By: Casey Curran
One of the worst feelings I can get when playing a game is to be impressed upon starting it up, only for the feeling to vanish entirely once the game hands me control. The Fall, unfortunately, falls into this category. Despite some interesting ideas, it has a problem standing out.
For the most part, The Fall’s controls work well. They are limiting, but mostly in a way that helps add to the game’s atmosphere and central mechanics. Running and jumping both work well while aiming with the right stick has an excellent amount of precision.
However, there is one aspect that really ends up bringing the controls down. In order to interact with the world, you must first highlight an area with the flashlight, hold down the R button, and use the left stick to decide how you want to interact with it. Not only is this one of the most counter-intuitive gameplay decisions I have ever seen, it makes interacting with the world, the core gameplay hook, tedious and annoying.
Upon starting The Fall, one thing becomes instantly clear: the people at developer Over the Moon really love the movie Alien. The game takes place on a deserted planet with a dark, lonely atmosphere. There is a strong feeling of isolation, and the game stays well-grounded in sci-fi, with a neat concept of an AI in a space suit guiding an unconscious pilot’s body to safety before he dies after crash landing on a strange planet.
The game also takes a page from Limbo as most objects in the environment look as though they are shadows in the world. The look suits the game very well, as it only adds to the great atmosphere. Music and sound effects, meanwhile, are hauntingly creepy, always giving a sense of fear despite how little action actually happens in the game. Voice acting feels hokey, yet is completely done by AI characters, which makes it feel more believable.
Very much like Limbo, The Fall blends a 2D platformer with many trimmings from point-and-click adventures. Where it separates itself, however, is how it also takes a page from the Metroid series as you will gather new items and power ups to access new areas of the world. Though the process is the same as Other M, where most power ups are items your AI grants permission to use functions that are available to it all along. Only when not using one puts the pilot in danger will the AI allow a function.
Unfortunately, this design choice hurts the story as you will see areas where using a function will come in handy, yet the AI still refuses to grant access to it. Considering that the AI is rushing to get the pilot to safety, this gets in the way of enjoying the story and atmosphere, the game’s biggest hook.
The aforementioned control issues also hurt the experience as interacting with the world is the basis for the entire experience. In a sense, while Limbo blended the two genres perfectly, The Fall is held back by taking too much from the point-and-click adventure genre. The result is a 2D platformer with very awkwardly implemented point-and-click trimmings.
The point-and-click adventure ideas holding it back do not end there, either, as using items usually feels too contextual — such as a robot arm which can only grab an item through one, and only one, gate — and too much based on finding objects than puzzle solving. I felt I had less time to enjoy exploring and interacting with the world and more turning every stone until I could finally get what I needed. And when I solved a puzzle, I did not feel much of a sense of accomplishment; instead it was more confusion over how the developers expected me to figure that out.
If you enjoy great atmosphere in a game and are a big fan of the original Alien, then there may be enough in The Fall for you to enjoy what it has to offer. If, however, you want more in terms of puzzle solving or exploration, then it may not quite offer everything you want.