Developed By: Over the Moon
Published By: Over the Moon
Category: Action, Adventure, Platformer, Puzzle
Release Date: 5.10.18
High-concept sidescrolling sci-fi point’n’click adventure? Where do I sign up? Like something straight out of Philip K. Dick or Harlan Ellison’s messed-up dystopia generating brains, The Fall for the Nintendo Switch arrives to scratch all my biggest genre and theme-specific itches.
The opening seconds of The Fall sees a Mark-7 powered combat suit crash into the surface of a junk-covered planet. Its pilot badly injured and unresponsive, the suit gives command to its A.R.I.D. (Autonomous Robotic Interface Device) AI unit to continue the mission. One of many problems, however, is that the suit is badly damaged and many of its systems are not operational, most vitally the mission logs. With no other mission directives, A.R.I.D. sets to its default mission of finding medical aid for its injured pilot. A.R.I.D. quickly discovers itself to be in an abandoned industrial facility and is tasked with navigating her way through it in the hopes of reaching the facility’s medical center before its pilot breathes his last.
A.R.I.D.’s adventure through the destroyed machinery and abandoned industrial center brings to mind shades of Harlan Ellison’s classic story-turned-adventure game I Have No Mouth And I Must Scream. The facility’s nefarious Caretaker and mysterious Administrator make for perfectly Ellisonian tormentors, and the twist ending is one befitting my favorite author of all time, Philip K Dick. The story was well-written and managed to wring a full emotional journey entirely out of characters programmed not to have any emotions at all, creating a meaningful commentary on the nature of existence and free will. It was a joy to play through, despite its seriously depressing subject matter.
The Fall mixes some light metroidvania style sidescrolling and platforming action with the point and click mechanics of classic adventure games like the aforementioned I Have No Mouth And I Must Scream. A.R.I.D. begins the game with the ability to run, jump, and inspect/collect objects around it, but during various encounters and investigations during the game, more and more of the Mark 7 suit’s abilities are restored or unlocked for A.R.I.D.’s use. You gain access to a gun to complete some shooting sequences which reminded me of the combat from Gemini Rue, another personal favorite sci-fi adventure game. You also get a cloaking device and wireless networking capability to aid in the action sequences and some puzzles.
While the shooting sequences are kind of fun, the main focus of the gameplay is puzzle-solving, which is much more rewarding. A.R.I.D. is confronted with roadblocks ranging from locked doors to giant slug queens, and collecting the items needed to pass these blocks and figuring out how to use them correctly is a fulfilling and challenging process. Solving these problems often goes hand-in-hand with A.R.I.D.’s progression as a character, and it is this direct link between gameplay and story that makes the puzzles so satisfying to complete. It created the impression that I was the one moving the story, not that I was watching as the story unfolded, which is a small but powerful distinction.
The graphics are fairly standard 3D models in a 2D game faire, nothing exceptional. I don’t mean to dismiss them entirely or make them sound horrible; they just aren’t were the meat of the game lies. The 3D models for the characters are sharp and detailed, which is really just something that should be a given in this day and age. Unless you’re trying to specifically capture the feel of a past generation of games, the graphics should be smooth on today’s technology. The character models and backgrounds alike are creepy as heck and generate a fantastically dark and spooky atmosphere. The game does this by relying heavily on shadows, which can make the backgrounds and objects needed to advance the story hard to see sometimes; but darkness and uncertainty are a major themes in the story, so on that level the darkness doesn’t really matter. Besides, you’ve got a flashlight which illuminates small parts of the screen at a time, so the impact of those shadows on gameplay is minimal. I honestly don’t even know why I mentioned it; probably just to bump word count.
The audio for The Fall is a highlight as well. While the sound effects and creepy music add to the atmosphere of the game, the real treasure is the game’s voice acting cast. A.R.I.D.’s even-tempered, matter-of-fact speech contrasts brilliantly with the character’s growing self-awareness, and when it cracks in moments of self-doubt the effect is immediate and devastatingly effective. The Caretaker’s grim robotic monotone exaggerates his single-minded obsession with his role. Finally, the Administrator’s struggle between pre-recorded responses and his desire to develop an individual personality are a fascinating study on the nature of self-determination all their own.
The Fall is a port from the PC, Mac, and Linux originally, and as such it has no motion controls or touch controls of which the Switch can make use. The game’s graphics look fine either docked or undocked, so there’s no real preference there either. But you really owe it to yourself to hear the brilliant voice work on some nice speakers, so if you have a nice audio setup for your TV I really recommend playing it docked. In the end, though, it doesn’t really matter how, just play the dang thing.
TL;DR: Just buy it.
Buy The Fall
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