Oct 15, 2013
As it happens, I’m a big fan of unusual game experiences. It could stem from the fact that I suck at common video-games, and compensate it by playing stuff that no-one else bothers to even care about. Anyway, this is exactly why I picked up Blackbar. Everything about this game says â€œindieâ€ and â€œart gameâ€, and even â€œpolitical statementâ€. Blackbar sure lacks some gameplay depth, though, so much that I’d hesitate to actually call it a â€œvideo gameâ€ in the fullest sense. It’s more of an interactive story, and truth be told, it wouldn’t lose a slightest bit of â€œgameplayâ€ if it was simply printed out as a short story. In any case, game or not, it’s an interesting way of storytelling, and whatever issues I might have with its oversimplified gameplay, don’t transfer onto the fun I had with it.
Story of Blackbar is full of surprises, and it would be poisonous for the game, if I told anything about it. It’s set in an anti-utopian world, where every bit of correspondence is constantly kept in check, and censored by â€œThe Departmentâ€. It unfolds in a series of letters between two childhood friends, one of whom has left home to work in the big city. Naturally, as the setting and the game’s name suggests, the letters are carefully censored of all negative and revealing words, and the player’s work is to write them back, to restore the original message. The gameplay itself is as simple as pressing on a blackbar, and writing a word, using standard messaging keyboard. If the word is right, the blackbar will disappear. There’s no telling of what the word can be, outside of context, and a number of letters in it. I had just a few problems with it, but I did get stuck for quite a while on some really stubborn words. And that’s the whole game. Just read the letter, write the correct words down, and move on. There’s nothing else in the entire game, save for the letters themselves, so I can understand if some people leave disappointed.
That said, the story did hold my interest throughout the game, and the writing is pretty good. Atmosphere is quite realistic, and different from most anti-utopias, where everyone is 5 seconds away from hanging themselves. People have their own problems, and view their totalitarian government simply as a nuisance â€“ until it comes for them, as the saying goes. In the end, I thought Blackbar to be interesting. The developer simply had to make a story engaging for it to work, and I think that he did it well.