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Video Game / Blacksad: Under the Skin

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Blacksad: Under the Skin is a 3D cinematic Adventure Game, based on the Spanish noir comic book series Blacksad. In the comic's continuity, the game serves an Interquel, taking place chronologically between the stories Arctic Nation and Red Soul. It was developed by the Spanish Pendulo Studios (known for Runaway: A Road Adventure) and released for PC, PS4 and Xbox One on November 14th, with a Nintendo Switch version to follow on December 10th, 2019.

In it, New York detective John Blacksad is hired by Sonia Dunn, the leopard owner of a boxing club who inherited it after her father, Joe Dunn, was found dead in a suspected suicide. The job consists of investigating the disappearance of the club's star boxer Bobby Yale, who was about to fight in the biggest match of his career; if he won, the reward would have saved the club from its long-standing financial woes. Instead, she finds herself on the brink, and Blacksad, who is also largely broke, must go to the seediest underbelly of NYC in order to locate Yale.

Tropes present in this game:

  • Alpha Bitch: Helen Moore. She is sardonic at best at worst she threatens to ruin Weekly's career.
  • Asshole Victim:
    • Quince, an eagle that runs brothels with underage girls on the side if he doesn't die for cheating at cards he dies because Cassidy's niece was one of the girls he abducted.
    • Jimmy, who beat up a widow and almost drowned her adolescent son to blackmail her into recommending him to replace his cousin (who he also killed in a hit-and-run) on O'Leary's gang so he could spy on it for Cassidy.
  • Artistic License – Sports: Some of the stats and achievements listed in the Hall of Fame cards don't really make sense without the context that these bios were written by Europeans who probably don't know American sports too well. A kicker is said to have never missed a punt in his career scoring 166 points in 166 attempts, but you can't score or miss while punting (there's no target after all), and field goals are worth three points. And that would be a vey low number of field goal or extra point attempts in a placekicker's career.
  • The Atoner: Desmond O'Leary helps Bobby Yale's career behind the scenes as a way to atone for setting up Bobby's father to die 16 years ago.
  • Bad Guys Do the Dirty Work: Blacksad can reveal Quince's cheating at a poker table, prompting Cassidy to order his henchman to execute him.
  • Berserk Button: O'Leary hates being cut during his talk. Saying anything when he has you at gunpoint is a game over.
  • Broken Bird: Sonia Dunn does her best to keep her composure, but at best she has to live with both the death of her father and the knowledge that her beloved surrogate uncle was behind his murder. Otherwise, she either gets sent to jail or shoots herself in the head after killing Thorpe.
  • Call-Back: There are a number of them to the two graphic novels that chronologically precede the events of this game, but the most prominent example can occur at the very end where Smirnov can potentially help Blacksad get away with another vigilante killing against a corrupt businessman.
  • Call-Forward: A few reference to later stories can be found.
    • There is the book of Alma Mayer, Blacksad's love interest in "Red Soul", in Yale's appartment. Blacksad thinks she must be a boring woman for writing about French literature of the 1900s.
    • Joe Dunn being a jazz fan like Blacksad means he also has records of Fletcher, the famous musician in "Silent Hell".
    • He wished he drove a yellow cadillac instead of his current car. He gets the chance in "Amarillo."
    • Bobby Yale's locker contains a poetry book by Abraham Greenberg, the beat poet buffalo based on Allen Ginsberg seen in "Amarillo".
    • One of the boxers depicted in the Hall of Fame cards, Gene Below, was Hauled Before A Senate Subcommittee led by Senator Gallo (from "Red Soul") six times (and didn't give up anything).
  • Chekhov's Gun: Bobby Yale's revolver.
  • Cold Sniper: Tim Thorpe is known for his sniping skills in the military which earning his the nickname "the Surgeon". He uses those skills once again to kill Randall Leigh so that he wouldn't rat him out.
  • Continuity Nod: Seen a few times in the Hall of Fame cards
    • One depicts pitching great Bojan Statoc, the disinherited White Sheep son of Ivo Statoc, the villain of "Somewhere in the Shadows."
    • Another mentions Natalia Wilford, the victim of that case and Blacksad's former lover, as a frequent guest of boxer Walt Hathaway's lavish parties.
