Why have one mentally unhinged robot when you could have four?
When The Fall released on Wii U in 2014, its story was praised by reviewers. While certain elements of the gameplay were still rough around the edges, I myself couldn’t help but be drawn in by its deep science fiction narrative. I named it my favorite eShop game of the year in 2014, which is saying something as that was a very good year for indie titles. Now, four years later, Arid the unbound android’s journey can finally continue. While I was fascinated to see where the story would go, I was also curious as to what the extended development time would do for the gameplay.
The Fall Part 2: Unbound, picks up right where the first game left off. If you have yet to play the first title, I’d strongly recommend it. But if you’re dedicated to starting off with part two, an optional recap is available to get new players up to speed. From there, you’ll take control of the protagonist A.I. Arid or at least what’s left of her. Without a body, Arid is forced to travel via interconnected networks between various computer systems in order to hunt down the “User” who has forced his way into Arid’s system.
This abstract world is represented through a Metroid-like, though not necessarily Metroidvania-esque, environment. Exploring puts Arid into contact with other A.I.s to interface with. Entering these bodies does not grant free reign however. Unlike Arid, each robot is still bound by its own set of rules that you must work within to achieve your goals. The first A.I. you’ll encounter is a butler, who is restricted to a very specific daily cycle. Therefore, in order to explore outside of his routine, you’ll need to find ways to introduce new variables to his cycle. Other encountered characters each play out with their own unique mechanics and rules. Each one feels like a small new game within a game.
Outside of a riveting story, puzzle solving is, by far, the game’s strongest quality, making up the bulk of the gameplay. Regular play is in many ways similar to classic point-and-click adventure titles like Monkey Island or The Neverhood. An emphasis on interacting with objects and adding things to an inventory increases the adventure-like style. Interestingly the items oftentimes aren’t items at all, but rather ideas. In other words, learning something from an object can then be applied somewhere else to reveal a new action. This concept is expanded upon with the addition of multiple perspectives from which a character can view a single object. I don’t mean 3D perspective; you can literally change the way in which a character interprets the world around them. Despite the growth of that mechanic, I never found puzzles unfairly confusing. I was generally able to take my time, carefully look around the environment, and solve puzzles logically. I only had a few instances of trying everything on everything. When the answer did eventually present itself, I didn’t feel like it was a bad solution, merely that I had been an idiot. Instead the only minor issue I had with exploration and puzzle solving was one I also had with the first game. Your ability to interact with the world is dictated by aiming your flashlight at interactable points and clicking on them. I often found, however, that I would walk up to an object, only to be too close to interact with it. I’d then back away, select it, and watch Arid walk to the spot where I had just been. It’s an extremely minor complaint, but one I would have hoped to see changed. I also ran into rare instances in which the game crashed on me after it had been running for several days and regularly switched from docked to handheld. A quick reset however fixed the problem and the game otherwise ran smoothly.
The final piece of gameplay is combat, which remains a strange juxtaposition against the more cerebral puzzle solving. Despite being an uncommon addition to the genre, I found it a pleasant break from trudging through complex puzzles. Those who did not enjoy the combat in the first title need not be concerned, combat in The Fall Part 2 has been completely reworked. Encounters now take on two different forms. Within the network, Arid fights off a spreading virus through ranged combat. Unlike the previous entry, this is no longer cover-based. Instead these fights revolve around careful dodging and well-timed shots in order to hit enemies while they’re weak. While it makes up a relatively small portion of the game, a few new abilities and varied enemies keep these encounters from getting stale. The second form of combat is melee-based. In these instances attacks have to be carefully timed to your left and right as enemies swarm. Deeper into the game, enemies learn to block and dodge, which makes these fights even more enjoyable. Melee combat plays out almost like some kind of rhythm game, and I found it extremely fun. I’m honestly a little disappointed there isn’t an endless high score mode.
The Fall Part 2: Unbound adds a significant amount of depth and complexity to the formula set by its predecessor and it is all the better for it. Combat has become more interesting and varied. The new characters are a welcome addition to the world. The story presents fresh ideas and feels like a worthy follow up to The Fall. The occasional awkward mechanic aside, The Fall Part 2 presents an exciting and satisfying adventure. Now get to work on part three!