Blackhole touts itself as a hardcore platformer / adventure game hybrid so let's see how well it blends these two genres.
For an indie 2D side-scrolling puzzler, Blackhole has an unheard of amount of story and dialog. You play as the lowly coffee guy on a spaceship filled with genius intergalactic travelers. Your mission is to journey across the universe to close black holes that threaten Earth. Unfortunately, your ship gets sucked into one and you end up crash-landed on a weird non-planet simply referred to as an Entity.
Every member of your crew ends up scattered across the Entity but the ship's trusty AI Auriel survives and joins you on your quest for survival by taking up home in a PDA. Auriel does the majority of the talking during the campaign, providing details about your mysterious surroundings, the crew, the mission's back story, and more. For those who are looking to just enjoy the puzzles and don't care as much about the story, there are options in the main menu that allow you to bypass large segments of the narrative.
As for gameplay, you'll find that Blackhole is a fairly traditional and very challenging puzzle-platformer with gravity-flipping mechanics. The campaign features more than 70 levels where you collect small blue orbs called Selfburns that can be used to repair the damaged ship. These orbs are in hard-to-reach places and will require careful navigation and quite a bit of puzzle solving prowess to find them all.
Most levels have glowing white gravitational fields that flip the screen when stepped on. You'll need to explore these levels using every gravitational direction possible because most Selfburns can only be collected when you're oriented in a certain direction. Between levels, you'll progress through a massive overworld that is chock full of collectibles and secrets. There are seven different segments in the Entity including areas like the crash site and a jungle. Each one features about a dozen levels and introduces new mechanics, items, and crewmates. Upon encountering a level for the first time and "unlocking" it, you can return to it at any time using the teleport function. This is a lifesaver when you want to replay levels but don't want to spend a lot of time backtracking in the overworld.
Collecting all the Selfburns in a level proves extremely challenging. The developers have constructed some devious puzzles and Selfburn locations and I found myself consistently wondering, "How the heck do I get that one?" Fortunately, you only need to collect one Selfburn in each level to progress to the next one and you can also go back at any time to collect missed ones.
While the puzzles are clever to the point of absolute madness, the platforming controls can't quite keep up. Movement can be floaty and slippery, making the required precision much more difficult than it needs to be. Additionally, you can hardly change direction in the air, making landing on narrow platforms a pain. The platforming issues are compounded by a lack of checkpoints. Most levels require a perfect performance from start to finish if you want to nab all the Selfburns. One minor slip and all your progress in that level is erased.
Blackhole: Complete Edition is a clever and diabolical puzzler wrapped up in a mysterious sci-fi narrative. The platforming controls leave a lot to be desired and I'd imagine that the ramped-up difficulty will drive away casual gamers but if you're a hardcore puzzle-platforming enthusiast then Blackhole will certainly put your skills to the test.
- + Challenging puzzles that make you think
- + Interesting sci-fi story with fun characters
- + Tons of rewarding exploration
- - Platforming is slippery and floaty
- - Difficulty could turn off casual gamers
- - Gravity-swapping mechanic doesn't evolve much throughout