There’s few genres of game that have, in my humble opinion, aged as badly as point and click games. In the 90’s, and even today, if you asked me for some of my favourite games I would list the Monkey Island series and Sam and Max. Lucas Arts’ games formed my childhood and my humour growing up. I would sit for hours just rubbing every object in my inventory against every other object in the hope that I would find the correct solution to the obtuse puzzles put in front of me. It pains me to say that despite the summers I put into playing and completing all those classics I have struggled to engage with them since. 20 years later and I’ve tried all the Double Fine modern takes, I’ve tried the Sam and Max Telltale style and even the modern equivalent Telltale games I just can’t get behind. It may be the story, it may be I for some reason consider my time to be worth more or I just burned out on it too young. Thankfully The Fall has been released on Switch, from its WiiU origins, to snap me back to the genre. As a back handed compliment however, I’m here for the story, not the puzzles.
I owned a WiiU relatively late into its cycle, the Wii had broken a lot of my good will towards Nintendo with its encouragement to actually make me physically move to play games. As such I, like so so many others, missed out a lot of great downloadable titles released to the eShop. Games like The Fall and Shovel Knight were just references I didn’t get. Thankfully this release, dare I say remaster, is a perfect accompaniment to the Switch for those that missed it first time round on a Nintendo platform.
The game starts with a figure falling from the sky and hurtling towards the ground below. Quite quickly you are introduced to the amazingly clever plot of the game, you are not the person inside this space suit, instead you are the AI of the suit who has three prime directives, you must protect your pilot, you must be obedient and you must not misrepresent reality (lie). These three orders are the thrust of the game, a point and click game with Metroidvania exploration and shoot outs. At first all of your abilities are locked behind coding that must be sanctioned by a higher up in command, but with no one in the area to sign off on you getting abilities like a shield, camouflage and thrusters you must instead use your brain to unlock them. Your goal is to get your pilot to a medical station, but standing in your way is numerous security bots and an unsettling overseer of the robot junkyard you find yourself in. On your way to your objective of medical attention for your pilot you have to traverse things like a sentry gun that requires a shield, quickly you’ll discover that when the pilot is in danger the appropriate ability is unlocked. As such ARID starts self justifying and amending internal logs to hide the fact she’s put her pilot in danger to unlock a shield so that she can use it to safely get through later issues. It’s this juxtaposition of an AI so torn by its coding and its near human empathetic and loyal personality traits that creates such an engaging story.
The game is a 2D scrolling platform at its heart set in a near pitch black world a la Limbo. With your flashlight shining on every inch of the world to try to find the appropriate items to shove in your inventory you’ll need to be incredibly perceptive to find everything you need on your first walk through an area. And this is the first of my issues with The Fall, the game requires you to spot things that aren’t there. With more or less everything being a silhouette you’ll have to not actually be looking for the bucket on the floor or a keycard you need, instead you’ll just be waving your torch around like your at a happy hardcore rave and hope to spot the icon to indicate there’s something to interact with. As an aesthetic the dark world is great, it adds to the tension and helps with the tone of the game and the story, a relentless struggle in low light, but to hamstring a key aspect of gameplay is frustrating.
In the opening area you obtain a gun and are shown another level to the game, an enjoyable shooting mechanic where you’re needing to take out robots that pop up around you as you dive for the nearest cover and wait for them to reload. As you progress through the game the mechanics around this change slightly but never progress too much further than that basic description. When I say I recommend people with a Switch pick this game up it’s for one simple reason, the story is something to behold. The interactions with other characters is a joy as you are shown options in text trees where lying would make your life easier but your directive to not misrepresent reality mean these are not selectable. The talks with the bases’ intercom system is perfection, they also have prime orders that they can’t break but they are desperate to help you and your pilot as best you can. And finally the talks with the Caretaker, your antagonist who again is just following their programming is creepy as it is effective.
The story drove me to finish The Fall’s five or so hour campaign, the game doesn’t outstay its welcome and with a sequel for the intended trilogy coming to Switch you don’t have long to wait for it to continue. The concept of AI becoming human has been played many times in Bladerunner and Deus Ex Machina but rarely in games has it been done to such a compelling way. The voice acting and audio plays pitch perfect in keeping you invested. The only downfall is the aesthetic getting in the way of the point and click elements and the solutions to the puzzles being a little bit too much of a rub X on Y to see if you achieve anything, if nothing else this gave me nostalgia to my childhood with Lucas Arts games. The Fall is a fascinating modern take on the point and clicks of old, with a engaging and stellar story, it’s just a shame that aspects of the gameplay don’t match the standard set by its plot.