I AM ERROR
What if a robot wasn’t bound to its programmed rules? The Fall Part 2: Unbound is the second installment in a three part series that explores the theme of robotic free will. Through this sequel, Over the Moon Games has crafted a compelling tale integrated with clever point-and-click puzzles, though not without its hiccups.
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Although it’s possible to jump straight in to Part 2, I highly recommend visiting Part 1 to better understand the complex logic and jargon. There is a brief recap, but it does little to help you become invested in the main character, Arid, an artificial intelligence who has achieved sentience. Without spoilers, a mysterious human known as the “User” has attacked Arid, so she attempts to hunt down her predator. Along the way, she temporarily inhabits the bodies of three other robots. Think of it like having two souls in one body. The robots include a butler bound to a rigid structure, a self-indulgent bot seeking individuality, and a meek subservient companion robot. Just as the first game followed Arid’s character arc, this one examines the new characters, whom Arid sees as pawns living in irrelevance.
What hooked me most about the story were its thought-provoking themes and character development. It’s interesting to see how the robots adapt to what they learn about the world. Arid’s own growth is fascinating as well, particularly how she chooses to face her challenges. Even though this is a story about robots, there is a human depth that I wasn’t expecting. The voice actors’ stellar combination of robotic and humanistic mannerisms help convey this.
Gameplay takes different forms depending on the character. I found Arid’s segments to be the weakest. Her sections resemble a very simple version of Metroid, in which you go through numerous hallways looking for upgrades and important terminals. However, the paths are mostly linear and the rooms feel empty, making traversal quite dull. Encounters with dark blob organisms spice up the flow, but combat is simultaneously redundant and frustrating. Nearly every enemy requires the same strategy: jump to avoid its attacks, then shoot it when it turns blue. Additionally, Arid moves awkwardly; her jumps and turns are slow, and it takes a while to lock-on to the right enemy, which is the only way to accurately hit them. Note there is an easy mode that significantly shortens these battles. It’s a good idea, since combat feels wholly unnecessary in the grand scheme.
Rather, what appealed to me most was the point-and-click gameplay, reminiscent of 2D adventure games like Thimbleweed Park and Monkey Island. You examine the environment, pick up items, and use them to solve puzzles. In The Fall 2: Unbound, each of the three new characters have their own rules, each following a distinct logic pattern that relates to their story arc. For example, to solve puzzles using the Butler, you must work around his rigid daily structure and predictability in order to manipulate him, all while playing through an eternally looping sequence. Whereas you have to help the self-indulgent robot differentiate himself from others to achieve your own goals. This involves reprogramming other robots and purging them through a rhythm-like brawler minigame, which I actually found more fun than the standard combat.
While I found a good portion of puzzles to be reasonable, many are quite obtuse, requiring true understanding of the complicated mechanics or irrational leaps in logic. Does it make sense that examining certain objects deactivates the Butler, allowing Arid to separate from him and run around? Or that the Companion robot uses concepts she learns as if they were items? Not really. Even after learning these systems, I got stuck on multiple occasions. I resorted to checking every single object hoping something worked or eventually using a guide when I was completely lost. I would have appreciated a hint system and better feedback beyond “I cannot,” after clicking on most objects. For adventure game junkies, the complex puzzles can be fun to figure out, but they might not appeal outside the fandom.
In addition, the flawed execution prevents these segments from reaching their true potential. The Fall makes up for its lack of mouse controls by letting you walk around. I have no issues with the free movement, but examining objects isn’t intuitive. You must first activate scan mode, which takes the form of a visor light extending from your eyes. You then have to directly look at the item you wish to interact with. Believe it or not, it’s a huge improvement over the first game’s confusing control scheme where you had to hold down multiple buttons just to examine, but it’s still not ideal. Worse, the game’s silhouette visuals are very dark, so you could actually miss items if you’re not precise with your visor light. I had to turn up the default brightness significantly.
Most disappointingly, the Switch version is riddled with technical issues, ranging from the audio breaking up to the game suddenly crashing. The latter happened several times during my playthrough; one time I walked into a tunnel and the screen permanently went black. Another time, I activated a terminal, then headed left toward the exit and the game soft-locked. Apparently, the game wanted me to head right toward the wall instead. Worst of all, in one area, the game crashed and booted me to the main menu whenever I interacted with the wrong object – a steep punishment for not solving a puzzle. Hopefully, patches can iron out these problems.
The Fall Part 2: Unbound is a fascinating game. Its dark silhouette aesthetics and soft sound design help sell the atmospheric story and deep plot about robotic free will. The compelling character arcs and clever thematic puzzles are well-integrated and help the story flow seamlessly throughout the six to eight hour playtime. Unfortunately, the game has its fair share of unintuitive design, confusing gaps in logic, and game-crashing bugs. It’s not an experience that will appeal to everyone. Nevertheless, if you’ve played and enjoyed the first one, it’s worth seeing this story unfold. And as this game ambitiously sets up its finale, I admit that I want to know how it ends.
Note: A review copy was provided by the publisher for this article.