Indie

BlackSoul Extended Edition Review: 1993's Worst Game of the Year

I like horror games. I like adventure games. And I like puzzle games. So when those three come together I get kind of excited, like a younger version of myself playing Alone in the Dark only with more beard and less optimism.

So when BlackSoul: Extended Edition from XeniosVision landed on my plate I got a little excited. And that excitement held true, for another reason. I finally got to play my very first (virtually) unplayable game, for both design and technical reasons, and it didn’t crash my computer.


The entrance of a mansion. Such spooky.

The entrance of a mansion. Such spooky.

BlackSoul looks a lot like Alone in the Dark, and probably plays like it too. The thing is, in the modern day and age the PC has become accustomed to the plug-and-play convenience previously enjoyed only by consoles. I haven’t had to take extra time to get a PC game running since I wrote my own autoexec.bat and configsys files to get Crusader: No Remorse running on a Win95 machine (*sigh* good times). Hell, at least it worked after all that.

But BlackSoul did not work. Not right away. Starting the game brings up a launcher that doesn’t register as an application. I made the mistake of checking another window before proceeding, and lost it in a panic for a moment. Then I hit configure, set my resolution to a windowed 1600×900 – didn’t want to take a risk – and hit play.

The full resolution image of the menu screen I wrestled out of the game.

The full resolution image of the menu screen I wrestled out of the game.

A 640×400 window popped up, with text for ants proudly displayed in red text over a mostly black background. Long story short, after about half an hour I couldn’t get the game to be readable without a fullscreen 640×400 setting. This also failed to work the second time I booted the game.

Resolutely pressing on, I reviewed the controls and hit play as the main menu’s rain and thunder resounded in my headphones. “Cool,” I thought as the screen darkened, “maybe the game is actually pretty awesome.”

It wasn’t.

The absurdity of this camera angle wasn't apparent until it changed and I realized where it's perspective was. Then I laughed and cried.

The absurdity of this camera angle wasn’t apparent until it changed and I realized where its perspective was. Then I laughed and cried.

BlackSoul is awful. With an unchangeable, horrible default camera angle and moves to accommodate movement in the most inconvenient way possible and a control system that is both finicky and barely usable, this is a game that makes one wonder why they bother trying new things.

Never mind that the game doesn’t even have the barest minimum of a tutorial to explain various functions and controls; there also isn’t any story. At the core of every adventure is a narrative, something that might even emerge from the barest bones of information, that explodes into a plethora of intrigue and characterization.

That shadow is actually your character, horribly rendered.

That shadow is actually your character, horribly rendered.

At the core of BlackSoul is a series of meaningless scene changes, poorly-implemented hints of something larger at work, and absolutely zero character motivation to do anything. And there is no greater crime in gaming than not only failing to make a gamer care but then actually making them not care.

When I finally got the game going to the point that I actually advanced a bit, I gained entry to an enormous, obviously dangerous mansion. After unearthing a puzzle-locked trap door and finding a box that literally said “gun” on it, I walked into a room. Enduring the loading screen that I realized was going to accompany every single room change, I found myself alone with a zombie-looking creature.

A nomming by a zombie. Woe is me.

A nomming by a zombie. Woe is me.

It promptly ate me, which was kind of cool because it started by hacking me a couple times before settling into a hug while nomming my neck until I died. And yes, dear reader, you guessed it: no autosave, nuttin’. I had since forgotten the controls for shooting the gun I presumably had and also those for bringing up the menu, after all. What was I expecting?

BlackSoul is nothing short of a creative failure. I would like to say, at this point, that there is probably a great game underneath all the bad stuff, but I honestly can’t. I find nothing redeeming about this game. If it’s a horror, puzzle, or adventure experience you are looking for, Black Soul: Extended Edition is the furthest from your goal.

Final Breakdown

[+Cool 90s rain effects] [-No tutorial] [-Almost-unusable controls] [-Zero motivation] [-Technical difficulties] [-No horror] [-Poorly executed narrative]
Vile Review Score

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