Fallen EP-1 is the first of what may be many episodic downloads in a new franchise by 7thSenseStudios. With a creepy story, gory visuals, and puzzles that make great use of the platform, fans of Silent Hill can rejoice, as the iPhone has finally gotten a legitimate adventure/horror game in that vein.
In Fallen, you'll play as Roman Mendez, a man who has been sentenced to a brutal prison sentence for reasons unknown to the player. Roman is somewhat of a troublemaker, and has thus been recently sent to the prison's isolation cells as punishment. The game opens with a brutal scene in which several SWAT squad members are murdered by strange and disgusting creatures in the hallway outside of the isolation cells, and Roman's cell is mysteriously unlocked, leaving him to try to figure out what is going on and escape the prison.
Fallen does feature simple combat mechanics in which Roman is forced to defend himself from a variety of creatures, including what look like rabid dogs and giant, nasty insect monsters. The combat is nothing special, but some strategy is actually included when the insects are introduced, as it'll be necessary to dodge their spitting attack to survive.
Despite the occasional combat sequence, Fallen is all about exploration and puzzle solving. The biggest puzzle in Fallen's first episode involves getting together all the needed tools to repair a fuse box. Finding one piece of the puzzle leads to the next, and the process repeats until you'll find yourself in possession of all of the necessary tools. After finding all of the pieces needed to complete the fuse box puzzle, you'll have to use your newly collected tools in a variety of minigames that use the iPhone's unique features in clever ways. This adds a small amount of gameplay variety to Fallen, which would otherwise be about little more than the exploration of a creepy prison.
I'll admit that I got frustrated at several points in the game because I got lost, but a thoughtful user in our forums set up a help thread, which is incredibly useful, but should really only be resorted to if you're completely lost and think that you've tried everything else.
The few cutscenes in Fallen are extremely well done, and the in-game graphics impress, but the real underlying achievement here is the game's audio. The background sounds and brooding music do a fantastic job of putting players in the mood for a good horror game, especially when the game is played while wearing headphones. The developer of Fallen is one of those rare indie developers that truly understands the importance of audio to an interactive experience, and that really shows in this game.
Fallen does have a few issues. Although this is almost certainly due to the fact that English is not the developer's first language, there are numerous spelling and grammar errors in the text of Fallen's story. Admittedly, text flaws in a game like this do stick out more than they would in another genre, but the weird misspellings and word choices aren't ever bad enough to ruin the story.
A slightly less bothersome but notable issue is the sometimes weird camera angles that are used for rooms (the game uses a fixed camera system and switches which screen is being shown to the player based on their location in a room), which can be confusing. Especially in the showers area of the prison, the camera is angled in a way that completely obscures a hallway on the right, which could lead to some players being confused and unaware of the hallway's existence.
My biggest problem with Fallen, however, was an experience that I had with the game design. I was in a situation in which I had saved my progress right outside the room containing the last few enemies and the door that leads to the end of the episode, and I was low on health. There is one bottle of pills with healing properties that can be found at one point in the episode, but due to an event that happens near the end of the game, I was unable to go retrieve them (I had missed them on my first run through that section of the level) and heal my character. Thus, it was impossible to complete the game, as I was immediately killed every time I tried to enter the final room.
Because of my conundrum, I chose to start a new game in a different save slot. In this playthrough I beat the game in its completion in only 30 minutes, which exposes something that many of those in our forums have expressed disappointment with: the length. Most people will be able to beat Fallen EP1 in about 75 minutes. (This blow is lessened substantially by the fact that the game has recently dropped in price from $4.99 to $1.99) The game's developer has also confirmed that new episodes are coming soon, but for now we don't know exactly how "soon" that will be, and how much the new episodes will cost.
I feel like this first release of Fallen is worth a purchase, but due to the fact that the app itself has "episode 1" in the name, I'm led to believe that future episodes will be entirely separate apps. This would be a terrible mistake on the part of the developers, as I can confidently say that nobody wants to have numerous pieces of one game spread out all over their iPhone's home pages. All futures episodes should come as in-app purchases, and they should be released within a reasonable time frame.
Fallen could potentially become a great franchise as more episodes are delivered, but a few things, especially the jumpy camera angle changes and poorly translated dialogue, could stand to be improved. I'm a little bitter about the fact that I had to play through the game twice since one of my game saves was ruined by a freak occurence of game design, but I'll also say that I'm interested to play the next episode in the game. Fallen might not be for those who don't like slow-paced puzzle/adventure games, but fans of games like Silent Hill and those who enjoy a good puzzle should give Fallen a spin.
App Store Link: Fallen, $1.99