Games like The Fall are rare on WiiU. A mature, slow-paced adventure with a strong narrative, Over The Moon’s game takes up the mantle with some confidence. Opening with our avatar falling from space unconscious, it’s up ARID, the combat suit’s AI and the real character of The Fall, to activate defences in order to save her pilot from certain death.
This is where the story begins, with the player taking control of ARID and the suit to which she belongs. The main priority is to find some means of securing medical attention for the human pilot within the combat suit.
Right from the off, stuck on a mysterious planet with no knowledge of our original mission, The Fall oozes references to Another World. Its side-scrolling, puzzle-oriented gameplay feels like an homage to the old Amiga classic and its pseudo sequel, Flashback. It’s visually impressive, with lovely lighting effects and a haunting depiction of a derelict planet. The art direction is stunning, with little details in the backgrounds (and foreground) that help to build an eerie atmosphere. It’s almost a horror at times, as you wander slowly down empty corridors, your light illuminating piles of discarded robots and various other things that I shan’t spoil.
You’ll move around these impressive locales with the left stick and look with the right, which works like any twin-stick shooter as it points the flashlight (and later, ARID’s gun) in the direction in which you’re pointing the right stick. This is how you’ll discover everything in the game’s environment and, through exploration, its story.
The flashlight illuminates the ‘examine’ icon for anything in the environment, which you can then interact with and, much like a point and click game, either pick up, use or generally gain insight into the background story of the setting. It’s a simple mechanic that works really well, helping the player learn very early on exactly how to deal with any puzzle situation. It’s not exactly intuitive, as you have to hold down a shoulder button to open the interaction menu in order to use items, etc. Not exactly comfortable when you consider how cumbersome the WiiU Gamepad is.
As the story progresses a little, the player learns early on that ARID’s systems aren’t fully restored. Much like Metroid, many of the combat suit’s abilities are locked behind firewalls within ARID’s system, unlocked only when her pilot’s life is in imminent danger. Another very interesting idea that, although unoriginal, is given a unique twist as it directly ties into ARID’s AI restrictions. This immediately stops the game from descending into the farce that was Metroid Other M.
When a new ability is unlocked, usually through some traumatic event in the story that threatens the life of ARID’s pilot, you’re prompted to enter the pause menu. This takes you to a command screen straight out of Alien, complete with old DOS text in a 1980s-style computer menu. Once there, you can activate a new ability specific to the context of your current situation, which allows you to progress.
Progress isn’t always achieved via puzzle solving, however. The Fall has some action to add to the mix (you do have a gun, after all) and it’s a competent, cover-based affair. A button press will have you ducking contextually behind nearby cover, and pointing the right analog stick will see ARID pop out from cover to aim. Timing is everything in combat as you wait for your enemy to cease firing, giving you a small window in which to shoot back. Like almost everything in The Fall, combat is simple but satisfying for the most part.
The game isn’t always simple, and that is usually where it falls down (sorry, bad pun). There are puzzles in the game that are so obtuse that they border on cruelty, and you’ll often only find the solution through the point and click method of trying every item in your inventory on every interactive point within the current level. During a particular section around the game’s mid-point, the game throws half a dozen of these types of puzzle at you and it really drags it out. It feels like padding, which is a shame as the rest of the game is paced quite nicely.
The combat isn’t always simple either. Or rather, not always intuitive. Towards the end, the game unwisely ramps up the action and it doesn’t make use of the excellent level design, instead turning an intelligent, atmospheric experience into a by-the-numbers shooting gallery. It’s a real shame that some poor choices drag down an otherwise fantastic game.
The Fall comes in at a wallet-friendly price of £5.99 on WiiU’s eShop, and offers around three hours of gameplay for your money. It may offer very little in the way of original ideas, but it’s the way it combines those ideas that makes it stand out, especially on a store already filled with SNES/NES classics. It may not be perfect, but it is a genuinely intelligent game with a story that really deserves to be experienced. As the first part of a proposed trilogy, Over The Moon does a good job of creating a believable setting with fantastically realised characters and gameplay that, although flawed, is usually good fun.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Nintendo Wii U code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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