After the success of The Magic Circle, Question LLC’s newest game is The Blackout Club. As the studio’s sophomore game, it’s an impressive game that is addicting to boot. The game is set in a stereotypical suburb called Redacre. You play a teenager who’s noticed that every morning you are waking up covered in mud and scratches with no memory of why. Could it be sleepwalking? That would make sense if it wasn’t for the fact that you are blacking out for…entire days. You hesitantly tell your friends because…you’re crazy right? This isn’t normal! Something is wrong with you. They won’t believe you! But, its happening to them too. They tell you they noticed that their parents are blacking out as well. That’s when its decided to form a club to investigate this shared secret you all have. And its called, The Blackout Club.
The game starts an undetermined number of days after the club was formed. Its the day after you find out that your best friend has vanished because someone noticed what the club was doing. Your friend got in a little too deep and is gone. Up until this point, you have determined that there are a group of adults that are controlling you and your parents during the blackouts and there are a number of hidden tunnels under the houses in the Redacre suburb. What are they there for and how are these adults using them? Its the Blackout Clubs goal to figure this out and rescue your friend.
At the beginning of the game you will start out in a train car that you have converted in to the clubs hideout. It contains everything you need to know for how to play the game. The tutorial is pasted to the walls of the train car in the form of posters and the train car stocked with various other items that you can use. At the beginning of the game, the most important thing for you to choose is your hero tool. There are three to chose from. There is a stun gun to zap anyone who grabs you, a crossbow that shoots tranquilizer darts, and a grappling hook which allows you to get to higher areas easier. I preferred to use the stun gun because more often than not, I was found by the adults while searching for clues. After selecting your tool, your next choice was to select your perks. There was a table of cards that that you could choose from. You started off with a couple points so you could get your first cards but as you gained experience and leveled up, you would get more points to improve those skills. I found these skills to be incredibly useful. The cards where broken up into two sections. The first group was called Major perks which is separated into four card types, strength, tech, endurance, and a drone accomplice. You could only have one perk at a time but you can level up those perks as you got more points. The second group, is Minor perks. They are perks that make it easier to go through the game. For example, you could start each mission off with a lock pick so you can easily break into the first house. You can’t level these cards up but as you get more experience you can open a total of four slots to add additional perks.
Finally, its time for your mission. Each mission is a procedurally generated set of goals that need to be completed that night without getting caught. In the suburb, it ranges from putting up posters or fixing blackout club spy drones to collecting evidence against the antagonists or retrieving killed birds from other blackout club members houses that have been planted there by they bad guys. You are doing your best not to get caught by your sleep walking parents aptly nicknamed “Sleepers” by the club members. They can’t see you but their hearing is greatly enhanced and almost every move you make creates sound in some way. So, you have to find ways to stay as quiet as possible. This includes crouching and moving along the ground slowly or walking slowly in the grass to not give yourself away.
As you move further into the game your missions take you into the tunnels below the suburb. This is where the horror really starts to build. The goals are harder. You have to start collecting evidence and records, save other club members or pickpocket a new enemy called the “Lucids”. These are your main enemies in the game. They are adults who are awake and can see you in the light. They also carry a cell phone so if they hear you, they will shine a light in your area to try and find you. They will grab and drag you away if you can’t fight them off. This is where the stun gun is very handy. At first they will only be in the tunnels but after a few missions they get smart and come above ground.
If this was all you had to deal with, the game would already be a challenge but, there is one more big bad guy. This one is unstoppable and invisible. It is called the Shape and he only comes out to play if you have drawn too much attention to yourself. There is only one way to see where he is and thats if you close your eyes. There will be a yellow outline of a man walking/running towards you. If he catches you, you will possessed and turn to the antagonist’s side. The only way to come back is if one of your team mates catches you and brings you back.
Given the number of enemies its would be extremely hard to succeed in the mission goals if I only had my single stun gun. Thankfully, as you play, you find chests that contain various items that you can use during your mission. There are tranquilizer darts, extra lock picks, traps to knock out Sleepers or Lucids and foam to silence your steps or turns off various traps set by the bad guys.
Finally, you have finished your mission and its time to get back to home base. You are transported back to the train car and have fallen asleep and are dreaming. A question pops up asking if you would like to listen to your dream. This, is where things get very interesting and puts this game ahead of many others. The dream is actually a question that is then answered by a creepy voice. So, who is asking the question? Well, its actually someone else that has played the game before you. And its answered by one of the “Gods” of the game. While I never got to do this myself, it works by someone collecting certain items in the game and when they get back to the club base, they offer it to the Gods. This gives them the opportunity to ask any question they want to. The question is then answered by one of the Gods of the game. Its an amazing interactive element that is equal parts scary and funny.
Overall, I really enjoyed this game. The replay value is very high and even higher if you can get a group of friends together that are willing to talk. As you go further into the game, you will find that its a bit easier if you have a full squad of 4 players and they are all talking. I think this game has a number of interesting elements and I know I have only scratched the surface of what this game has to offer. I’m excited to play it again and can’t wait to do so.