Sawbuck Gamer

Blackbar

That’s Classified

Blackbar takes on Big Brother with a heavily redacted text adventure.

By Adam Volk • September 13, 2013

Sawbuck Gamer is our daily review of a free or cheap game ($10 or less).

Big Brother might be keeping close tabs on us these days, but I can’t help but feel a little sorry for the poor NSA schmuck who’s forced to sift through America’s digital refuse of pornography and poor spelling.

Enter Blackbar, a timely text-based game that offers Orwellian storytelling and clever wordplay in equal measure. You take on the role of a simple citizen living in a dystopian world overseen by the Department Of Communication, a shadowy organization whose only task is to censor the written word. The story begins when you get a strange letter from a disillusioned friend working inside the Department. Unfortunately, the missives you receive are liberally coated with pesky black bars of censorship, requiring you to figure out the missing words through careful trial and error in order to progress to the next part of the story.

Eventually, you’ll also decipher codes and solve a few puzzles as you piece together what’s happening to your friend. While the conversation is one-sided, it’s a taught, well-written narrative with plenty of twists and razor sharp dialogue. With its minimalist style and inspired storytelling, Blackbar harkens back to the era of classic text-based adventures, but delivers a contemporary commentary that even the overworked info snoops at the NSA could appreciate.

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20 Responses to “That’s Classified”

  1. Carlton_Hungus says:

    I yearn for you tragically.  A.T. Tappman, Chaplain, U.S. Army

  2. boardgameguy says:

    i want to play this, but don’t have an iOS device. too bad there isn’t a free browser version.

  3. SamPlays says:

    When it comes to figuring out the redacted material, do you have to openly guess the word/phrase or do you choose from a list of options?

    Also, would the NSA really have people sort through material manually or would they employ the same tech as Google and let the machines do the grunt work?

    • Chum Joely says:

      Definitely machines for the first pass. This is how they can “accidentally” slurp up tons of communications that they’re actually expressly forbidden from monitoring. Of course, at that point, an eager young intelligence analyst can hardly be blamed for sneaking a peek into those documents when they come down to the level of being reviewed by actual humans… you know… just in case Al Qaeda (boo!) might be involved…

  4. snazzlenuts says:

    Former Dick’s

  5. PaganPoet says:

    Anyone here ever see the music video for PJ Harvey’s The Piano? It’s pretty neat. Important lyrics of the song are spelled out using black bars from censored porn pictures.

  6. Effigy_Power says:

    Did they redact the reason why a text adventure sells for $3? Seems ever so slightly higher than it ########## on the ######### ####### especially when the squirrel has a ############### for seven ########### and the cream cheese.

  7. TreeRol says:

    Taut.