Blacksad: Under the Skin is an adult-orientated, furry, noir, adventure game, where you play as a large, military vet, cat man named Blacksad. You’re a detective, and it’s treated like the stereotypical old age detective, he was a war vet, he’s rough and tumble when need be, and he became a detective only for his agency to run on tough times til a dame walks through the door. Yeah, old school, I love that, some people won’t, but uhhh… fuck’em. Anyways, Blacksad is hired by an incredibly cold woman to find a missing boxer, because if he doesn’t show for a fight, she’ll be fined heavily. She doesn’t have the money to pay the fine, so she would have to close down her father’s gym, oh and he ‘committed suicide’ at the same time cause, you know, that’s totally what happened, right?
Now as for more about what kind of game this is, because “furry noir” is just a basic tell of what the game is, however, the game mixes a few different game styles. The styles are spread between conversational sequences, action sequences, world exploration, and deductions. Its conversational parts are akin to the Telltale games where, during the conversation sometimes, you have the ability to answer things how you want; the game gives you a few choices to choose from and you have to choose an option within a time limit. I felt this game had more time to pick a conversational option than the Telltale games did, though Telltale games had plenty of time too.
There are also action segments which are fights, where you have button prompts to dodge attacks which I don’t call quick time events because you have a LOT of time to push the buttons in this, so I just call it button prompts. Sometimes during the fights you also get pulled back from the fight to choose options on how to deal with the fight, like in the first one you can determine whether you want to punch a guy in the face or headbutt him. These options change things very, very mildly, typically just flavor text type stuff. For the button prompts, sometimes you just push the button, sometimes you tap the button until it fills up a meter, and other times you hold the button down. I don’t like that there’s multiple types of button prompts, because it doesn’t tell you which of the 3 it is, or at least I couldn’t figure it out if there was. I’d prefer just one press and done myself.
The world exploration is… conflicting. The character controls like a porta-potty on the freeway; it’s janky and the cameras are usually static and sometimes jump around which don’t help things. There’s no finesse with this character, he’s a tank that you can barely control, it’s not good, but it’s also far from the worst I’ve ever played. However, the exploration is fairly fun. The environments are small and split off from each other into clear areas, each individual floor, each building, and the each outside section is part of their own areas are well. The environments are very nice to look at, and you can interact with a ton of things to varying degrees. Some of the things are static items you can just hear Blacksad’s thoughts or memories on, others end up being stuff you can look into and get clues from, after you find a certain clue within the grouping of them you lose access to interactions with the item. I found this annoying as I wanted to check all the different mental interactive bubbles for each item, but once you click the part that gives the main clue you leave it and can’t go back in. The problem is the other stuff can give other information about characters, sometimes even opening conversational trees to get more info and evidence from to make deductions.
The last part is the deductions, this is handled very much like Frogware’s Sherlock Holmes games, all of the clues are held inside Blacksad’s mental palace, when you find enough clues you can start combining them together until some come together to provide you with some good information. An example of this, is you find some rather racist, though poorly spelled, words painted on some lockers in this first ever interracial boxing gym, that’s a clue. Then you find a paint covered towel in one of the lockers which happens to be owned by a white supremacist. Putting the two clues together you get the deduction that the racist asshole wrote the racist asshole thing. Later on you get ones that are more important to the actually murder mystery at hand. I love finding clues which I mentioned in the previous block, and I love deductions I have a good number of the Sherlock games on the X360/X1, they’re some of my most favorite of games. I always loved Sherlock growing up, so I’m very partial to deduction boards.
As for the game itself, the characters all have their own personalities, at least the ones you interact with, everyone else is just kinda background and you can’t interact with them. A good example of this from near the start of the game is when you leave the gym for the first time to go somewhere else, and there are tons of people that walk on and off screen on the street. None of them can be interacted with because they aren’t related to the situation at hand, they’re just there to breathe life into the game by making it feel populated. Sadly, they don’t talk among themselves or anything. I would have liked some idle chatter or something as that would have made it feel more realistic, but it is what it is. All the characters you talk to, even the ones that you don’t really have to interact with much, have a lot of personality. There was Jake the black boxer in the interracial gym who’s gruff and fiery tempered; the gym owner’s daughter who’s colder as hell and all sorts of rude; the blind, legless, homeless war vet who has lost most of his marbles; the super nice, sensible, generally happy janitorial woman for the gym; and that’s just a small, tiny bit of the people right at the very start of the game. And by God, all the voice acting is superb, the only character that threw me off at first was, ironically, Blacksad. I expected his voice to be like what you’d see in old detective movies, but his voice was very different, I don’t really know how to explain it. His voice wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t what I was expecting, so every time he talked it felt weird, at least for the first couple of hours I played the game, then his voice grew on me.
