For those of you who know me, you are well aware of my “dark” side. No, I’m not a super-villain by night. I simply enjoy reading dark comedies that are laced with heavy plot lines. Which is why I was thrilled when I found out that Blacksad would be made into a video game. Blacksad is a long-running graphic novel series that covers some pretty heavy topics through a noir detective window. It is set in the 1950s and it follows hard-boiled detective John Blacksad, with each book focusing on a new case. But fans have always complained that there hasn’t been enough.
The first book was released in 2000, and book five didn’t come out until 2014. We are still waiting for book six, so you can see why fans are welcoming a video game.
The Blacksad game, known as Under The Skin, lives up to the hype. It’s filled with police, criminals, and booze. It’s set against the backdrop of a first-person narrative game. There are no humans in the books, and the characters’ species reflect their personalities and roles in society. The star of the story is John Blacksad, a hardboiled black cat detective, the stoic police commissioner Smirnov is a German Shepherd, while criminal underworld types are more often than not portrayed as lizards.
Because the novels are so rich with art, it is somewhat difficult to convey this visual in a 3D video game. The developers did a good job, but it doesn’t remotely live up to the amazing graphics in the novels. That said, the team at Pendulo Studios have done a decent job with the character models, and it does convey the same mood as the books through sound and color. The voice acting is also played in a really straightway, which can be difficult when you’re creating a crime era piece.
Pendulo describes Under The Skin as an “adventure-investigation” game. It’s that modern interpretation of the point-and-click adventure, controlling much like Until Dawn, with 3D environments and a camera set on rails providing dramatic angles. You’ll spend most of your time looking for clues or in conversations.
Conversations play out as you’d expect: pick the correct dialogue choice for some exposition that could help you solve your case. There’s an interesting twist which allows you to use your feline eyes and ears mid-conversation, which then translate into additional dialogue trees.
The clues and observations you gather feed into a “deduction system,” where you link your evidence to come up with new theories. For example, noticing that a character became unreasonably angry when you break into his locker, combined with something he’d said earlier, got added together to show that he had something to hide. While this isn’t a groundbreaking idea for a detective game, it is a unique way of organizing the information and clues.
Almost everything that you do in the game has a moral impact on your character, and you’re given your character traits in real-time. With that in mind, Pendulo says there are six potential endings to the game, and how you play will decide which you see. It is very hard to make a great detective game, but it seems like this one hits the mark. Let us know your thoughts on the game!