'The Blackout Club' provides twist on co-op horror video game genre

Adele Chapline Smith / CNS    |    08.21.2019
Category: Videogames


NEW YORK (CNS) -- Something lurks beneath the town of Redacre, Virginia, and only a handful of teenagers can uncover the evidence. Close your eyes and run blindly through the twisting network of tunnels below Redacre because only then can you see the Shape who waits to take over your mind.

Parents will want to exercise caution for some adolescents. But well-catechized older teens and adults alike will probably enjoy exploring what "The Blackout Club" has to offer.

The game provides a twist on the co-op -- players working together -- horror genre in that it uses only nonfatal combat.

The adults are sleepwalking under a sinister influence. But some kids have become aware of the blackouts they and others have been experiencing and are determined to do something about it to save their families and their community. The teens also hear the Voices, individual personalities who seem to be the ones controlling people in their trances.

When the senses betray you, it's important to work together to save one another, and "The Blackout Club" reinforces these themes of friendship and teamwork. While it is possible to play solo, the game shines in multiplayer mode.

Missions take place in the Redacre neighborhoods at night, making stealth and strategy key skills. Enemies are strewn about the town, waiting to drag you before the figure known only as the Shape, who will bring you under the same brainwashing mind-control as the other townspeople.

One unique game mechanic is having to close your character's eyes in order to find the invisible -- the Shape can only be seen with eyes closed. The same holds true for the glowing red footprints which lead you to your objective.

The grown-ups are classified as different tiers of opponents, such as the blind Sleepers or the more aggressive Lucids. Every time you are spotted by a Lucid or heard by a Sleeper, this racks up a "sin". The more "sins" committed, the more likely it is that the Shape will come for you.

Labeling mere mistakes as sins might lead to confusion among younger players. Taken together with the occult elements in the game, this blurring of moral lines suggests that "The Blackout Club" is not for impressionable gamers.

Thus characters sometimes refer to the Voices as "gods" or "daimons." Some Voices are working against their fellow daimons, but none of them are trustworthy. Given the Voices' ability to take over bodies, and the occult rituals that unfold as the game progresses, there are clearly mature themes at play.

Older teens seasoned in their faith will understand the fictional context in which these aspects of the game are placed. And "The Blackout Club" neither normalizes occultism nor glorifies demons. But parents will want to be vigilant about this particular title.

Playable on PlayStation 4, Xbox One and Windows.

The game contains occult themes, occasional violence with blood effects and some mild oaths and crude language. The Catholic News Service classification is A-III -- adults. The Entertainment Software Rating Board rating is pending.

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Smith reviews video games for Catholic News Service.

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