Blacksad: Under the Skin

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Blacksad: Under the Skin
Blacksad Under the Skin box art.png
European box art
Developer(s)Pendulo Studios
YS Interactive (assistance)
Publisher(s)Microïds
Director(s)Ramón Hernáez
Writer(s)Ramón Hernáez
Josué Monchán
SeriesBlacksad
Platform(s)Windows
macOS
PlayStation 4
Xbox One
Nintendo Switch
ReleaseNovember 5, 2019 (limited release)
November 14, 2019
Nintendo Switch
December 10, 2019
Genre(s)Adventure
Mode(s)Single-player

Blacksad: Under the Skin is a 2019 adventure video game developed by Pendulo Studios and published by Microïds. It is an adaptation of the Eisner-winning Spanish comic series Blacksad by Juan Díaz Canales and Juanjo Guarnido. The game follows John Blacksad as he investigates the suspicious death of a boxing club owner.

Blacksad is Pendulo's first game based on a license and its first to use fully 3D graphics. The project began in late 2016 at the suggestion of Microïds, part of the same media conglomerate that owns Blacksad publisher Dargaud. It was released on November 14, 2019, although a technical error caused an unfinished version of the game to launch in Europe on November 5.

A Nintendo Switch port of the game is scheduled for a release on December 10, 2019.

Gameplay[edit]

Blacksad: Under the Skin is an adventure game that takes place in a three-dimensional game world. Its gameplay has been compared to the work of Telltale Games,[1] as well as Team Bondi's L.A. Noire and Frogwares' Sherlock Holmes: The Devil's Daughter.[2][1] Blacksad does not feature an inventory,[3] and, unlike in Pendulo Studios' past games, it forgoes a point-and-click interface in favor of direct character control.[4] Gameplay is choice-based and the player's actions alter the player character's alignment with other characters in the world.[1] The direction of the story changes based on the player's decisions. Blacksad features quick-time events,[3] timed conversation sequences and scenes where the player must search for clues in the environment.[1]

During investigations, John Blacksad's heightened feline senses allow the player to slow down time and perceive visual clues in their surroundings, which are then added to the player's clue index. From here, the player may combine clues to form conclusions,[5] both to progress the main story and to solve optional side-quests.[6]

Plot[edit]

Blacksad: Under the Skin is set in New York City during the 1950s,[7] and takes place chronologically between Blacksad: Arctic Nation and Red Soul.[6][5] Its story begins when protagonist John Blacksad is approached by Sonia Dunn, daughter of a boxing club owner who has died suspiciously. She asks Blacksad to investigate the situation and locate the club's star fighter, who has been missing since her father's death. According to Pendulo Studios, the game contains 30 unique characters and five previously from the Blacksad comic series: John Blacksad, John Pierman, Jake Ostiombe, Weekly and the police chief.[7] The game contains six possible endings.[8]

Development[edit]

Blacksad: Under the Skin was developed by the Spanish company Pendulo Studios,[9] the country's longest-running game developer by 2019.[8] It had previously been responsible for games such as the Runaway and Hollywood Monsters franchises.[10] YS Interactive initially assisted the team on Blacksad.[4][11] According to Pendulo, the idea of adapting the Blacksad comic series into a game was first proposed by Pendulo's publisher Microïds, directly after the two companies had completed Yesterday Origins in November 2016. Microïds was owned by the same media conglomerate as Blacksad publisher Dargaud.[4] Although Pendulo had never worked with a license before,[3] the developer's Josué Monchán noted that the team had "been Blacksad fans for a long time" and agreed to the idea immediately.[7] The team then storyboarded a pitch and submitted it to Dargaud and Blacksad's authors, who approved it.[12] The project was unexpectedly announced in June 2017 and was initially scheduled for a late 2018 release.[13] Giada Zavarise of Rock, Paper, Shotgun wrote of the announcement, "In the world of games, the news was received with a shrug. But in the comics scene, people were screaming incoherently."[14] Gameblog's Vincent Elmer-Haerrig called the plan a "gamble" for Pendulo, as Under the Skin is aimed at "a fringe of players who are both comic-philes and video game lovers."[15]

Blacksad writer Juan Díaz Canales (left) and artist Juanjo Guarnido served as consultants on Blacksad: Under the Skin, and offered feedback on the visuals, story, voice direction and other aspects of the production.

