|System: PC||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Paradox Interactive||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Frictional Games||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Feb. 13, 2008||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Mature||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Cole Smith
There is little doubt the point-and-click genre's days are numbered. It's an old-school genre that shows little signs of a renaissance. The decline in interest is not necessarily attributed to the competition from games that offer more control over the playable characters, such as shooters and action adventure games, but largely due to the genre itself which has seen a lot of second-rate offerings. The genre is relatively easy to produce which means that it doesn't take a huge budget to make a point-and-click style game. Consequently, we see a lot of games that shouldn't really be on the market. They suffer from badly written stories and dialogue, to awful graphics, stiff animations, and terrible voice acting.
Most of the low budget production values could be overlooked if the puzzles were of any quality. Sadly, this is usually the first gameplay element to show signs of unintelligent life. Nothing makes a game more frustrating than esoteric puzzles that don't relate to the gameplay. They seem to be included as an afterthought to pad the content in an effort to make the game longer. These puzzles are often trial and error, and even when you do discover the solution, typically with the aid of a walkthrough, they still don't make any sense. You can't see how you would have ever figured them out if it weren't for pure dumb luck.
Fortunately, the puzzles in Penumbra: Black Plague all relate to the gameplay. They are intuitive and fun. You get a fighting chance to solve them. Sure, some are on the repetitive side with a lot of flipping and switching, but they relate to the gameplay and you can actually figure them out. But there's a lot more to Penumbra: Black Plague than just puzzles. Everything is combined to produce a satisfying adventure game that is truly unique. This isn't your standard point-and-click adventure game. It may not revolutionize the genre, but it's a click in the right direction.
Black Plague is the sequel and final chapter to the Penumbra series, which features a horror survival style of gameplay. Virtually everything has been reworked for this last half of the series. It looks better, sounds better, plays better, controls better, and there are no more damn dogs attacking you every few minutes. The story chronicles the adventures of a young man named Phillip as he investigates the mysterious death of his father that haunts him to no end. Phillip's journey takes him to Greenland where he is literally forced to explore the underground which lends itself to deep, dark, and creepy places where you can expect that just about anything may happen - or appear.
Perhaps the most unique aspect of the gameplay is the way in which the control system has been designed. While it appears to have all of the trappings of the point-and-click genre, it's actually far more interactive. You could consider this an action adventure game as your character is controlled in the first-person. While you still use the mouse to point, and essentially to click, there are a myriad of moves that can be executed that will allow you to push, pull, drag, twist, turn, examine, pick up, throw, and break various items and objects. This level of control immerses you into the environment like never before. The ability to pick up an object and throw it, or to use it as a tool, makes combat and puzzle solving a much more intense gameplay experience.