Blacksad: Under The Skin Review

I love a good private detective story. While they vary in quality, you can at least expect twists and turns, with a typically gruff investigator at the centre doling out noir-styled musings. Blacksad: Under The Skin was first released in 2019, but has just released on PS5 and Xbox Series X|S, allowing players to revisit a case of murder, corruption, and extortion with some current gen graphical updates.

Blacksad: Under The Skin is an interactive adventure title, with the gameplay primarily based on talking to characters, gathering clues from scenes, and then deducing what you have collected to come up with theories to work out the case. The case itself all starts with the apparent suicide of boxing gym owner Joe Dunn, who is found hanging above his boxing ring by the cleaning lady. Meanwhile, our near broke private eye John Blacksad is just finishing a case about a cheating husband, who is none too pleased with his life being investigated.

The opening of the game will introduce you to the basics of character interaction and quick time events (QTEs). The latter is primarily used for the times Blacksad gets into fights, though there are a couple of other situations they pop up in. They are mostly fine, but there were moments where the timing seemed to be off with a slight delay between input and action, which could cause fails to execute a move.

For the majority of the game, you will be walking around different locations as Blacksad, after he gets hired by Dunn’s daughter to get to the bottom of her father’s death and the disappearance of the gym’s star boxer. Unsurprisingly, the first port of call is the gym, followed by locations such as a diner, apartments, and offices. In all of these areas, points of interest will pop up for Blacksad to interact with, amongst the huge number of sports collector cards that almost litter every scene.

Points of interest will include everything from quotes painted on a wall, to the large cast of characters that cross your path. There is frustration when it comes to movement and interacting with the environment, since Blacksad walks quite slowly. A jog/sprint button would have been a welcome addition. Points of interest require Blacksad to stand in specific positions, and navigating him to some of those points is cumbersome.

The visuals, including the character designs and models are for the most part very good, though outside of Blacksad, many of the personalities seem to lack real substance, playing more into caricatures. Some are a bit on the nose, yet they all fit into this 1950s anthropomorphic criminal world. The voice acting can vary, with some lines delivered in ways that jar within the context of a scene. In addition, there were times where the mouth movement was slightly out of sync with the audio. Overall though, the voice acting is decently delivered.

The environments meanwhile offer plenty of detail all the way from the minor scuffs on the wall, to reflective surfaces and some truly excellent lighting. There are however noticeable issues that haven’t been ironed out by this refresh, like blurred lettering on some signs, and clothing bunching and failing to react as it should.

Blacksad is fundamentally predicatable, but you’ll enjoy the journey nonetheless. What is not always fun is the deduction. Blacksad gathers clues to piece theories together, theories you likely would have pieced together a while before. In the deduction screen you have to match Blacksad’s thoughts to come up with deductions. What should be obvious connections don’t always work, so at times you’re following some almost unrelated though processes to get a deduction. Outside of deductions, if you make the wrong choices or miss a QTE Blacksad can be killed, but this has very little bearing since the scene loads straight back into the choice or action again, allowing you to undo that mistake.

Summary
Blacksad is a surprisingly charming interactive tale. John Blacksad is an intriguing character, but open enough that you can shape him. While other characters don't stand out as much, the ensemble brings the story to life. The game suffers from cumbersome movement and a deduction system that's not that interesting to engage with, but, if you love a bit of noir, Blacksad: Under The Skin is well worth the 10-hour playthrough.
Good
  • Enjoyable noir detective story
  • Looks great the majority of the time
  • Decent voice acting
Bad
  • Story proves predictable at times
  • Minor graphical issues
  • Movement is cumbersome
7
Written by
From the heady days of the Mega Drive up until the modern day gaming has been my main hobby. I'll give almost any game a go.

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