Pendulo collaborated with Blacksad creators Juan Díaz Canales and Juanjo Guarnido on Under the Skin.[4][16] The developer described the pair as consultants,[4] while Canales said that Pendulo "ask[ed] us about the plot and the visuals concepts."[16] According to Monchán, adapting Guarnido's visual style was the team's "biggest challenge" during production.[7] Guarnido expressed his desire for accuracy to the Blacksad comic's aesthetic,[12] and Monchán called his help and approval "fundamental" to the team's efforts.[7] The authors reviewed each stage of the 2D concept art and 3D visuals.[6] Pendulo hoped to balance faithfulness to the comics' art with realism regarding budget and scheduling, as Monchán noted that it was impossible to perfectly recreate the comics' style given the restrictions of game development.[7] Blacksad's authors also offered input on the game's voice direction.[6] Canales requested a deep voice for John Blacksad because of the character's heavy smoking; the team hired Barry Johnson of Detroit: Become Human for the English version, and Gabriel Jiménez—voice of Hugh Jackman in Spanish film dubs—for the Spanish version.[17]

With help from the comic's authors, Pendulo opted to create an original story not based on any particular Blacksad installment, but which still takes influence and inspiration from the existing series.[4] Guarnido said that "the narrative is strong and we took care that it does not interfere with the stories of the comic series".[12] The game's story is officially considered non-canonical.[1] Its focus on sports-related corruption and the impact of television on sports in the 1950s came, according to Monchán, because Pendulo "wanted to address a topic that Guarnido and Canales have not yet touched".[7] Pendulo's Felipe Gómez Pinilla said that the theme of corruption emerged from the team's research into the era. It became a central theme in the game; according to GameSpot's Jordan Ramée, the team intended player decisions to hinge on their interaction with corruption in society, either through acceptance or rejection.[6]

Blacksad was Pendulo's first game to use fully 3D visuals. Lead animator Carlos Hernández told Mundo Deportivo that the game's production was "a great difficulty" for the team, particularly because of Pendulo's small size. The company numbered 17 members by 2019.[3] Pendulo was similarly challenged by the game design: Pinilla noted that the team sought to recreate the feeling of the Blacksad comics in an interactive form, and to "find the mechanics that make you feel like [you are] investigating something" rather than simply observing an investigation. John Blacksad's heightened feline senses were an attempt to make Under the Skin's detective work unique to the Blacksad universe. Easter eggs that reference the Blacksad books were included as well.[5] The game's direct control scheme replaced traditional point-and-click controls because the team wanted Under the Skin to suit game consoles, a concern that started during the creation of Yesterday Origins.[17]

Under the Skin's first teaser trailer was revealed in August 2018,[18] around the time of its showing at Gamescom.[19] It proceeded to appear at the 3D Wire festival in Spain that October.[20] By February 2019, the game had been in production for over two years.[4] In April of that year, Blacksad was given a release date of September 26, 2019.[21] Mundo Deportivo reported at the time that Blacksad was "in the final phase of development".[3] However, in July, the game was delayed to November 5, 2019.[22] Microïds attributed the delay to a desire for increased polish in the final product.[23] Although the game received a subsequent delay to November 14, its European Xbox Marketplace and PlayStation Store versions nevertheless appeared due to a technical error on November 5.[24] Microïds advised buyers not to play the game before the release of its planned "day-one patch", set to coincide with Under the Skin's wider release on November 14. According to Microïds, the patch will add more sound effects to the game, fix "major bugs" and heavily increase the frame rate, among other improvements.[25] Discussing the situation at the time, Destructoid's Chris Moyse wrote, "You have to feel for the developers in what must be a very stressful and unfortunate situation."[26] While the game met its planned November 14 release date, Jorge Cano of Vandal characterized Under the Skin's overall rollout as "simply disastrous" and as "an example of how to do things wrong when it comes to putting a game on sale". Patches soon followed to fix some of the game's bugs and instabilities at launch.[27]

Reception[edit]

Pre-release[edit]

