FMV video games—or interactive movies, to use a cooler term—are always controversial. Should they really be considered games? Are they fun to play, or do these feel more like an overpriced film with extra steps? We can talk more about it another day but for now, let's focus on I Saw Black Clouds, a thriller that's now available for all platforms. If you want to learn more about this dark story, please continue to read this article. There will be some spoilers, though!
Solve This Mystery, Kristina
I Saw Black Clouds has different paths and endings but it all starts with the mysterious and sudden death of Emily, the protagonist's friend. Kristina travels back to her hometown to attend the funeral, and that's when she and her friend Charlotte get curious about the circumstances of Emily's suicide. Unable to visit Emily's place for obvious reasons, her mother asks Kristina to retrieve a necklace with a lot of sentimental value for her. While inspecting Emily's room, Kristina also finds a notebook full of disturbing memories and drawings... the thing is, she wouldn't have found it if it wasn't for a ghostly hand grabbing her leg! Was that Emily?!
Do You Believe in Ghosts?
As you can see, I Saw Black Clouds starts as a movie about ghosts and other supernatural events. At some point, you're asked if you believe in ghosts, and depending on your answer—and other small choices, of course—you can get one of two paths. In our first run, we went for a ghost-believer route, and so we learned about a troubled woman named Agnes. According to legend, this maid fell in love with a lord and became pregnant, only to be completely ignored by this man and forced to leave the village to keep the baby a secret. Feeling alone and hopeless, she committed suicide by drowning herself and the unborn baby in a nearby lake. For decades, the ghost of Agnes has been haunting the village and the lords' descendants, driving young ladies crazy and pushing them to commit suicide too. It's not the most original ghost story ever, but it would explain Emily's destiny and notes while also giving some context to Kristina's visions.
On the other hand, if you go for a more realistic approach and decide not to believe in ghosts, things get weirder and darker. Apparently, Agnes is nothing but a hoax to explain the disappearance of several young girls who were actually killed by a group of people to sell their organs in the black market.
There's Nothing Fun About It
Although either path has enough potential for a psychological thriller, the writing is so messy that it all feels boring to watch. To make it all worse, most decisions are pointless and only give you the illusion of choice, simply adding an extra—and irrelevant—dialogue line or a different camera angle but ultimately presenting you with the same results whatsoever.
The acting is not that bad, but there's only so much the actors can do when the script offers nothing interesting and the protagonist's decisions have no apparent explanation. Everything happens just because, and that's always a bad sign. It doesn't matter if we're talking of a movie or a regular narrative-driven video game.
Oh, and if you pause the game, you can see Kristina's stats. It's supposed to show how she deals with the loss of her friend (Denial, Acceptance, Guilt) and everything happening in the village, defining the protagonist's character (Honesty, Strength, Morality, tact, Introspection). Should you care about it? Maybe, as it probably triggers the different paths and endings, but it's just a gimmick that never gets to be relevant to the gameplay, so don't worry if you completely ignore it or forget it was there in the first place!
I Saw Black Clouds started as a psychological horror story but ended up being a disappointing experience. It will only take you around 2 hours to finish its story, and maybe you can still appreciate a FMV game regardless of its flaws, but nowadays, you can just watch other people play it on Twitch or YouTube. As we mentioned before, decision-making is poorly integrated, so it would probably work better as a movie than an interactive game.
If for some reason you still want to buy it, I Saw Black Clouds is available on PC (Steam), Switch, Xbox One, and PS4.