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These days, horror seems to really focus on the wrong aspects of the genre so beloved among movie and gaming goers. We don’t just want jump-scares and an excessive amount of gore. We want to be enthralled in the horror. We want to be scared, but not relying on so many tropes that populate horror today. This is why I really enjoyed Until Dawn. It was scary, but not in the same way as Five Nights at Freddy’s was scary, or The Evil Within. It was a horror game that, while being a tribute to 80s slasher flicks, had characters you wanted to root for, save, or kill, depending on your preference for horror movie characters. Another element I enjoyed was the story. Sure, Until Dawn’s ending was underwhelming, but the story and overall game was fantastic. It’s one of my favorite games of 2015 for a reason. Another “horror” game I missed out on that I adore is Over the Moon’s The Fall, a 2D adventure game with horror elements that is a pretty great bit of indie horror.
The main story revolves around you, an unknown being in a power-suit falling down onto an unknown planet. The twist is, you aren’t the person inside the suit, you are the artificial intelligence inside the power-suit. The main plot has you, the artificial intelligence, roaming around a mysterious facility that has nothing but decayed sets, aggressive robots, and other horrors that may or may not be stalking you. The story is great. It’s chilling and well told. The scares come from being in a really dark and ominous area that is full of rusted-over machines and creatures that have inhabited the long-forgotten facility. It gets under your skin, and makes you jump, not because of a forced sound effect, but because the area around you is so unnerving. For example, during the beginning part of the game, I was walking around the first area, and while trying to solve a few puzzles, I was spooked by something that moved in the background. There was no huge scream or anything that extenuated that moment. It was quiet, and made me shiver. The story also tackles a lot of elements seen in sci-fi films, with robotic minds following the protocol given to them, or breaking said protocol to do what would be right for the A.I.’s pilot. It shows that video games can have good stories, and if you just put some elbow grease into it, you can have writing that is on par with the best of TV and movies.
The Fall is a 2D adventure game with a huge sci-fi horror element. You will be traversing this odd facility, solving puzzles, figuring out where you are, trying to save your human, and taking down the occasional security robot while dodging the main villain of the game. The puzzles work like a mix of inventory and logic-based puzzles. In terms of their difficulty, they are a little harder than normal puzzles, but I only encountered one puzzle where the solution was really out there. The combat can be compared to games like Blackthorne or other cinematic platformers. It’s pretty basic duck-behind-cover-or-into-the-background, and shoot when you can. As you explore and encounter many of the facility’s dangers, the A.I. will make sure to unlock special abilities in your suit, like being able to shoot more, camouflage into the background, and so on. The Fall is not a very long game at about four hours in length. Maybe a little shorter if you know what you are doing. However, what it loses in game length, it definitely makes up for in the presentation and world that you traverse.
The graphics are minimal, and some could argue that The Fall was trying to somewhat copy another 2D adventure game, The Swapper, but it’s still a good looking game. Atmosphere oozes out of this game with its dim lights, dark corners, unknown creatures and machines walking around, and machines that aren’t in top condition. The developer, Over the Moon, has reminded me what makes great horror. Once again, you don’t need freaking jump-scares or massive amounts of gore. Just have a great atmosphere, an interesting story, and really, that is what everyone looks for. This is why games like Daylight didn’t stay with people that long. It might have had a decent atmosphere, but due to the “not there story” and randomized maze levels, no one was enthralled with the game’s world and cheap jump-scares. The music is minimalistic, but if you like the music in games like Super Metroid, then it’s pretty much like that game’s soundtrack. It’s not meant to be big and loud. The voice acting is perfect. This is especially true with Ajeandro Pacheco as the main villain of the game, The Caretaker. Alejandro brings so much dread and fear each time you see this creepy character. Of course, the other voice actors like Alison Kumar as the A.I. in the suit, A.R.I.D, and Sean McQuillan as the Administrator pull off great performances as well.
The Fall might be a fun horror experience, but it does have a few problems. The combat is not the greatest. It’s a little clunky, and could have used a little more depth. Sure, you can hide behind cover, and if you are good enough, sneak up behind the robot to stealth kill it, but if you are familiar with the combat in other cinematic platformers, then that is basically The Fall’s combat. Like I said earlier, there was one puzzle that really bogged down the pace, and that shouldn’t be a thing with adventure games with puzzle elements. Keep the pace moving forward, and don’t halt someone because the designer made the puzzle a tad obtuse.
Despite those few flaws, The Fall is a great game. It gets everything from storytelling to an unnerving atmosphere down to perfection. It shows that not every game needs to be Five Nights at Freddy’s. The Fall is readily available on the PC, Wii U, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One. Luckily, the game has done well enough to get a sequel, since the game is supposed to be a part of a trilogy. If you want a game with a horror atmosphere and a mix of sci-fi elements, then The Fall should be on your spooky wish list.
The game gets an 8 out of 10.