    • John James Karup, the father of Hans Karup from "Arctic Nation", was a famous hockey player in Montreal and was Driven to Suicide by the death of his son.
  • Darker and Edgier: Boasting the highest bodycount in the franchise and featuring some truly brutal deaths, it somehow manages to be even more grim than the graphic novels which featured murderous white supremacists, Cold War espionage, rapists, and a chemical poisoning scam that resulted in dozens of birth deformities.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Tennis star Helen Moore is a fellow feline, and she is adept at deflecting away Blacksad's investigative questions with sarcasm.
  • Death Is a Slap on the Wrist: There are many times where Blacksad can end up dying, but the player will generally be loaded right before the moment where they failed.
  • Dialogue Tree: These are used for regular conversations, interrogating witnesses and suspects, and making decisive story choices.
  • Drama-Preserving Handicap: Wishing to set a good example for his nephew, Ray, Blacksad decides not to carry around a gun during his investigation. Unfortunately for him and to the benefit of drama, most of the criminals he encounters have no compunctions about wielding firearms.
  • Dramatic Irony: The Yale vs. Stone boxing match has two entirely different criminal organisations (and potentially Blacksad himself) trying to influence its outcome to generate a tidy profit via illegal gambling. The results of the fight are never revealed to the audience.
  • Even Bad Men Love Their Mamas: Gill is convinced to betray Mitchel after Blacksad emphasises with him on how his mother never lost her faith in him no matter what he got himself into. Gill's mother always hoped that he would start again with a fresh start and does just that after betraying Mitchel.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: Frank Cassidy is a greedy character who wanted to pay Joe Dunn's murderer's lawyer fee because the latter convinced everyone to vote against the idea of making it illegal for boxers to fight without a manager. When he discovers that Quince is a pedophile with connections to a child prostitution ring, he orders his bodyguard, Billy Bob, to execute him on the spot. Frank did this because one of Quince's victims was Frank's own niece who went missing "A while back", something Quince fails to deny before being shot.
  • Fantastic Racism: The fur color allegory comes into play as it did in Arctic Nation, as well as the mammal vs. reptile animosity hinted at during Somewhere Within The Shadows.
  • Flash Back: Certain dialogue options can sometimes trigger flashback scenes: they are not limited to cuscenes either, but can be outright playable sequences.
  • Funny Animal/ Little Bit Beastly: Like in the comic, the male characters like John Blacksad himself are largely the former, while the female characters are typically the latter, with a much more human-looking appearance and animal features often consigned to the ears, shape of nose and skin tone.
  • Golden Ending: It's possible to prevent the deaths of both Mary and Sonia. The player can even help Bobby avenge his father by providing him the right clues at the end of the game and save Sonia from being sent to prison.
  • Greater-Scope Villain: While Mitchell is technically Thorpe's lieutenant, he's the man who introduced him to Dr. Grune's experimental drugs in the first place.
  • Heel Realisation: Eugene (the rhinoceros who attacked Blacksad in the intro) is true to his word when he admits his affair only happened once and he truly loves his wife. If he survives the game: then his wife informs Blacksad that Eugene has given her breakfast in bed and has organized a second honeymoon to Niagara Falls after having a scare at work.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Craig Spannow takes his performance-enhancing drugs to save Blacksad from suffocating in a fire, despite clearly knowing his body will shut down after the effect is over.
  • In Spite of a Nail: While Blacksad's actions can have drastic effects on the story, there are some consequences that are impossible to predict or avoid. As he posits at the end, "our actions don't always determine our future."
  • Interspecies Romance: Of an adulterous variety; Blacksad had earlier managed to produce photos of his client's rhinoceros husband cheating on her with a fox. Said husband then bursts into Blacksad's office in the game's prologue, and first attempts to strangle Blacksad, then offers a large bribe to get rid of said photos and keep the whole thing under wraps.
  • Intrepid Reporter: Here, it's a literal weasel named Weekly.
  • Irony: Quince, one the poker players, is praised for his good luck but will die regardless of player choice. If Blacksad points out that Quince is holding an ace up his sleeve; then Quince will be shot dead by Frank for cheating. If Blacksad keeps quiet: Frank Cassidy will receive a phone call informing him that his missing 12-year-old niece has been found uptown in the brothel of a child prostitution ring, just as Quince was bragging about his pedophilia. Frank has Quince shot dead after piecing together that the latter was involved in her disappearance and had likely molested her during this time.