The game has collectible cards that you can find around the levels, they’re… they’re hard to find sometimes, and many of them are also hidden in the environment when you’re in clue areas, which means you can miss them. The cards fill up an album with different cards on each page. I think they were hockey, baseball, basketball, and boxing, but I won’t swear on it. They are only there for achievements and to look pretty, they serve no purpose in the game. When the tutorial is on, the first time you find one it even tells you that they have no purpose so you don’t have to look for them unless you want to.
There’s a feature I really REALLY like in this game. If you want to change an option you made in a game, you can open the menu and go to progress I think it was, which opens a comic book style set of pages. They’re at certain parts of the game, if you click on them the game basically rewinds to that point of the game allowing you to choose new options as you see fit, though you have to play from that point, which makes sense as those choices cause ripples throughout the entire game. I’m not sure if the comic pages actually reflect your choices or not, cause they were too small for my blind ass to read any of the words in the panels, but they might, and if they do, that’s even fucking cooler. The feature is nice, the fact that it’s in a comic format is fucking awesome. And for those of you who don’t know why, Blacksad was a comic, this is a game based off of a comic series, that’s what makes it so damn cool. The attention to detail is awesome.
Another thing that you do is, while playing the game, you actually affect Blacksad’s status, you can check that in another area of the menu something like “Your Blacksad” which gives you a bunch of statuses like if he’s an asshole or a really nice guy, if it’s authoritative or if he tries to talk things out, and around a dozen or so other options. Every time you make a choice in the game a change happens in there to varying degrees. I think this is interesting, though mostly for near end game views. At the start of the game it’s really kinda useless since everything is in the middle since, you know, you haven’t done anything yet. However, at the end it’s something to marvel at, and you can play through it drastically differently each time and see how your choices fundamentally changed Blacksad. There’s nothing to do in here but look at that, however, that’s just an interesting thing for me. The system kind of reminds me of, albeit a significantly more in depth version, the chapter end screens for Telltale games where they tell you what you did and how many people did things like you. But this is so much more in depth and says fuck off to what other players did, your choices are something YOU have to live with, not something to be compared with, with others.
Now for some parts that annoyed me. The game often loads super slow, especially when you to go the album from the main game and come back to it, it also happens a lot when you’re loading the main game fairly often, not always, but most of the time. Other than that the game lags with button inputs sometimes or outright doesn’t register them. I had this happen numerous times in both conversational and action sequences, this resulted in me dying a couple times which sucked. The conversation fails resulted in Blacksad getting his ass beat a ummm, l-little bit… yeah, a little bit, we’ll go with that. I’m not sure if it’s because the game was just slow sometimes or if it was because it wasn’t optimized for the lower end consoles as I was playing it on an X1S. Last year I saw Control was terrible for a while on anything other than the X1X and the PS4 Pro, so I’m not sure if that’s the case with Blacksad or if it just doesn’t run super smooth on consoles just in general or what. It didn’t happen often though, but it happened enough times to annoy me.
Overall, I really enjoy this game, it has some really active fight scenes, but most of it is just talking with people and walking around looking at things. It’s not going to be for everyone and I realize that, I’m a purveyor of niche as hell games, as is the story of my life. However, I can say this, if you like the Sherlock Holmes games and like noir stuff, you’re going to fucking LOVE this game. It does have some drawbacks but they aren’t super major and you get used to them, only a couple annoyances but they weren’t super common and just dashboarding and going back through it would fix it, at least on the X1 anyways.
Blacksad: Under the Skin was developed by: Pendulo Studios
$40 on Steam $50 on everything else
A review copy of the game was provided by the publisher Microids.
darkmikasonfire has awarded Blacksad: Under the Skin The Indie Gamer Team Seal of Approval