Blacksad: Under the Skin review for PlayStation 4
The 50s, New York City: Joe Dunn, owner of a boxing club, is found dead.
Meanwhile, rising star Bobby Yale, due to take to the ring for the most important fight of his career, has mysteriously disappeared.
Sonia Dunn, Joe’s daughter, takes over the gym and must deal with its financial woes. She hires private detective John Blacksad to investigate Yale’s disappearance. This sinister case will take our investigator to the darkest, most dismal depths of New York.
With its anthropomorphic characters and its incredible 1950s feel, BLACKSAD: Under the Skin promises all the eerily dark adventure of a detective novel, just like the eponymous comic book series.
Conduct the investigation in your own way. Make use of your feline senses as you hunt for new clues. Make decisions on behalf of Blacksad and influence the outcome of the case.
Blacksad: Under the Skin, is based on the Blacksad comic series by Spanish authors Juan Diaz Canales and Juanjo Guarnido and published by French Publisher Darguad. Brought to life in this video game by Pendulo Studios who brought us the Yesterday games and published by Microids is this interactive story akin to the Telltale games and reminded me somewhat of The wolf among us since both have animals living like humans in the world. Blacksad is based in New York City in the ’50s where smoking is still acceptable in hospitals and racial issues are very apparent. John Blacksad himself is a Black Cat, who is a private detective down on his luck and morning the death of his girlfriend. Dressed in that detective staple of a beige trench coat, with his black pointy ears his silhouette is similar to that of Batman when in costume!
The story starts with Blacksad in his office when he is attacked by a Rhino who is angry that the detective has been hired by his wife to see if he is cheating on her. Blacksad has some very compromising photos of the Rhino cheating with another woman and here you are introduced to the gameplay mechanics. Quick time events for fights and conversational choices which can lead to different storylines. Your first moral decision is, do you take a bribe and keep the Rhinos secret or do you tell his wife about the affair? Throughout Backsad you will be faced with these decisions, molding your story as you go. Some choices may actually get you killed, this cat doesn’t have nine lives, but you will get to retry every time you die and I died a lot, sometimes multiple times during the same decision tree!
The main story of Blacksad: under the skin, is to find Bobby Vale the boxer who has mysteriously disappeared with two weeks to go to a big boxing event between him and the reigning champion at Madison Square Gardens. Vale disappeared after the apparent suicide of Joe Dunn his boxing manager, who is found hanging from a noose above the boxing ring. Hired by Sonia Dunn, Joe’s daughter it’s up to you to investigate to find out what happened using your keen cat senses and your detective skills. This is no point and click style game where you have to move a cursor around either, you move John around till you find the hotspots to investigate. Neither will you pick up a bunch of seemingly useless items to hold in your inventory until you find a random item to use them with. Blacksad is much more console friendly than that. When you find a hot spot you press X to interact, quick-time events are used for the action scenes, press the left stick quickly or bash a button repeatedly to pull an object. As you find clues you will able to enter deduction mode and combine clues together to deduce some new facts about the case Sherlock Holmes style. Since John Blacksad is a cat, he also gets to use his natural senses to investigate, his hearing, sense of smell and his keen eyes. Here you can zoom in on the scene you are investigating narrowing the search area with the controller vibrating as you get close to the right area to get some new vital clues.
Unfortunately this is where the game is still buggy, instead of getting the circle with an arrow hinting at the directing to move in a lot of the time I was getting a screen full of white pixels making it damn near impossible to find the right spot, leaving it down to trial and error rather than being able to really being able to tell what I was even looking at. While it didn’t happen all the time, it was probably close to 50% of these events which was annoying and spoiled the game. Sadly, this isn’t the only bug, on quite a few occasions the scenes just wouldn’t progress on and I was left with no choice but to close the game down and reload and replay the chapter through again. Then I was subjected to frequent crashing being kicked out of the game entirely. The last time was when I had just completed the game and got the Congrats trophy, though since John had mentioned some other loose ends to tie up and the fact that there is another trophy called Now for real, I don’t think I had fully finished the game and since there are apparently 6 alternate end scenes I feel there was another part I didn’t get to see. When I reloaded the game though my option to continue was gone and I only had the choice to start a new game.
There are collectibles throughout the game in the form of sports hall of fame stickers to complete your album, there appear to be quite a few and a guide may be required to get them all as there are some large areas that they could be hidden in. On a few occasions, I spotted some during a cutscene which I had missed and at the end of the cutscene, I was moved to a new area. You can actually choose to go back and replay chapters at any time if you want to change your choices so this would give you the opportunity if you have missed some. Annoyingly, chapter select seems to disappear once you have completed the game as mentioned above. I liked this type of collectible, it reminds me of when I was a kid in the ’80s and collecting stickers to complete an album was a thing before we had mobile phones that allowed us to go out collecting Pokémon instead.
If you want the Blacksad platinum trophy you will need to finish the story without dying, complete all deductions, get all collectibles, watch all 6 alternate end scenes and complete a few other random tasks based on choices you make. It should be achievable enough, although I didn’t even get the trophy for dying less than 9 times on my first play. But once you know what you are doing or have a guide this shouldn’t pose too many issues!
While eager to replay Blacksad I won’t be doing so for a few months till there have been a few patches and the bugs have been exterminated. Blacksad is a great game and I really enjoyed it, it’s just becoming very common these days for games to get released before they have been properly tested just to not miss a deadline. Once the issues have been sorted out I would highly recommend playing Blacksad: Under the Skin, especially if you were a fan of the Telltale games and are disappointed that the Wolf among us 2 probably won’t see the light of day. My score would have been higher (A solid 8.5/10 when fixed) if it wasn’t for all the technical issues, while not game-breaking, they do make the game less enjoyable than it should be.
*This Review Code was so generously provided by the publisher for review*
Developer: YS Interactive Publisher: Microïds
Release date: November 5, 2019
Platforms: PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, Microsoft Windows, Macintosh operating systems
Platform Reviewed on: PlayStation 4 PRO
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