Monday, June 8, 2015

Machine Memory Mystery: "The Fall" Review


You are ARID; a specialized military  artificial intelligence housed within a space suit.  Why you've crashed into a robot recycling planet and how this came to be are unimportant.  To you the only thing of importance, the only thing the drives your every action comes to one simple fact: helping your unconscious, possibly critically wounded human pilot contained within the suit.  With only a flashlight, a gun (eventually), and you wits, you traverse an eerie, dank world.  Can you keep your pilot alive long enough to find a medical treatment?  What are the motives of the mysterious caretaker droid that watches your every move?  Can even you, the suit AI be trusted?  This adventure puzzle game from Over the Moon Games has elements of classic point and click adventure, horror, and puzzle genres set against the creepy backdrop of a run down robot recycling facility.  So let's break it down, shall we?


The basic way you move around and inspect things operates in a simple enough fashion.  Left analog stick controls movement; right analog aims the flashlight/gun.  Now, the item selection seems a bit clunky, and there are times when you might accidentally unselect the item screen, but I don't really see this as too much of a design flaw as the game was ported from a PC download on steam.   All in all, you have the tools you need (or rather you find them along the way, so to speak.) to get the job done.

Graphics and Style

I always hesitate to use the word "atmospheric" because it can sometimes act as a cop out to describing in detail what you are seeing.  With The Fall, the style and graphics are all about atmosphere.  The lack of light and the imposed necessity of leaving most areas dark while you scan around with the flashlight really help set the tone.  Then when you light things up, it doesn't make it any easier to deal with.  From the occasional decomposing dead body, to crucified robots dotting the foreground and background everywhere; it never stops feeling messed up and wrong on so many levels.

I liked that this was a side scrolling game and not a first person perspective as it not only works well with the overall setting, but also provides opportunities for things to move in the background that you seem to notice out of the corner of your eye.  I think in first person games with a horror element, you come to expect that "what just moved in the shadows" moment to happen a few times.  Here though, with it being a side scroller, I think you would tend to do even more of a double take.  Did that thing just move, or was that just a bit of parallax scrolling?  I would say the only hiccup, and it is fairly minor, is the animation for the way the suit moves does not feel natural.  I don't know if this is supposed to be because you are told that the human within has lost consciousness so ARID controls the suit, or if the animation just doesn't quite work.  Either way, I would say this is a fairly minor flaw in game that does a great job overall with both background and foreground graphics alike.

Music and Sound

Sometimes games that are meant to seem thrilling oversell themselves trying to seem scarier than they are.  Not so here.  The Fall has a nice mix of background sound which keeps you feeling uneasy, even though you know you are not alone.  The odd echoes as doors slide open and close help fill you with a sense of unease.  Dripping water and blinking lights from piles of recycled robots aren't done in an over the top way that makes it feel like a child's pop-up book of scary things, but rather are there to help further your unease.  You know there's terrible things all around you, and the creaks and metallic shudders are not less disturbing when you know where they come from.  The occasional voice over from ARID and other bots she meets along the way also don't relieve the tension.  They help you wonder who's trusty worthy and who is lying.  Again, no lack of tension here.

And as for the music, this is fairly well done,  it's not over the top creepy, but rather muted and set in the background, less of musical theme as it is soundtrack.  There are particular plot points in the game where the music pops in and lets you know the gravity of what's happening on screen.  These music cues are pulled off so well, it gives a cinematic feel to the whole gameplay experience.  If you really appreciate the soundtrack, you can even go on Steam and purchase a copy of the soundtrack, which you might want to do if you like not just good video game soundtracks, but a well orchestrated bit of movie music.

Game Features of Note:

Something I want to highlight is the submenu you can access with the start button.  The submenu is not really being about learning about your abilities or managing inventory.  Rather, it serves as a clue giver as to what may happen later in the story and it helps to unfold the plot in a unique way.  Funny enough, itt works here because you know the reason behind it.  The menu is useless save to let you know the direction the story is headed.  Something like this DOES NOT work in a game like Metroid: Other M because you are a thinking human being who should know better than to wait for orders to turn on your heat-resistant suit in the middle of a lava field.----but I digress

Final Analysis

I would say grab this game if you haven't already.   Now, as a forewarning, although you can download it for the Wii U as I did, there are some bugs that occur with the audio from time to time in terms of synced dialogue and rapid scrolling of text.  They've updated it on Steam, but I don't think that an update or bug patch has been released as of yet for Wii U.  Overall though, this was well worth getting within the Humble Bundle, and it would have been worth it on it's own.  You could probably complete the game in a couple of hours, and with such an engaging story and chilling atmosphere, you'll probably want to do so.   If you've ever gone to a movie and were disappointed that the thrills it promised weren't there, consider grabbing the fall instead.  I always like it when a game makes me feel like I've just played through a movie, and Over The Moon's The Fall has thrills that would make many a modern movie envious.

Graphics/Visual Style:  9/10
Music/Sound: 9/10
Control: 9/10

Overall Rating:  9/10

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