  • Karma Houdini: Cassidy is still running amok in all the endings, and finding proofs on O'Leary is totally optional (and missable). Thorpe can potentially get away with all the murders he orchestrated as well.
  • Karmic Death: Tim Thorpe started his criminal career because he wanted to walk again. Fittingly, he dies in his wheelchair.
    • Mitchell is suffocated to death by the fumes of the chemical fire he started to kill Dr. Grune, Brunhilde, and Blacksad.
    • O'Leary will die drowned in the same place Avenarius died by his son Yale if you choose to reveal his role in Avenarius murder.
    • Quince being executed by Frank Cassidy after foolishly bragging about being involved in a child prostitution ring. Something that makes Frank realise that Quince is responsible for his niece going missing and being found in a brothel.
  • Leaning on the Fourth Wall: At the start of the third act, Blacksad and Weekly briefly debate as to whether their current case is more like a classic "British" mystery where the culprit was in the hero's midst all along or an "American" whodunit where the case's key antagonist doesn't make their appearance until the very end. The plot seems to lean towards the latter with the introduction of the hitherto unknown Dr. Grune being revealed as the source of the exotic drugs that are the true crux of the story before Thorpe (who was introduced fairly early) is ousted as the real Big Bad.
  • Lethally Stupid: During a poker game, Quince brags about being a pedophile who targets 12-year-olds and being involved with a child prostitution ring. Especially when the uncle of one of his victims is sat next to him with an armed bodyguard who has no qualms about killing.
  • Manly Gay: It's mentioned in the Hall of Fame card for boxer Gene Below that he was arrested several times but never convicted during the "Lavender Scare" and an opponent known for his cutting trash-talk once derided him by saying "I don't like to hit a lady."
  • Mistaken for Cheating: Blacksad can accuse Mary of cheating on Joe Dunn with Yale due to a picture in his apartment, only for her to explain that Bobby Yale is her nephew.
  • Neck Snap: Blacksad can potentially die like this at the very opening of the game, if he fails to defend himself from the angry rhino storming his office.
  • Nice Guy: Al Stone. The only athlete featured in the story who's a straight shooter in both senses of the word.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: Many of the subjects of the collectible Hall of Fame sports cards are inspired by real athletes, from Mike Tyson to Bo Jackson to Jackie Robinson to Colin Kaepernick. Some are not even based on athletes; you can also find the setting's equivalent to Jackie Coogan or Dwight D. Eisenhower. Tim Thorpe himself is obviously loosely based on Jim Thorpe, "the World's Greatest Athlete', Olympic gold medalist and pro football pioneer.
  • Non Standard Game Over: Blacksad can actually refuse to take the case at the very start of the game, retire during the middle of it if he fails to question a prime suspect during a key moment, or allow the true mastermind to walk free.
  • One-Drop Rule: Mary Purnell is 1/8 black, which made her early life in Alabama very difficult.
  • Press X to Not Die: This being a game in the genre defined by Telltale Games and Quantic Dream (Blacksad is even voiced by Barry Johnson, who worked on both Beyond: Two Souls and Detroit: Become Human), quick-time events are a frequent occurrence, and failing them will often result in death and having to restart the section.
  • Super Serum: Dr. Grune's drugs improve overall athletic performance, but they can also grant temporary Super-Strength if taken in large enough quantities. Their unfortunate side effects, however, can veer them into Psycho Serum territory if ingested in such amounts.
  • Timed Mission: Many of the game's sequences are timed.
  • Twin Switch: It's stated in their trading cards that Charlie Kirkland would secretly change places with his brother Joel, who didn't make the team, until they were found out. After a three year suspension they both went on to hall of fame careers.
  • Video Game Caring Potential: Blacksad can potentially take the high road in most scenes, making him come across as a gruffly noble detective.
  • Video Game Cruelty Potential: On the other hand, John can be played as a hardboiled opportunist who backstabs everyone around him when given the opportunity. This playstyle usually grants short term rewards but can make the investigation more difficult in the long run. There is an achievement for causing the most deaths.