If you’re sensitive to issues such as suicide and depression, you might want to avoid Wales Interactive’s latest full motion videogame, I Saw Black Clouds.
Developed by Ghost Dog Films, I Saw Black Clouds begins with a young woman apparently taking her own life. At her funeral, you’re then introduced to the protagonist of the tale, Kristina, who’s returned to her hometown to pay her condolences. Little does she know that she’s about to become entangled in a web of dark lies.
Was Kristina’s friend’s death really a suicide? With the information that’s uncovered, she’s not quite sure. Then there are the strange apparitions that she keeps seeing – is the spirit world trying to tell her something? The answers are ultimately down to you to find out, though by the end of the tale there will have undoubtedly been so many twists and turns that a whole host of new questions will have presented themselves to you.
And that’s what will keep you playing – or should we say watching – I Saw Black Clouds. After a somewhat slow start, its mysteries begin to grab you, holding you in their grasp until the credits roll. And with branching paths that lead to multiple endings, chances are you might jump in at least one or two more times to see other outcomes. Especially if the one you get the first time isn’t remotely a happy ending.
With each and every choice you make, Kristina’s personality is shaped somewhat. By the simple push of a button you can see a number of traits that evolve as you play, such as strength, morality and tact. It’s these traits that will determine your path through the game, and ultimately the ending. Needless to say, your decisions have a real impact, though you need to make them fast.
That is unless you enable the included Streamer Mode, which disables the decision timer. Playing on PS5, however, that caused us some issues – the game would occasionally freeze after a choice had been made, forcing us to go back to the main menu and reload our last checkpoint. Of course, that meant losing a bit of progress each time. After it happened a couple of times, we disabled the mode and had no more issues.
While the freezing issue was problematic, our main bugbear with I Saw Black Clouds were the many poor scene transitions. Sometimes the background music skips after making a choice; other times scenes just abruptly end or fade to black, before you’re taken to another without a chance to take what’s just happened in. It breaks your immersion in the story and feels a little bit jarring at times.
The cinematography feels a bit off at times, too. It’s mostly up to good standard, but some scenes let I Saw Black Clouds down with their truly amateur feel. The same can be said of the acting; there are some stellar performances here, but one or two stick out for all the wrong reasons. It’s just not very consistent.
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It’s about par for the course for the FMV genre though, isn’t it? These are interactive videogames, not Hollywood blockbusters, and despite its shortcomings I Saw Black Clouds does still keep you entertained. We were impressed by how its narrative panned out in our initial playthrough, throwing us a curveball that we truly weren’t expecting. And that made us all the more keen to go through it again, making different decisions.
It’s rough around the edges, but if you’re after a fairly easy-going adventure game (albeit with dark subject matter) to play through in an evening, you could do quite a bit worse than I Saw Black Clouds. There are undoubtedly better FMV games available right now, but this one still has the capacity to entertain. Just temper your expectations and you’ll enjoy the rollercoaster ride that it sends you on.
I Saw Black Clouds Review: GameSpew’s Score