Never having read any of the Blacksad graphic novels, I was still acutely aware of the huge cult following they’ve had over the past two decades. So, I was very excited to road test Blacksad: Under The Skin, the new hardboiled detective outing from Spanish developer Pendulo Studios – those of Yesterday Origins and Runaway: A Twist of Fate fame.
Set in an alternate world populated by humanoid animals, Blacksad: Under The Skin is a gritty film noir offering, filled with violence, betrayal and mystery. You’re cast in the role of John Blacksad, a war veteran panther who smokes too much, trusts too little and is haunted by the demons of his past.
Blacksad’s latest case involves the murder of gym owner Joe Dunn and the inexplicable disappearance of his star pupil. As you travel from location to location, you’ll find yourself picking up clues, interrogating suspects and, very often, literally fighting for your life. Blacksad: Under The Skin borrows heavily from the TellTale Games book of secrets, so, as in The Wolf Among Us, you’ll be confronted with talking humanoid animals, plenty of quick time decisions, multiple questions to choose from and a series of clues to string together to form a coherent picture.
The story itself is engaging enough to keep you wondering who is lying and what they’re possibly covering up. On occasions you’ll be able to activate John’s thinking mode, where he connects clues together in order to work out what he should do next. The fact that he’s a cat means he’s also got a heightened sense of sight and smell which comes in handy for sniffing out location based clues and objects.
Graphically, Blacksad: Under The Skin does a great job of recreating the graphic novels distinctive and edgy city filled with detailed buildings, bustling streets and darkened alleys. Exploration and wandering around is rewarded here as you’ll probably stumble upon a vital clue that you would otherwise have missed had you stayed on the well-worn path.
It’s well worth mentioning that Blacksad: Under The Skin does little to hold your hand as you’re wandering around trying to piece together clues and solve puzzles. There is no hint system available, so exploring every nook and cranny is an absolute must if you intend to sit through the game’s 10 hours or so of mystery and intrigue.
The voice acting in Blacksad: Under The Skin is incredibly well delivered. Barry Johnson – who you’ll probably remember from the totally excellent Detroit: Become Human and Beyond: Two Souls – is superb as a gruff but likeable tough as nails detective. Listening to his delivery is highly reminiscent of Michael Ironside and his work as Sam Fisher on the Splinter Cell series. High praise indeed.
Although earlier releases of Blacksad: Under The Skin were marred by crippling technical issues, the version we played was, for the most part, fixed. The only wrinkles we experienced were the overly long loading times and, on occasions, the curious lack of emotion in the faces of some of the npc’s in the game. We would also like to have seen less use of the timed question and answer scenes. The logic for this is a simple one: If you’re to think through events and ask smart questions, you need time to contemplate rather than feeling rushed to choose an option before the timer runs out. These issues aside, Blacksad: Under The Skin is a worthy, yet strangely unremarkable offering. If you like playing through any of the TellTale Games, you’ll know exactly what to expect. Blacksad: Under The Skin doesn’t redefine the genre or deliver anything spectacularly new. Instead it’s a solid detective noir adventure that will test your powers of deduction and entertain you with a winding and twisting story line. Go play.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Nintendo Switch code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to email@example.com.
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Blacksad: Under the Skin Review
Gameplay - 7/10
Graphics - 7/10
Sound - 7/10
Replay Value - 7/10
Blacksad: Under the Skin is a solid detective noir adventure that will test your powers of deduction and entertain you with a winding and twisting story line.