Following in the footsteps of Children of Zodiarcs, Black The Fall is the latest Square Enix Collective game that's also the debut venture of the Bucharest-based Sand Sailor Studio. Said to reflect the team and their families' "first-hand experiences", the sombre puzzle platformer aims to "capture the feeling of what it was like to live in the communist state."
As such, Black The Fall portrays themes of surveillance, oppression and totalitarianism against a muted palette which is reminiscent of Playdead's similarly structured indie hit Inside. Here's some of that in motion:
"The world [protagonist] Black lives in might be fictional, but the system trying to beat him down is as bleak and oppressive as it has been in many countries around the world," says Sand Sailor's creative director Cristian Diaconescu. "Romania only broke free of the shackles of the Soviet bloc less than 30 years ago, so for many people living in the country today the memories are still fresh. We decided to take those stories and illustrate just what it was like to live within a restrictive regime in a game."
This plays out in stealthy set pieces whereby players are tasked with avoiding detection from cameras, guards and hostile dogs—which keep the otherwise obedient population in check.
Diaconescu continues: "That means players have to make use of the kind of tactics people who survived that era mastered—manipulation and stealth. The intentionally melancholic atmosphere also has a role to play here, and that’s something we’ve rendered in detail through image and sound. We’ve put no text or dialogue into the game at all—the story is told through experiences in play."
"Black The Fall was one of the first games that featured on the Collective feedback platform back in 2014, and was among the first Kickstarter campaigns we supported too," adds Square Enix's director of community and indie development Phil Elliott. "So it’s with great delight we’re working with the team at Sand Sailor Studio on releasing the game as well—both the game, and the team behind it, have come a very long way in that time, and we’re really looking forward to seeing people enjoy the experience they’ve created."
Black The Fall is available now for £10.99/$14.99 via the Humble Store (opens in new tab).