A Short Pause Review: The Fall (PS4) - Falling Head Over Heels With This Atmospheric Adventure-Puzzler
Title: The Fall
Developer: Over The Moon Games (@OverTheMoonGms)
Platforms: PS4/Xbox One/Wii U/PC
The Fall, from Over The Moon Games, has been out for over a year now and, despite being a huge fan of sci-fi games, I’m ashamed to admit that I missed its initial launch on the Wii U awhile back. Thankfully, The Fall arrived on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One this week, and I was ecstatic to finally get my hands on a copy of the game. Every time I saw screenshots of The Fall, it reminded me of The Swapper (pretty decent game!), which was one of my favorite games of 2014. Even though The Fall isn’t a puzzler in the mold of The Swapper, it’s very much a challenging adventure game that is reminiscent of Grim Fandango or Broken Age.
The story of The Fall begins with a person falling from space, barreling through a foreign planet’s atmosphere, crashing onto the surface below, and penetrating deep within the planet’s core before arriving in a strange cavern. No worries though, the suit worn by its occupant is packed with all sorts of survival abilities, including an Antimatter Shield which helps to absorb some of the impact that comes with a plummet from an altitude above the atmosphere. A few other abilities, such as a cloaking mechanism, aren’t readily available at the start of the game, but will come into play later on. When your suit awakens — yes, your suit has built-in A.I. — it can tell that the human pilot inside has been rendered unconscious from the fall. The A.I., named A.R.I.D., determines that finding medical attention for its pilot is its number one priority. At this point, you — assuming the role of A.R.I.D. — discover that this cavern you’re in is actually connected to a facility buried deep beneath the planetary surface. This is where you’ll need to make your way towards in order to retrieve the medical supplies necessary to help your pilot companion. In this cavern, you discover another suit similar to yours tied to a cross and, in the process of networking that suits A.I., you discover that like A.R.I.D, this suit is unaware of what its intended mission was and why it was on this planet to begin with. This is where the adventure game begins, as you must solve a series of puzzles in order to make your way through the cavern, into the attached facility, and back towards the surface.
The story gets rather complex, and may require a second — or even third — playthrough to properly get your head around everything that transpires, especially in regards to the ending itself, which will have you thinking, “Whoa! What the hell?!” in a very good way. Even though The Fall is an adventure game first, there are some cool combat elements on display in this 2D side-scroller. These will come in handy, too, because there are several A.I. security bots wandering around that are tasked with one thing: destroying you. Apparently, your A.I. suit is considered faulty and needs to be “depurposed” immediately. During combat, you’ll bounce in and out of cover and utilize your cloaking mechanism, similar to the way in which a comparable mechanic was used in last year’s PSN title Counter Spy, only here it won’t switch to a third-person perspective. Along the way, you begin interacting with the automated system administrator of the facility who reluctantly agrees to help guide you through the facility to reach the on-site medical ward. However, in an effort to stay within its parameters of what it can and can’t do as an administrator, it tasks you with completing eight tests to clear your “faulty” status. The eight tests will take up the bulk of your playing time with the game, and there was one in particular that had me scratching my head for hours. I ended up having to use a life-line (thanks Steam forums) in order to progress the story so I could complete the game for this review. I can say this though, had I not looked it up, there is close to ZERO chance I would’ve solved it in this lifetime. Some of you adventure game aficionados may have better success than I did, but when you get to the “Crying Baby” test, be prepared to put on your thinking caps.
The game doesn’t do much to help you in regards to solving these puzzles — there is no hint system — but there are quite a few computer terminals and notes laying around that are beneficial for you to investigate. The answers to most of the puzzles are hinted at when you read between the lines. You’ll also want to remember where certain items and other interactive objects are located, because there is a metroidvania-style set up to this game as you make your way back and forth throughout the facility. Pick up any and all items you come across, because they will help solve many of the puzzles. It’s a very challenging game, and you’ll want to pay attention to everything you read and encounter. It won’t hurt to think outside the box, either.
As mentioned above, the story can be a little confusing early on, but thanks to some very good voice acting, you’ll be engaged with what’s happening along the way. The automated administrator, especially, is at once both charismatic and mysterious. In terms of presentation, it’s the audio department that takes the prize here. You feel very much alone in this facility, but there’s enough audio spaciousness here to keep you on edge, particularly during the well-timed combat moments. The visuals and environments look sort of flat and without much depth, but for a 2D side-scroller, I guess you can’t expect too much visual flare from a powerless, abandoned facility. A.R.I.D’s animations look a little stiff at times, and the jumping mechanic feels a little laggy and floaty in some instances, but this is a story-driven game, and I can’t think of any moments in particular where this floatiness caused me to fail or die; it just takes a little getting used to.
The Fall is a very good game, featuring some decent puzzles that vary from semi-easy to excruciatingly tough. The atmospheric sound design and above-average voice acting did their part to keep me engaged throughout the 4-5 hours it took me to beat the game. The story itself can be somewhat confusing early on, but as you progress further along, things start to come together and you begin to question the intentions of the administrator and one other character you meet along the way. Thankfully, the ending is left wide open for a sequel, which Over The Moon Games has since confirmed they are working on, and I’m extremely excited to see what happens next. If you’re a fan of adventure games that feature twisting plots and challenging puzzles, you may fall head over heels for The Fall.
Note: Review copy provided by Over The Moon Games
- Eerie sense of isolation
- Challenging puzzles
- Combat provides a nice change of pace
- Engaging story...
- ...can be confusing at first.
- Floaty controls
- 'Crying Baby' test frustratingly brutal