As a kid you hear about a lot of things that ‘go bump in the night’ from various sources: television, movies, your friends, possibly your family. Aside from a passing fascination most people don’t give these sources a second thought. But what if all of the rumors about sleep walking and monsters were true? Would you have the strength to go searching for your missing friends, in the dead of night in order to discover the truth? For the 14/15 year olds in The Blackout Club, the answer is a resounding YES.
The Blackout Club is a first person, 1 to 4 player co-op stealth horror game in which you attempt to collect evidence to prove to the adults that the strange occurrences in your town are not just the misguided ramblings of young minds. While people in town sleepwalk and wake up in strange places, no one seems to believe that it could be anything sinister. But the teens know. And they formed a club, The Blackout Club, in order to investigate and document the incidents. Once a member of the club goes missing, that’s when things get serious and the teens know they have their work cut out for them.
The children are not completely powerless in their fight against the monsters occupying their town. You can equip a stun gun, crossbow that shoot tranquilizer darts, a grappling hook, and various other gadgets that help in useful ways. These choices provide an element of strategy as depending on the situation you may find yourself either cursing or praising your weapon choice. Thus, coordinating with other players is important so you don’t overlap too many skills.
The antagonists of the game are Sleepers (enemies who can only track you via sound), Lucids (who are essentially awake and carry a light source), and The Shape. The sleepers are relatively easy to take out and Lucids go down to traq darts without problem, it is The Shape that everyone should be worried about. The Shape can only be seen when you close your eyes. He is invisible to the naked eye but something about closing your eyes allows you to see/track him. Closing your eyes also gives you tips/hints about where to go next. But essentially when The Shape is after you there is no choice but to run. There are various red doors scattered throughout the neighborhood that allow him to traverse the environment very quickly. He could pop up behind you at any moment! If The Shape catches you, he brainwashes you and you become one of ‘them’. It is possible to be rescued by a fellow Blackout Club member, but you have to be super sneaky in order to do so as the brainwashed kid will run away from you if he/she sees you.
The Blackout Club is different from a lot of games out on the market because you can’t kill the enemies. “Remember, they could be family” was a line we heard more than a few times. Arguably this is both the game’s biggest strength and weakness. Not being able to murder the enemies means that you have to think and play a lot more strategically, rather than just killing everyone in the level and moving on. Plenty of times during our time spent with the game I wished I could have just snapped an AI’s neck and continued on my merry way but ultimately I’m glad I couldn’t. Daniel and I were forced to really concentrate on our actions and plan out how to achieve our objectives in order to keep The Shape at bay.
Being an early access game, it’s tough to properly critique certain aspects of The Blackout Club because a lot of elements can and most likely will change. That being said, I feel like a little more work needs to go towards refining the introduction to the story/elements. If you saw the first time that Daniel and I played it on stream , you’ll notice that we had no idea what the fuck we were doing for a decent percentage of time. “A new sin was noticed? What the fuck is a sin?” we said to one another. So little did we know about the mechanics that there was a point in time when I just racked up sins like no one’s business. Essentially a sin is any action that affects the enemies/map in a way that someone notices it; such as tranquilizing a lucid and leaving his body out in plain sight or leaving the door of a house open. (Or prank calling the enemies. It’s super fun and hilarious though!)
The developers Question are fairly active on their discord and have already released a patch for the game that included a lot of bug fixes and improvements, which is always nice to see from an Early Access game. The discord also gives you a glimpse into future changes/updates, as one projected idea I saw indicated that an asymmetrical multiplayer mode may be incoming with one group of people playing as the kids and another being The Shape and the walkers/lucids. Personally that is not the way I want the game to go, as I feel like there are a decent amount of asymmetrical multiplayer games already and this game already has a nice personality/niche of its own. But being early access you need to expect the game to change/evolve. I mean, Left 4 Dead 2 added that kind of mode and it did alright. I never played that mode but I know a lot of people did. We will have to see.
The Blackout Club shows a lot of promise. The game is not perfect, but it can be really damn fun. If stealth-based co-op is your thing, then definitely give this game a shot. It is entirely possible that the game will get worse if the developers add/change too much but conversely it could become a lot better. We for sure will be following it’s development closely and more than likely will play it again soon, so keep an eye on our twitch page or join our discord to keep abreast of all things ThatDAMBrand-related. If you are willing to save others from The Shape and put yourself into danger then you should have no problem joining The Blackout Club.
8 / 10