Blacksad: Under the Skin PlayStation 4 Review

Blacksad: Under the Skin’s many technical issues make it an absolute letdown.

By RON, Posted 29 Dec 2019

Based on the comic created by Diaz Canales and Juanjo Guarnido, Blacksad: Under the Skin is an adventure game set in 1950s New York and featuring anthropomorphized characters. It feels like an ambitious effort by developer Pendulo, with a story that’s fairly easy to follow even without being familiar with the comics. Often very dark and filled with violence and treachery, Blacksad employs sarcastic humor at the right time to keep the story going.
 

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You take the role of feline private detective John Blacksad as he’s tasked with investigating a mysterious case. The story kicks off with you receiving the visit of a friend accompanied by Sonia Dunn, the daughter of a gym club owner who has recently passed away. Sonia asks for your help after she hasn’t received any signs from a talented boxer who was also her father’s protégé. Since his disappearance coincides with the death of her father, Blacksad's feline senses kick in and he decides to help locate the boxer alongside trying to find out what happened to Sonia’s father. As the story progresses different branches open up, linking various people and situations to the murder, the game doing a good job of keeping you invested in its happenings.

Some of Blacksad: Under the Skin’s characters are a little cliché, bordering on being unnecessary for the overall story.  In some situations, however, even these characters’ minor parts end up helping making the game shine. To uncover important details regarding your case, you perform acts such as disguising yourself to take part in a poker game with a bunch of criminals or meeting a suspicious hotel business director while having some bottles of whiskey with you. Following the main mystery’s trail also ends up fleshing out a backstory for pretty much everyone you meet, dealing with some of the characters making you feel determined to take justice into your own hands.


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Each of Blacksad: Under the Skin’s branching plots is well-crafted and contains all the elements expected of crime-noirs, including plenty of twists and suspense. There are many gray areas where you're never quite sure, as a player, if you're right or wrong. You always feel that your decisions will have a lasting impact and effect. In the very first scene of Blacksad: Under the Skin, you decide, for example, whether or not you accept a bribe from an unfaithful angry rhino in order to not expose him to his wife. Further in the story, consequences come knocking, in what is a good example of what the developers tried to do with the adaptation. Everything seems to go well enough, but as the game ends, many questions are left unanswered. The majority of conversations give you a range of answers, on a timer, which can potentially influence your relationship with the various persons you speak with. It’s a similar approach to that of Telltale titles, however, in spite of various promising bits throughout the story, Blacksad leaves enough to be desired. As welcome as pressure in conversations is in a noir-style game, sometime limits feel a little too restrictive considering the amount of text you need to read.

The investigative sections are where the game changes things up a little from standard point-and-click adventure games, some of them giving access to Cat Senses. This ability slows time down to a crawl, letting you focus on various important spots of a level or scene. From there you can focus on characters or surroundings and link them to elements in the various conversations you end up having. Your findings are then added to your list of clues, allowing you to make important deductions. Using the R1 button to view your Deduction tab, you will see the various clues you collected and be able to pick the corresponding ones in order to progress your investigation.


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While the game might have its caveats, there’s nothing more frustrating than Blacksad’s technical problems. Dialogues cease abruptly, textures prove unable to load, and the game freezes and crashes far too often, which is a pity. It feels like the game was released under tremendous rush and without having any fine tuning and bug fixing. Blacksad: Under the Skin has the potential to be a wonderful game, however, its current technical state often hampers progress and is, simply put, an absolute letdown.

For what it’s worth, the voice acting doesn’t disappoint at all, even if the lip syncing isn’t Blacksad’s best feature. Sometimes, even when the characters have finished talking their lips still move. Although a lot of work has been done to make sure that Blacksad fits well with his role, many other characters have something uncanny, making them feel strangely off.



 

Blacksad: Under the Skin harbors a story that has its great moments, superb voice-acting and does have a lot to offer point-and-click fans. Sadly, with its plethora of technical issues, it’s simply tough to recommend.
 

Sarwar Ron, NoobFeed
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General Information

Platform(s): PS4
Publisher(s): Microïds
Developer(s): Pendulo Studios, YS Interactive
Genres: Point And Click
Themes: Adventure
Release Date: 2019-11-05

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