I saw Black Clouds is the latest FMV game from developer Wales Interactive. Their roster in the past includes the brilliant titles such as ‘Late Shift’, ‘The Complex’ and ‘Five Dates’. Where those titles dealt with themes such as Heist Action, Virus Drama, and Lockdown Romance, ‘I Saw Black Clouds’ delves into Supernatural Horror, Similar to the previous title ‘The Bunker’.
However, ‘I Saw Black Clouds’ may seem like a ghost story, to begin with, but peel back it’s layers and you discover that the game is in fact a psychological thriller cleverly disguised as a supernatural horror.
What do I mean by this?
Let’s start with the story.
You play as Kristina. You start off at a funeral for your friend Emily who had tragically taken her life due to depression (or so it may seem). The story kicks off once Emily’s grieving mother asks you to go and retrieve a family necklace from Emily’s apartment. Kristina gladly accepts. Once at the apartment things then take a turn when a spooky arm grabs at your foot from underneath a wardrobe. You look down underneath the base to see no one there apart from a book. You pull the book out to find that it’s Emily’s diary. You begin to read and this is where the story truly begins.
Now the game is built on choices that create different paths (or scenes) for you to play out. Depending on what choices you make ultimately affect the narrative and what ending you get out of the 4 possible endings.
When I said that the game is a thriller disguised as a horror, I meant it.
The choices I made in my first playthrough made the narrative about a ghost of an old maid haunting young girls and driving them mad and ultimately committing suicide. It was an intriguing premise, to say the least, yet once I had finished my first playthrough and watched the ending I was left feeling confused. On the statistics menu, it showed that I had taken a mixed path between acceptance, guilt, and denial and that the ending I had unlocked was an unfinished ending. I then looked at the relationship meter for Kristina’s friend Charlotte and noticed a character called Jack with 50% next to him. I hadn’t even met a Jack throughout my playthrough. So, eager to know more I booted up the game again and took a different route in the mindset of following the acceptance path. This then gave me an entirely different story. This time around it wasn’t about a ghost haunting young girls, but instead, young girls were going missing at the hands of a masked man.
The game feels like multiple games in one!
And this is the redeeming factor of ‘I Saw Black Clouds’. I was about ready to call it quits after being left completely confused with my first playthrough. The fact that each playthrough is unique and that the choices you make impact the narrative in a way to give you an entirely different story makes this game so special.
Now with anything good comes some flaws and ‘I Saw Black Clouds’ is no acceptance to technical issues. There were times when making choices would lead to the scene freezing and you have to quit to the main menu and resume the game in order to continue. This unfortunately happened quite frequently. The other issues are nitty-gritty details from a filmmaking standpoint. For example; some of the colour grading within the same scene didn’t match from one shot to the next, some shots were high in contrast where others fell flat. There were issues with certain shots of the main character being out of focus and a poor attempt to sharpen the image made it look out of place. One really jarring scene came in the conversation between Kristina and Alexander where the image seemed to be wobbling around all over the place due to a poor post stabilisation process. Finally there were issues within the editing, where the continuity between shots didn’t line up. This is most noticeable in the first scene at the pub where there’s a song playing in the background and when there’s a cut between choices the song either skips or repeats itself.
The only reason I’m pointing these issues out is that they weren’t evident in the most previous Wales interactive titles. However ‘I Saw Black Clouds’ feels like it was filmed with a lower budget than ‘Late Shift’ and ‘The Complex’. Those two titles had a very cinematic feel, whereas ‘I Saw Black Clouds’ has a very B-movie feel which works very well for its horror themes.
Technical issues aside I was still drawn into the narrative of this game. And unlike the previous titles from Wales interactive that I’ve played in the past, none of them have felt like a multi-layered story as much as ‘I Saw Black Clouds’. It had me hooked to find and unlock all four endings to see where the story could take me. So there is great replayability to this game.
‘I Saw Black Clouds’ gets a 6 out of 10 for its unique multi-layered story that keeps you wanting to find out more.
This review was based on a playthrough on an Xbox One S
‘I Saw Black Clouds’ is available on PC, PS4, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch.
You can purchase this version of the game here for £9.99.
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