Black The Fall Review

Richard Walker

Let's get this out of the way right off the bat. Yes, Black The Fall shares a lot of similarities with Playdead's Inside, both in its themes and colour palette. And yes, Black The Fall isn't nearly as good as the Danish studio's Limbo follow-up, its puzzles a little on the repetitive side, its controls sometimes a mite finicky and the animations of its protagonist a little rough around the edges.

In fulfilling its remit as a puzzle-platformer, however, Black The Fall does a pretty fine job, the nuts and bolts of the thing by and large pretty sound. The story too, such as it is, is nicely delivered without any dialogue whatsoever (again, just like Inside and Limbo), the premise being that you play as a worker subjected to years of toil, who suddenly snaps and decides to make his escape.

Escaping the clutches of Black The Fall's overtly communist state won't be easy, though, with machine gun turrets lining practically every corridor, while various traps and hazards need to be overcome if you ever want to breathe in the sweet outside air and enjoy your freedom from the tyranny of the jackbooted state. Just stay the hell away from the turrets' red field-of-view, or you're dead meat.

Puzzles in Black The Fall primarily make use of a laser pointer mounted to the protagonist's arm that can be used to control brainwashed workers, distract guards, toggle mechanisms and later in the game, control a diminutive dog/beetle-esque robot buddy. It's this latter part of the game that proves slightly more challenging than the preceding first half, your mechanical helper creating new solutions to a range of conundrums.

Otherwise, you're traversing obstacles, using the laser pointer to manipulate objects and evading patrolling slave masters using stealth or whatever cunning tricks you have up your sleeve. Some puzzles require a little lateral thinking, others are physics-based, while certain challenges simply demand a little co-ordination and careful timing. There's never anything too intricate, though, and you'll often arrive at a solution fairly quickly.

There are times you'll get stuck, but there's always a logical answer, and more often than not it's staring you right in the face. As such, chances are you'll breeze through Black The Fall in about 2-3 hours, and could probably speedrun it in less than an hour. It's not a particularly lengthy game, but while it lasts, Black The Fall is a fun enough journey, telling a genuinely worthwhile story based upon the real-life experiences of Bucharest-based dev Sand Sailor Studio's families under the yoke of a communist dictatorship in Romania.

As such, Black The Fall conjures some rather powerful imagery, be it the procession of hunched, oppressed workers, the rows of bicycle generators they're forced to pedal non-stop, a mountain of discarded shoes, machines constantly working and belching out billowing smoke, or rows of open wooden coffins waiting for the next consignment of dead bodies to fill them.

And yet, despite its atmospheric, dark, often monochrome environments, and semiotic clues woven into each new puzzle - like a sign depicting headphones to denote a sound-based obstacle ahead – Black The Fall can't help but seem slightly formulaic, some of its puzzles boiling down to simplistic, sometimes frustrating trial and error.

Nonetheless, Black The Fall is a solid, mildly enjoyable game while it lasts, delivering some fairly memorable moments, and the achievements encourage a bit of extra exploration and discovery of hidden corners where you'll find people hiding from the regime.

Black The Fall is not bad at all then, worth giving a try if you enjoyed the likes of Limbo, Inside and its ilk, even if it can't quite measure up to the level of its stablemates. Sand Sailor's effort might be short, but there are just about enough smart ideas to set it apart from the crowd, even if the overall execution isn't quite up to scratch.

Black The Fall

Taking on some heavy subject matter, Black The Fall has moments that will live in the memory once it's all over. And while Sand Sailor's game might be on the brief side and occasionally frustrating, it's also perfectly fine. But that's about the long and short of it.

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Subtle, incredibly spare music and sound effects lend to Black The Fall's oppressive atmosphere.


Dark and monochrome interiors punctuated by some colourful, hopeful exteriors. There are some fairly memorable sights too.


Black The Fall's core platforming mechanics are pretty solid, while the puzzles make sense, are well put together and nicely thought out.


A little on the short side, you could easily complete this in a single sitting. Still, what's here is not too bad, if a tad rough around the edges.


The modest selection of achievements increase the longevity somewhat, especially if you're going to go for the 1000G. It's a pretty easy one.

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