Penumbra: Black Plague Review
Penumbra: Black Plague box art
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

While exploring the various corridors and rooms for clues, you will encounter a variety of objects and items such as desks, drawers, closets, books, crates, switches, levers, and an assortment of items that can be used as tools or weapons when picked up and put into action.

Penumbra: Black Plague screenshot

The moves are context-sensitive which means that the action you want to perform is relatively obvious, so the CPU limits your choices accordingly. This feature doesn't require you to memorize a plethora of options from the keyboard. Your control is relegated to the direction and force of the action as you move the mouse in relation to it. For instance, if you position the cursor icon (a tiny hand) close to a drawer, and pull the mouse away from its stationary position you will replicate the virtual opening of the drawer onscreen. If you want to open a door, get your character in he proper position and push that mouse in the direction you want the door opened. There is no feedback or resistance, but at least the movement is realistic and satisfying.

Coming across an axe, you can pick it up and chop your way through a crate or a wooden door. An iron bar can be used to pry open a locked gate. There isn't much in the way of combat, although you can throw a few things at the sounds that you hear in the darkness. A flashlight is one of your best weapons against the darkness. It helps creates a tense and suspenseful atmosphere as it only illuminates a small radius, allowing all kinds of monstrosities to lurk in your immediate, darkened vicinity. Moans, groans, heavy breathing, footsteps, rustling, dragging, and other ungodly sounds ensconce you. It's more frightening to imagine what you are likely to discover than it is actually discovering it, although there are some really nice shockers. So shocking, in fact, that you may begin to question your own sanity. This is a very real gameplay element in which you, as the character, begin to second-guess events. So bizarre are some of the situations that you start to believe that you are losing your grip on reality. This is another example of how the puzzles are woven into the gameplay and storyline.

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As you might suspect, the production values are rather low and no more is that evident than with the graphics. The creepy environments, filled with trash, rot, rust, mold, mildew, and other examples of death and decay look convincing, but the other normal environments, and the up-close details of objects, can be downright ugly. The characters animate like puppets, and the voice acting can be a little too detached at times, not making me really believe the actor is feeling his emotions. The music is great, as are the sound effects, which really helps to drive home the fact that you're in a scary, surreal world.

Black Plague is not a very long game. Even the average gamer can complete it in one sitting. As I mentioned, the puzzles aren't difficult; they only require some thought and strategy. They are integral to the storyline and help to keep it relevant and running smoothly. There is virtually no replay value, but at less than twenty bucks it's a decent deal. Too bad it's difficult to rent PC games, as this would make the perfect rental.

Black Plague's success is the result of its individual components. It's a good game that is unique, refreshing, and fun to play. As far as the adventure game genre goes, it's definitely in a class by itself.

By Cole Smith
CCC Senior Writer

RATING OUT OF 5
RATING DESCRIPTION
2.5
Graphics
Ugly textures and poor overall detail. Animation is stiff.
4.6
Control
Excellent interactive control system makes this more action than adventure.
4.1
Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
Great sound effects and scary ambient music. Voice acting is weak.
4.2
Play Value
Engrossing story and puzzles, guaranteed to give you the willies. No replay value.
4.3
Overall Rating - Great
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.

Game Features:

  • Cutting-edge game engine featuring modern 3D and physics technologies.
  • Adapted motion blur effects and a new unified lighting system with real-time lightning create great depth with a realistic atmosphere of psychological horror.
  • Compelling and detailed story: Find the answers to questions of the mystery of Philip's lost father throughout the game, with new explanations and a complete storyline wrap up.
  • Highly interactive environments: Interact with any object not nailed to the ground! Focus on, pick up, and move around objects through a simple drag and drop interface.
  • Environmental sounds system: The sounds of the different environments are contributing to the atmosphere and give the player scary hints of dangers.
  • Puzzle solving challenges: Horror adventure game in puzzle-like style with bonuses and incentives to challenge the player throughout the game.


  • Screenshots / Images
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