A Fictiontalk Review on Blacksad: Under the Skin
Platforms – PC, PS4 and Xbox One
Release Date – November 14th
Blacksad: Under the Skin was developed by Pendulo Studios and published by Microids, best known for publishing the Syberia series. Blacksad: Under the Skin has been released under unusual circumstances. Long story short, the game ended up being released early due to a technical malfunction. This unorthodox situation is tricky. When exactly should a review be conducted when a game was never intended to be released? However, since then, two patches have come and the original release date has passed. Here at Fictiontalk, we think this seems more than a fair enough benchmark to review Blacksad: Under the Skin.
Blacksad: Under the Skin is a narrative story-driven plot with a point and click element incorporated into the game. The choices you pick throughout the game will directly impact the story and can even determine which characters live or die. Anyone not familiar with the source material, Blacksad is a comic series. Our story revolves around John Blacksad, a private investigator who is an anthropomorphic cat. Blacksad resides in New York in the 1950s with other anthropomorphic animals that appropriate humanoid traits. Part of the charm of Blacksad is that the story is told like a classic noir film style.
Nethethless, rest assured that Blacksad is a mature story and explores many adult themes. Blacksad: Under the Skin is an original story, so you don’t have to have ever read any of the comics to pick up and enjoy this adventure. However, faithful fans will equally enjoy the story as it unfolds.
The game immediately starts in Blacksad’s detective office. Before too long you are then approached with your first case. Sonia Dunn informs you that her recently deceased father and gym owner, Joe Dunn, has committed suicide. Since then, promising boxing star Bobby Yale has disappeared. Bobby Yale has a big fight coming in the upcoming days and the survival of the gym is dependant on that fight. With the gyms already facing financial problems, Sonia Dunn approaches Blacksad to hire him to find Bobby Yale. However, it becomes apparent rather quickly that Joe Dunn was in fact murdered and therefore, the murder mystery begins.
The plot is gripping throughout and truly keeps you guessing during the duration of the game of whom you can trust and whom you cannot. This is further amplified by the story being told in a noir film style that the game truly captures and replicates. Not only that, but it also captures the magic of the Blacksad comics. From Blacksad’s witty anecdotes, where he occasionally breaks the forth-wall, to exploring themes that were in the comics. Fans of the comics will also see some recurring characters in the game, including Weekly, Jake Ostiombeand and Smirnov.
Cutscenes And QTE
The cutscenes segments are entertaining enough. However, certain scenes, unfortunately, suffer from framerate issues. On top of that, some of the audio is out of sync with character dialogue speech that can be off-putting. That’s a shame because at times the voice acting is great – especially Barry Johnson, the voice of Blacksad himself. The soundtrack is heavily jazz-orientated, which really heightens the atmosphere of the 1950s. The music adds an element of suspense throughout the game as well.
A lot like the Telltale games, the game features many quick-time events (QTE). They’re not particularly difficult at the beginning of the game. However, some can be rather quick in the later segments. They also include dialogue or action options for Blacksad to choose that can directly impact events later on in the game. As much as this is an enjoyable feature, sometimes it would be more helpful if you could pause the game on the option choices – like in Detroit: Become Human. More due to the fact, there not enough time to read all the choices rather than the dilemma, which shall I pick?
Blacksad: Under the Skin is roughly a 10-12 hour adventure, however, there’s plenty of replay value. Whether it’s going back and gathering all the collectibles or to see all the potential outcomes of different choices.
Not too long after you’re appointed your first case, you get to explore Joe Dunn Gym and the local surrounding area in a point and click style. This includes interacting with certain characters, looking at items or interacting with these items e.g using a phone. When you find a relevant piece of information, it gets added to the deduction list as a clue. Later on, you can link these clues to make a deduction and progress towards the case.
A nice feature on the PS4 where this game was reviewed on, the remote light would turn from blue to green when entering the deduction menu. This enhances the mystery and you can complete the game without finding all the deductions. Adding to the potential replay value of the game.
Having said that, Blacksad moves incredibly slowly across the environment, which could lead to frustration, especially if you want to obtain all the collectibles. Throughout the game, the story becomes far more narrative-driven. Whereas in the beginning, you were able to explore the world of Blacksad far more.
Regardless of some of Blacksad: Under the Skin’s drawbacks, this is an incredibly enjoyable experience. Especially if you’re a fan of heavily story-driven titles. The game really explores the morality of your actions. Who should you trust? What choices should you make? Would you change your actions if you had the chance? The game was incredibly loyal to the Blacksad universe and any fans of the comics will not be disappointed. Newcomers will probably be intrigued enough to try out the comics as well.
There is an argument that if you’re not such a fan of narrative story-driven games, or the fact that 10-12 hours sound rather short, maybe you should skip or wait a while until the price is right. However, hopefully, this won’t be the last time we’ll see Blacksad in a game or any other media that isn’t comics.
Blacksad: Under the Skin will be arriving on the Switch at the later date of November 28th in the EU and December 10th in North America.