I Ain’t ‘Fraid Of No Ghost
HIGH Can be enjoyed ironically with friends.
LOW Lackluster presentation and choices.
WTF It’s a horror game that isn’t scary.
Horror is undoubtedly one of the most popular genres in the gaming space. Outrunning monsters, learning how to manage resources and overcoming a sense of dread has existed since the early days of the medium. Apparently developers love to try and scare the absolute shit out of us… Or maybe we just love to be scared?
No game tries harder to bring the fright than I Saw Black Clouds, an interactive movie from publisher Wales Interactive (Five Dates, The Complex, Night Shift). Detailing the story of a young woman investigating the circumstances of her friend’s suicide, it should be the perfect vessel to deliver solid thrills as it relies on choices made by players to advance its story. Unfortunately, the result is a clunky mess that fails to scare.
Kristina is reeling from the death of her friend Emily. Tormented by guilt stemming from the distance between them, Kristina begins seeing strange things around her, including the appearance of ghosts. The opening moments perfectly sold me on the concept and story, with one great scene early on giving me the creeps. It was shaping up to be a gripping psychological horror story… until the ‘game’ aspect came in.
Like most of Wales Interactive‘s recent FMV offerings, gameplay revolves around making choices and watching the live-action actors react and play them out. However, after every choice there is a jarring cut to the next scene that completely pulled me out of the experience. Even worse, every time I paused during a choice, the game froze up on me, forcing me to quit to the main menu and watch the last scene again.
The choices made seemingly don’t matter either, with Kristina not correctly reacting to what I selected. The writing for the scenes is solid and I appreciated the performances of the actors, but none of that matters if the main character doesn’t do the thing they’re supposed to. The most egregious example was when I wanted to Kristina to go on a path towards the left and she flat out didn’t. There are numerous other examples of the player’s lack of agency as well, some of the sort where a dialogue choice comes out differently when spoken, affecting relationships with characters unintentionally. All of it came to a head in a few lackluster endings that didn’t seem to change, no matter what choices I made.
The horror aspects also fail to inspire any true scares, and while I Saw Black Clouds deals with some heavy themes of suicide and abuse, it never handles those themes with the care required. It doesn’t lean into any potential for cheesy charm either, leaving things in an uncomfortable middle ground that doesn’t excel at either style, with an end result that feels like a potentially-great experience struggling to find focus.
Overall, I Saw Black Clouds is an ambitious FMV game that fails to deliver. Those who want a genuinely dark and terrifying game might be disappointed by its flaws, but it might suit those looking for a so-bad-it’s-good “midnight movie” experience to play with friends.
Disclosures: This game is published by Wales Interactive and developed by Ghost Dog Films. It is currently available on Switch, XB, PC and PS. This copy of the game was obtained via publisher and reviewed on the PS4. Approximately 5 hours of play were devoted to the single-player mode, and the game was completed.
Parents: According to the ESRB this game is rated M for Blood, Strong Language, Use of Drugs, and Violence. The game features a content warning detailing strong images of violence and suicide. The game makes good on that promise, with scenes of people hanging on nooses, images of death, and a feeling of discomfort prevailing. There’s also plenty of swearing, with f*ck, sh*t, and other four-letter words making their way into the dialogue. Definitely not for young kids.
Colorblind Modes: There are no colorblind modes available.
Deaf & Hard of Hearing Gamers: There are visual cues and subtitles. They can be adjusted, and the game is fully accessible without sound.
Remappable Controls: No, the controls are not remappable and there is no control diagram. The X button is used to click-through dialogue and make choices. R1 is used to skip cutscenes on repeat playthroughs.
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