Panthers and Big Cats and Lions, Oh My
Blacksad: Under the Skin takes place in a 1950s noir world populated by anthropomorphic animals. The game, and the comics, follow the adventures of John Blacksad, private detective for hire in this gritty world. And yes, he is a black cat. Or a panther? I’m not really sure of the distinction. After surviving a near-death experience from the cheating husband of one of his clients, Blacksad is approached by Sonia Dunn, the daughter of recently deceased boxing club owner Joe Dunn, to investigate her father’s murder.
There’s a similar vibe to The Wolf Among Us right from the get go, with similar action sequences that require precise timing in order to prevent Blacksad from getting shot. It also has a similarly gritty feeling. Despite the presence of animals and/or fairy tale characters, both games are definitely for a mature audience.
Most of what I got to do was investigating the scene of the murder before branching out to visit the diner down the street and then Joe's apartment. Blacksad is easy enough to move around, and the controls you can get the hang of fairly quickly. My biggest gameplay complaint would be that some hotspots are quite picky to actually light up, and you need to be standing very precisely in order to interact with them, even if you know that there’s an object in your general vicinity. A map would’ve also been useful, as Blacksad moves at more of a pace akin to a stalking Jaguar than a flighted Cheetah, and going from the gym to the diner takes far longer than it should.
Blacksad himself is an interesting character. Your choices as you go influence both his personality and the story, setting up different ending outcomes regardless of the mystery. For example, when dealing with the unfaithful husband, you have the choice to take bribe money from him or not, and the choice to tell his wife about his affair or not. How you choose, of course, affects how he treats you. Exactly how much of an influence this has on the end of the story is yet to be seen, but it’s fun on the base level of creating your own type of character who fits into this noir world.
The mystery of Blacksad is the most compelling part of the game thus far. Characters are stereotypical, and fit easily into established noir patterns, albeit with some added feathers and whiskers on them. What seems like a simple mystery on the surface–Joe Dunn was likely killed in order to rig a boxing fight that was coming up at his gym–promises to go deeper into the messy underworld and Blacksad’s own connections to it. At the same time, starting off the mystery with the simplest thread made it easy for me to get into the story and start to understand the world and characters, rather than having 50 plot threads thrown at my head from the get go.
An hour into Blacksad really felt like just a half an hour had gone by. While there were definite shades of influence from The Wolf Among Us, it felt unique, partly because of the animal cast. Without having read the comic, it was easy enough to jump into, but it’s also not for the faint of heart. If you’re looking for an interesting take on a noir adventure and don’t mind some excessive violence, this one’s for you.
Are you going to play Blacksad: Under the Skin? Have you read the comics? Let us know in the comments below!