During 2018, MeriStation placed Blacksad: Under the Skin among the year's "10 most promising" adventure games,[28] while La Vanguardia and VidaExtra listed the game's debut trailer as one of the best to appear at Gamescom 2018.[29][30] The following year, HobbyConsolas declared Under the Skin one of 2019's "most anticipated Spanish video games",[31] and IGN España highlighted the game as one of the top graphic adventures scheduled for 2019.[32] The editors of 3DJuegos similarly named it their 44th-most-anticipated title of 2019 across all genres and platforms,[33] and one of their 20 most anticipated indie games of the year.[34] According to Laura Cress of Adventure Gamers, Blacksad's display at Gamescom 2019 was "a popular draw at the annual Adventure-Treff party".[35] The game netted a "Best Action Adventure Game" prize in the annual Gamescom Awards; The Hollywood Reporter cited it as one of the few non-sequels to win an award that year, alongside Sony's Concrete Genie and Dreams.[36]

Reviews[edit]

Reception
Review scores
PublicationScore
4Players85%[37]
GameStar72%[38]
Jeuxvideo.com13/20[39]
PC Gamer (US)68%[40]
3DJuegos6.5/10[41]
Vandal7/10[27]
MeriStation5.5/10[42]

Luke Kemp of PC Gamer docked Blacksad: Under the Skin points for being "unaware of its absurdity", arguing that its combination of animal characters with realistic and sexual imagery undermined the game's serious tone. He wrote, "The two obvious options with this game were to either play everything for laughs, or double down on the noir aspect ... Pendulo Studios appears to have chosen the latter, but it doesn't quite work."[40] In Vandal, Jorge Cano offered strong praise to Under the Skin's story, which he found "very interesting ... from beginning to end, and quite well written". He also enjoyed the game's use of decision points and the deduction system. Cano criticized its technical problems, quick-time events, control system, visuals and high system requirements, but nevertheless said that "the charismatic universe on which it is based and its narrative virtues manage to sustain [Under the Skin], despite all the problems it has."[27]

Reviewing the game for 3DJuegos, Alejandro Pascual found Under the Skin overly slow-paced and, before its planned patch, rife with bugs. While he praised its storytelling, atmosphere and faithful adaptation of the Blacksad comics, he found its quick-time events flawed and the game in general unpolished.[41] The reviewer for Jeuxvideo.com similarly lauded the game's story, writing and faithfulness to the Blacksad comics, and added praise for its music and puzzles. However, she lambasted its "amazing palette of technical flaws and bugs" and found fault with its reliance on backtracking and the "illusion of choice".[39] GameStar's Elena Schulz continued the praise for Under the Skin's story, which she called "definitely the [game's] highlight". Echoing the other reviewers, her primary complaints were with its controls, quick-time events, graphics and technical issues. She summarized, "Blacksad has technical and gameplay weaknesses, but delivers a gripping adventure story full of interesting characters."[38]

In a more positive review, Maja Verfondem of 4Players wrote, "Blacksad is—after the installation of the Day One patch—my adventure highlight of 2019, which makes you want to read the comics again." Her primary criticisms related to the quick-time events, and to "minor graphics bugs and performance issues that even the Day One patch was unable to completely eliminate".[37]

