What are blackholes and will we ever truly discover all their secrets? There are many theories and many studies on the go, but who knows if we ever will? Blackhole, from developer FiolaSoft Studios, has a ton of fun with the idea as both the concept and gameplay for this indie gem are amazing. Released sometime ago, way back in February 2015, this flew under the radar of many sites and reviewers, including ours, and boy are we glad we finally came around. With recent updates adding an easy mode to make the game a bit more accessible we’d like to give Blackhole the attention it deserves even if we are eight months behind.
The story of Blackhole is both original and intriguing. It starts off well with a long (but not boring) cut scene full of humour that well introduces you to the crew of your spaceship and your mission. You, a dispensable coffee boy, six other crewmembers, and a witty AI program named Auriel are tasked with closing the last blackhole that threatens to destroy Earth. When your spaceship crashes inside the blackhole itself, you are the only one suspected to have survived with Auriel. Of course the task of closing said hole now falls on you as does the job of searching this “Entity” for the crew; if they survived. If you aren’t one for stories there is an option upon starting a new game that cuts out most of the story and dialogue segments. I wish a lot more games had this feature, but in respect to Blackhole, I highly suggest you don’t take this option as the story is fun and interesting and the dialogue is hilarious.
“You, a dispensable coffee boy, six other crewmembers, and a witty AI program named Auriel are tasked with closing the last blackhole that threatens to destroy Earth.”
Blackhole is a 2-D, sci-fi, hardcore puzzle platformer mainly based around one mechanic. The objective in each level is to collect at least one orb called “Selfburns” by rotating the level. In each level there are glowing special platforms that, once you touch them, rotates the level so that becomes the bottom (what you walk on). At first you can get pretty turned around with all the rotating, but the increase in puzzle complexity is excellently executed and this problem is quickly subdued.
Split into six different acts, each new area hosts a new theme, introduces a new mechanic, and a new set of levels. Each area acts as a hub that you need to navigate in order to access new levels. There are also rewards for exploring these areas; there are collectable memory cores that, when found, play some nice dialogue revealing more about Auriel. I loved these hub worlds, as it was a neat way to introduce new mechanics and have you play around with it before entering a level. To get to a new level the puzzle/platforming is minimal and it keeps you more immersed in the universe of the game.
While platforming is fun it all comes down to how the controls respond and these controls are spot on. Using the traditional WASD to move and spacebar to jump, by holding it down you can jump different heights and lengths. Just running and jumping in the hubs was fun. There wasn’t a moment after dying that I thought it was the control responsiveness that killed me. A lot of the puzzle games require precision to achieve a hundred percent so to be successful the controls needed to be tightly tuned. You can tell the folks at FiolaSoft Studios spent their time to ensure this.
“…excellent gameplay, well-tuned controls and puzzles, and intriguing story, Blackhole also looks stunning.”
Each level within a hub is pretty short and can be challenging if trying to get every Selfburn. I rushed through most levels, just getting the minimal needed in order to progress, and found it easy but fun. When trying to collect every Selfburn the difficulty greatly increased. The puzzles are well planned out and take some critical thinking, especially as you get into the later acts with more mechanics. Never was I stumped on a puzzle but a few times I did have to give up as I was dying too much. It is frustrating to die multiple times in a row but there is trial and error in these puzzles. My advice is to take it slow and enjoy the scenery.
With excellent gameplay, well-tuned controls and puzzles, and intriguing story, Blackhole also looks stunning.Every act introduces a new theme from a barren cave to a lush jungle and nothing is visually dull. The backgrounds are laid out cleverly to help you stay orientated while the levels rotate and your objectives nicely pop out.
I had a tremendous time playing through Blackhole and still have a lot to go back and accomplish. Doing the bare minimum you can complete each act in about an hour or two, but there is lots of replay value if you are a completionist. If you are fan of puzzle platformers there is no reason not to add this to your collection; it surely won’t disappoint.
*** PC code provided by the publisher ***
- Tight and responsive controls
- Original and intriguing story
- Superb voice acting
- Awesome humour
- Intellectual puzzles/puzzle solving
- Audio/Music sounds great
- Beautiful Graphics
- Not a damn thing