Title: Blacksad: Under the Skin
Developer: Pendulo Studios, YS Interactive
Official Site: Blacksad: Under the Skin
Release Date: November 14, 2019
Version Tested: PlayStation 4
In the wake of the closure and revival of Telltale Games, there have not been many attempts at replicating their version of the modern adventure game. Blacksad: Under the Skin hopes to remedy this drought with an independent take on the genre, with varying levels of success.
Blacksad: Under the Skin is an adaptation of a series of Spanish comics under the same name. The game follows private detective John Blacksad, who is hired to find an up and coming boxer after boxing gym owner is found to have hanged himself.
To uncover the truth, Blacksad will have to find clues, speak to suspects, and make deductions based on the evidence. While the mystery seems small at first, it soon expands to the depths of organized crime and the heights of upper society.
When the game is firing at all cylinders, Blacksad: Under the Skin feels like a true successor to the likes of the Telltale adventure games. However, fluctuating levels of quality and lackluster ending keep it from reaching its full potential.
Blacksad: Under the Skin is a Return to the Modern Adventure Game
Playing as Blacksad, you will navigate through a range of environments looking for clues and speaking to those involved with the case. Conversations can lead to new evidence, and affect your relationships with those you are speaking with depending on what choice you make.
From the clues you uncover, you will make deductions by selecting two or more different clues. These deductions help Blacksad to solve the case, or discover aspects about the world.
Blacksad: Under the Skin clearly takes from classic 1940s noir mystery stories, it does have a unique look in the style. While the world is akin to a post World War 2 New York City, all of the characters are anthropomorphized animals.
This style pairing at first seems a bit confusing, but soon it all fits well together. Having all these different animals is charming, and how the animals all fit into the trappings of a noir mystery story comes together better than it should.
A Mystery Noire Story That Tackles Social Issues
One criticism of this style is how the game deals with political issues as it uses the racism of the time mixed with speciesism of all the different animal species. While I appreciate that the game goes out of its way to address these kinds of issues that other types of games would not, mixing the two different issues leads to the overall effect being a little muddled.
The brightest star throughout the entire game is John Blacksad himself. The performance of the character fits well for the genre, and throughout the game, it felt like this Blacksad was unique to the choices I was making.
As you uncover clues and make deductions, you will soon find out that everything is not as it seems. Even though the game does not take any risks in terms of a noir story, it is nice comfort food to sit back and enjoy. What interrupts the fun is the severe dip in quality in the game at times.
For a game that does not seem to be too taxing graphically, it has a staggering amount of graphical and technical issues. Some of these were goofy bugs like Blacksad clipping inside of a forklift while riding it like a failed Ryu from Shenmue, but others caused major gameplay problems. For example, the game crashed over 20 times, including crashing during the final climactic moment of the game.
Plagued With Technical Issues
Another technical issue is how the game deals with quick-time events. At times you will have to either hit a button or move the stick in a short amount of time, which usually is not too difficult. However, in Blacksad: Under the Skin, there were several times that I knew I did the action, but the game decided not to register it.
As the game comes to a close, it feels like the game did not know how to end in a way that reflects the choices that have been made. If this was a collection of different cases, Blacksad was taking on it could have worked as it flowed into the next case, but it did not feel like the choices in the ending reflected the Blacksad I had developed as a character.
Overall, Blacksad: Under the Skin is disappointing in the worst ways as you can see all the potential, but overall, the technical issues get in the way. If the developers are able to fix up the bugs, it is definitely worth checking out, especially for those that are longing to play a noir adventure game. Hopefully, a sequel can flesh out more of the world and Blacksad, and iron out the technical issues.
Verdict: Blacksad: Under the Skin is a fun noir mystery adventure game in a unique style that has a compelling story and deep characters. However, technical issues and a lackluster ending keep it from reaching its true potential.
- A fun noir mystery story
- A unique style that also has the courage to tackle social issues
- Full of deep and interesting characters
- Severe technical issues
- Lackluster ending that does not reflect choices made throughout the game
- If you are not a fan of the modern adventure game this might not be for you.
Hello, my name is Bailey and I am a recent journalism graduate from the University of Nevada, Reno. Some of my favorite games are Spelunky, Fallout: New Vegas and Chibi-Robo! When I am not playing games, I am either making videos or napping.