In recent years, crowdfunding has proved a popular platform for developers to raise vital funds for their projects, no matter how ambitious they might be. One of the many success stories of crowdfunding is Over the Moon – a small studio founded by John Warner in 2013. The studio reached 224% of its funding goal on Kickstarter within a couple of months and went on to release The Fall on Steam in May 2014. Since then, the first episode of the three-part series has trickled its way onto consoles.
After crash landing on an unknown planet, Colonel Josephs – a lone astronaut – is knocked unconscious and is in need of medical assistance. Enter ARID, an artificial intelligence on-board a high-tech combat suit, who is able to command the suit and guide the astronaut to safety. As ARID progresses into her twisted and hostile surroundings, she soon discovers that she is not alone.
The plot itself is highly compelling and engaging, with ARID developing genuine emotion through her automated façade as the story progresses. While the cliff-hanger ending will leave players eagerly anticipating the next instalment, many will feel the journey is over too quickly as The Fall clocks in at approximately three hours. Not to mention the fact there isn’t much incentive to return to the title upon completion (aside from some optional developer commentary).
Despite the side-scrolling nature of The Fall sharing perspectives with games such as Super Metroid and Shadow Complex, the vast majority of the gameplay stems from puzzle-solving, with exploration being paramount to survival. Such puzzles predominantly consist of finding a way to manipulate both the environment and the programming, leading to astute scenarios such as transforming a security door into a death trap in the hope of activating ARID’s cloaking mechanism.
The well thought-out puzzles themselves aren’t overtly difficult, although their often bizarre nature means they can be extremely challenging. The bulk of the puzzles requires players to use ARID’s flashlight in order to reveal items and elements of the environment (the majority of which are signposted by hotspot indicators). However, a lot of these can easily be missed due to the game’s dark, eerie atmosphere, with the only in-game assistance coming in the form of subtle hints embedded within the general description of the items. Needless to say, there’s an extremely satisfying feeling after completing a tricky puzzle.
The other element of the gameplay is the combat, in which the flashlight beam is replaced with a laser sight for the pistol, as players fend off the onslaught of enemies. To aid ARID in combat, players are able to take cover behind walls and boxes, as well as use camouflage to blend into the background.
Regrettably, the combat feels incredibly clunky and is distinctly lacking in substance. The enemies don’t put up any real fight, offering large windows of opportunity where you can headshot them easily; reloading is non-existent and the regenerating health and shields remove the sense of urgency. Fortunately, the combat is used sparingly, so this doesn’t prove to be a huge issue overall.
In terms of visuals, The Fall flourishes on darkness, rarely going out of its way to show off the environments, yet this works in the game’s favour. The ill-lit atmosphere creates a feeling of unease and a sense that something is lurking just beyond the edges of your sight.
Adding to this ever-present discomfort is the soundtrack, which is largely composed of eerie background noises. The excellent production values also stretch to the dialogue, with the handful of voice actors delivering superb performances throughout.
The game’s only real downfall is the control system, which feels particularly fiddly. For example, to interact with an object, players are required to aim at it with the right stick, press RB to access its menu, scroll through the different choices with the left stick, before confirming the selection with A. Pressing these buttons simultaneously in order to perform a simple operation is arduous and you can’t help but feel that The Fall would benefit from a mouse and keyboard setup.
Nevertheless, these minor shortcomings should be overlooked in the grand scale of things. The Fall is an expertly crafted side-scrolling, adventure title with impressive puzzle design, an intriguing story and eerie atmosphere. This is definitely worth your time.