A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this game.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know Blacksad: Under the Skin is a private eye adventure game for the PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch, and Windows PCs. The game is based on a popular series of European graphic novels starring anthropomorphized animals. Players take on the role of John Blacksad, a feline private investigator whose scruples often get in the way of him making money, though players do have the ability to make some moral decisions for him. Most of the player's time is spent chatting with other characters, analyzing objects and evidence, and making deductions. Spoken dialogue and text includes a wide range of profanity and racial slurs, including the F-word, and characters reference sex freely while discussing a case of adultery. Characters are also shown smoking and drinking. Action scenes are infrequent, but involve guns, clubs, and other weapons. Dead, injured, and tortured characters bleed red. The story, themes, and content are clearly targeted at older audiences.
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What's it about?
BLACKSAD: UNDER THE SKIN puts players in the fur of John Blacksad, a feline private investigator in a world inhabited by anthropomorphized animals (it's based on a series of French/Spanish graphic novels). When our hero takes on a new case involving the death of a New York gym owner and the disappearance of one of the gym's best fighters, he ends up with more than he bargained for as he finds himself digging into the affairs of the city's top bookie. Most of the game sees players investigating locations or chatting with non-player characters. Conversations typically allow for multiple branching paths, letting players put their own spin on Blacksad's character. Eventually, players will need to begin using logic to piece together the various clues they've collected so that Blacksad can make deductions and progress the story. While Blacksad prefers to use brains over brawn, he does occasionally get into scrapes that require him to react physically. These sequences are filled with quick-time events that require players to tap buttons in time with onscreen cues in order to make Blacksad dodge and attack. Failure can result in Blacksad's death, causing the game to reload at the most recent checkpoint.
Is it any good?
There's a bit more exploration and action here than one might normally expect from an adventure game, but the end result is about the same. If a methodically paced, dialogue-heavy game filled with clue collection and logical deduction isn't typically your thing, there's no reason to think Blacksad: Under the Skin will be the game to change your mind. That said, fans of the genre -- and the comic series upon which the game is based -- are bound to find plenty to like. The dark story doesn't shy away from the challenging themes presented in the books, inserting perhaps even more moral ambiguity via the player's agency and ability to make key decisions. Indeed, the best parts of the game are the conversations, which force players to really think about how to respond and what each response could mean for both Blacksad and the story. And the visual presentation is frequently beautiful, including memorable character models and animations, plus locations strongly inspired by the comics. It's clear that the game's makers have an appreciation and respect for the source material.
But where the game may end up turning off some is in its play mechanics. The quick-time events -- a staple of the adventure genre -- are pretty unforgiving here. One mistake can lead to the game reloading your last checkpoint. You never get pushed too far back, so it's not a severe punishment, but repeated mistakes can have the effect of ruining immersion in and the excitement of the situation. And while piecing together the clues you collect to make deductions is surprisingly simple and satisfying, finding some of these clues can feel like a bit of a chore thanks to Blacksad's somewhat slow and awkward movement. Blacksad: Under the Skin is a loving and well-made tribute to the books that gave birth to its titular detective, but it hasn't got much to lure those who are unfamiliar with its hero and lack a soft spot for adventure games.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about screen time. Blacksad: Under the Skin is a bit like a 20-hour interactive movie, but do you feel like time passes faster or slower when playing a game as compared to a movie? Does this affect how long you choose to play?
In a society with laws and social rules, why is it important for people to make an effort to do the right thing? Do you think that makes it easier or harder for people to make good choices?
- Platforms: Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Windows
- Price: $49.99
- Pricing structure: Paid
- Available online? Available online
- Developer: Pendulo Studio and YS Interactive
- Release date: November 5, 2019
- Genre: Adventure
- Topics: Adventures
- ESRB rating: M for Intense Violence; Sexual Themes; Strong Language
- Last updated: November 25, 2019
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.