Review: ALLBLACK Phase 1

Review: ALLBLACK Phase 1

From NSAID, ALLBLACK Phase 1 is a kinetic novel adaptation of a light novel by the same name. Found floating on the water, an amnesiac begins to uncover his past, runs from a secret organization, slips into dreams, and learns he has reality-bending superpowers. Who is he? What has he done? And, most importantly, what is his name?

A review for this game was requested through the VN Game Den review request form.

Lackluster Writing

Some cursory research reveals the original book was written by an Indonesian writer, and all indicators lead to the assumption that they directly used the text of the book as the content for the kinetic novel. That textual content, though, lacks considerable polish. The overall story is competent. It doesn’t break any new ground in the sort of high-action running-from-a-secret-agency style of story, and the underlying mystery is compelling enough to keep you reading. The ending feels a little lacking, but considering it’s the first volume of a six-book series, it’s not an unexpected way to craft the story out. Line to line, though, it very much has the hallmarks of a raw English translation, and even with that in consideration can read very, very clunky at times. I would have hoped that the developer would have taken the opportunity and been empowered to do another language editing pass so that the text could be presented in a more refined form than it is.

It’s also hard to tell how much consideration was put into the differences in text presentation between something like a novel and a kinetic form. There were large sections of narration that you had to click through just one line at a time, drawing out the experience. Neither of these things are huge problems with the text in and of themselves, but combined they detract from what could have been a really enjoyable reading experience.

Mostly Visually Pleasant but Lacking in Substance

Visually, it’s a bit of a mixed bag. The CGs are fantastic and create a wonderful sense of drama. The switch between the “real” and “dream” took a moment to grow accustomed to, but ultimately was very effective at creating a strange, ethereal quality. The more cinematic action effects—like a dipping boat background, a quick pan around, and rain—are very well-crafted for a developer who claims substandard programming knowledge in particular.

While the photographic backgrounds are fine on their own, combined with illustrated sprites and CGs, the game is left with that inexplicable “not done” feeling that combination elicits. This itself also wouldn’t be so bad if everything wasn’t so bland-looking outside the special effects. There’s not a strong cohesive visual language, and there’s only so much the effects can do to maintain visual immersion.

A Wonderful Sense of Mood and Action

What this game does very well, and really only exists as a holistic effect, is create a sense of drama and danger. The music kicks up and the text is moving and things are happening and the screen is shaking. It has a very good sense of the pacing of its narrative that really drives you through all the way to the end.

Overall, it’s a passable adaptation of a novel, but not perfect. What they did was very well-done. It doesn’t feel like they totally took advantage of what the medium can do or played to its strengths, though. I just sort of felt like I was reading a slightly more clunky book. If they continue with additional volumes, I wonder if they would benefit from experimenting with the adaptation a little more, because there’s a lot of really strong potential in both the developer and the series as a concept.

This high-octane thrill ride can be downloaded for free from itch.io, Steam, and the Google Play Store.

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