Well to be fair to them, it probably was!!!!

    When it’s not just about springing surprise traps on you in the pitch black:

    There was only one place I remember that happening, and as long as you used your ears, as the game clearly told you to by one of its wall scribblings that you mention elsewhere in the review, it was easy to solve (accessibility concerns aside).

    It can’t resist going back into the dark near the end, too, and this results in a dull and uninspired ending in which frustrations are driven deeper by even slower movement and terrible checkpointing

    Are you sure your brightness settings were right? I never had any problems seeing anything, especially not at the end and this, and other similar comments, imply that you may have had a settings issue where you couldn’t see what was going on. That would certainly explain your frustration with the game constantly killing you, if you couldn’t see what you were meant to be doing.

  19. Ragnar says:

    I liked Inside better than Limbo precisely because it had fewer FU death traps. To borrow your example, there was nothing like the twin hanging crates of Limbo, and most of the death traps were telegraphed and thus avoidable.

    I also loved Inside’s visuals, the animations, and just seeing more of the world. Exploring the world was my primary motivation for playing. And I thought the puzzles were better – I felt the latter part of Limbo was complicated puzzles for puzzles’ sake.

    I do agree that the ending was rubbish (and the “true” ending felt like an Easter egg that you couldn’t find without a guide), and that the one scene with the enemy felt at best out of place and at worst a betrayal. That could have been done better/differently. The death animations were uncomfortably gruesome, but I felt they fit the distopian setting.

    So given that, I’m not sure how to feel about Black the Fall – given that I liked Inside better than Limbo, but not for the reasons you seem to think most people did.

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