The game was nominated for "Best Spanish Development" and "Best Spanish Performance" with Gabriel Jiménez at the 2019 Titanium Awards.[43]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e [87] (August 26, 2018). "Preview : Blacksad: Under the Skin - Pendulo (Runaway, Yesterday...) s'essaye au jeu narratif - gamescom 2018". Jeuxvideo.com (in French). Archived from the original on July 12, 2019. Retrieved July 12, 2019.
  2. ^ Schulz, Elena (April 28, 2019). "Blacksad: Under the Skin - Eine klassische Noir-Detektivgeschichte... Wenn da nicht die schwarze Katze wäre!". GameStar (in German). Archived from the original on April 28, 2019.
  3. ^ a b c d e Amores, Marina (April 15, 2019). "Corrupción, fama, boxeo y detectives: Blacksad pasa del papel al videojuego". Mundo Deportivo (in Spanish). Archived from the original on July 12, 2019.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g Yago Lago (February 28, 2019). "La Mansión Maníaca #3: Entrevista a Pendulo sobre Blacksad y mucho más". MeriStation (in Spanish). Archived from the original on March 29, 2019.
  5. ^ a b c McCarthy, Caty (July 19, 2019). "Blacksad: Under the Skin Stars a Feline as a Detective, But It's No Kid-Friendly Zootopia". USgamer. Archived from the original on July 19, 2019.
  6. ^ a b c d e Ramée, Jordan (July 19, 2019). "Blacksad: Under The Skin Is All About Corruption, A New Theme For The Mystery Series". GameSpot. Archived from the original on July 19, 2019.
  7. ^ a b c d e f g Jiménez, Jesús (October 5, 2018). "Blacksad, uno de los videojuegos más esperados". RTVE (in Spanish). Archived from the original on July 12, 2019.
  8. ^ a b Arroyo, David (July 19, 2019). "Blacksad: Under The Skin, impresiones; una carta de amor a los cómics". MeriStation (in Spanish). Archived from the original on July 19, 2019.
  9. ^ Croft, Paula (March 28, 2019). "Blacksad: Under the Skin llegará a PC y consolas en septiembre". MeriStation (in Spanish). Archived from the original on July 12, 2019. Retrieved July 12, 2019.
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  20. ^ Milligan, Mercedes (September 16, 2018). "3D Wire Looks to the Future of Iberian Film, Game & VR with 106 Selections". Animation Magazine. Archived from the original on July 12, 2019. Retrieved July 12, 2019.
  21. ^ Varela, Ramón (April 25, 2019). "Blacksad: Under the Skin se lanza el 26 de septiembre". Vandal (in Spanish). Archived from the original on April 25, 2019. Retrieved July 12, 2019.
  22. ^ Marchetto, Claudia (July 22, 2019). "L'uscita di Blacksad: Under the Skin è stata posticipata, pubblicato un filmato che mostra lo sviluppo del gioco". Eurogamer Italia (in Italian). Archived from the original on July 22, 2019. Retrieved July 22, 2019.
  23. ^ Cejas, Sergio (July 23, 2019). "La aventura gráfica Blacksad: Under the Skin retrasa su lanzamiento y se va a noviembre". VidaExtra (in Spanish). Archived from the original on July 23, 2019. Retrieved July 23, 2019.
  24. ^ Olson, Mathew (November 5, 2019). "Europe Didn't Get the Memo About Blacksad: Under the Skin's Release Date Delay". USgamer. Archived from the original on November 6, 2019. Retrieved November 5, 2019.
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  30. ^ Garciá, Albert (August 27, 2018). "Los 10 mejores tráilers de la Gamescom 2018". La Vanguardia (in Spanish). Archived from the original on July 16, 2019. Retrieved July 16, 2019.
  31. ^ Ortega, José L. (January 9, 2019). "Los videojuegos españoles más esperados de 2019". HobbyConsolas (in Spanish). Archived from the original on July 16, 2019. Retrieved July 16, 2019.
  32. ^ Barriocanal, Inés (July 18, 2019). "Las aventuras gráficas más prometedoras que nos llegarán este año". IGN España (in Spanish). Archived from the original on July 20, 2019. Retrieved July 20, 2019.
  33. ^ Staff (2019). "Los 100 juegos mas esperados de 2019". 3DJuegos (in Spanish). Retrieved July 16, 2019.
  34. ^ Pastor, Alberto (January 19, 2019). "20 juegos indie para soñar en 2019". 3DJuegos (in Spanish). Archived from the original on July 16, 2019. Retrieved July 16, 2019.
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  36. ^ Roxborough, Scott (August 19, 2019). "Sony's 'Dreams' and 'Concrete Genie' Top Gamescom Awards". The Hollywood Reporter. Archived from the original on August 19, 2019.
  37. ^ a b Verfondem, Maja (November 15, 2019). "Test: Blacksad: Under the Skin". 4Players (in German). Retrieved November 15, 2019.
  38. ^ a b Schulz, Elena (November 19, 2019). "Blacksad: Under the Skin ist die ideale Telltale-Alternative". GameStar (in German). Archived from the original on November 19, 2019.
  39. ^ a b Tiraxa (November 18, 2019). "Test : Blacksad : Under the Skin, un polar noir grisant mais teinté de défauts". Jeuxvideo.com (in French). Retrieved November 18, 2019.
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  42. ^ Arroyo, David (December 3, 2019). "Blacksad: Under the Skin, análisis". MeriStation (in Spanish). Retrieved December 3, 2019.
  43. ^ "Titanium Awards 2019". Fun & Serious Game Festival. Archived from the original on November 21, 2019. Retrieved November 26, 2019.

External links[edit]