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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.