The Blackout Club has finally offered its membership to console players, after being in early access on Steam since October 2018. Has the jump onto consoles given us a more complete experience?
You play as an adolescent in the seemingly normal small town of Redacre, which is in a National Radio Quiet Zone (a real thing) meaning outside communication is near impossible. Yet in the dead of night, strange things occur. With unexplained blackouts sleepwalking with yourself experiencing black outs, it is up to you and The Blackout Club to uncover the secrets and stop whatever this mysterious cult is up to.
Upon starting the game I was advised to play the prologue to get an idea of how the game would play and what it was all about. I can say it did a great job of teaching the games mechanics whilst teasing the mystery of the story. It turns out the character you were playing as disappears before making it back to her friends with some hard evidence on the weird goings on.
Your character is a member of The Blackout Club, a club your missing friend was a part of. So, it’s up you and a few friends in co-op, to spy on the adults and expose them to the outside world. You create your character with preset options, which later can be customised using the in-game currency which appropriately happens to be sweets. Kids love sweets. You can then pick up a Hero Item which consists of Crossbow, a stun gun or a grappling hook. Only one of these can be used at once, meaning you have to plan accordingly. Powers will aide you along the way, from the ability to take down sleepwalkers and Lucids to the ability to pilot a drone of your own.
Missions are procedural and random, meaning each night offers some new challenge. Missions will involve the likes of collecting evidence using your phone, or by hand. Despite the variety of missions eventually I found myself visiting the same areas/houses doing the same objectives quite often, which put a damper on proceedings.
You’re not alone though, as your neighbours will be shuffling around in a sleepwalking haze. There’s intensity when being stalked by the sleepwalkers, who are blind but can hear well. Crouching whilst they are a small stones throw away can make for some tense gameplay experience. If you have been caught you have few chances to break free either by shoving them or using items such as flash bangs. Succumb to the grab and you’ll be dragged towards a door leaving you desperately trying to clamber and pick-up some trash to use as an escape item.
The Shape, a formless enemy who will at times hunt you down is quite daunting. You’ll be warned of it’s arrival and closing your eyes will reveal it’s humanoid appearance, albeit in a formless silhouette. In one mission I did get caught, the result been I failed the mission completely and had to restart doing new objectives, which while is an interesting mechanic of procedural generated content it did feel like I wasted 30 mins for nothing, apart from a little XP.
At the time of writing this review no co-op was available, no games were found when trying to launch a mission. Which is a shame as the game clearly works better as a co-op game, I don’t want to make it down for solo play as it is doable but you do lose out on the close teamwork you’d expect with either random people or friends. Certain actions in solo play will cause an instant mission failed whereas it seems co-op would offer the chance to carry on.
Unfortunately I ran into some glitches during my play through, closed doors would often let me walk through them as could the sleepwalkers who could grab me through said closed door. Often the path finding of sleepwalkers would be very odd, spinning around in doorways in a very unrealistic manner. Menus would often not show up on screen at all. Even creating a character I was stuck with the default female head, with a male voice. These issues can really distract from the immersion but aren’t bad enough to halt from the enjoyment of the game. While not a glitch I found that some UI elements were rather off putting with bigger fonts that would take up a good chunk of screen.
It turns out I’m still in an early access build according to messages displayed on the screen, which is disappointing considering this was to mark the full release. It feels like underneath quite a solid game they’re areas which still need some polish.
I think once the issues are all ironed out then The Blackout Club will be an all round unique and interesting experience, it has the lore, the mystery which makes it intriguing but often the gameplay leaves a lot to be desired and considering it’s been in EA for a while and this was meant to be its full release I was disappointed how not finished it felt.
I may be writing these slightly negative words, but that doesn’t mean I don’t want to jump back into the creepy town of Redacre to further investigate the cult. I see a lot of potential in the mechanics on show.
In the mean time, grab a friend or two and have fun. The Blackout Club is counting on you.
*Code kindly provided by the publisher for review*