Ever since I was a child, I’ve loved those pixellated, point-and-click adventure games, such as “Simon The Sorcerer” or “Monkey Island”. Hours of fun would be spent trying to solve riddles, or puzzles; so it’s a surprise to me that I’ve never heard of Blackwell. That’s over now though, because now I have.
Blackwell 1: Legacy is the first instalment to the collection, the story focusing on the main protagonist, “Rosa Blackwell” and her tragic intro story of her only relative passing away. Shortly afterwards she’s greeted by a ghost from the 1930s, going by the name, “Joey Mallone”, who tells her that she is a medium and has to cure the supernatural ills of New York. Her first, shall we say, “assignment” is to investigate the deaths of three NYU students, but little do they know that a larger force is at work.
Keeping true to the pixellated point-and-click style, the game features a frequent dose of sarcasm, and many moments of that forth wall being smashed down by having the character acknowledge your actions and basically saying, “yeah, no”. The game should call itself a point-and-poke due to the series being available on the iPhone and iPad as well, but sometimes point-and-pokes can leave many opportunities for pressing the wrong thing, especially on such a small playing environment such as the iPhone.
So without spoiling the story and giving anything away, Blackwell, from the moment it starts grips you with it’s soundtrack. The gentle sombre piano introduction invites you into a world of drama, and you are straight away, introduced to Rosa at a bridge scattering the ashes of her Auntie. The voice acting from the off is also very captivating, the crisp and clear dialogue from all the characters is beautifully delivered, but having a hunt around, I’ve seen reviews from some players complaining about the “annoying” characters, I don’t think that they either appreciate sarcasm, or they got stuck for so long that they grew frustrated with whomever annoyed them. But anyway.
Your first puzzle is to get back to your apartment, but there’s a youth guarding the door, he doesn’t recognise you and wants you to provide proof that you live in your apartment. The only way to do that is to find one of your neighbours; but she’s busy and you need to get her attention. Once you’ve figured it out, if you haven’t already been to the hospital, then you go there and find out about your Aunties condition. Learning that it’s heredity, you go home, begin having headaches, and then HELLO! Joey Mallone appears! Your ghostly buddy. From that moment on the game relies on clue solving and completing certain things in order to progress.
The clue system works, allowing you to open your notebook, tap a source then tap another source to find out if there’s any links between them. If there are links, then you know who you need to question next. Annoyingly though the game is quite short on helpful advice. You can’t really talk to Joey to guide you in what to do next, and you don’t get any monolouge dialouge indicating a sly clue to you, so you’re pretty much left to keep tapping at things, travelling to various locations and going through the same conversations and asking the same questions to get the same answers until you finally figure it out.
Irritatingly, near the end, my game bugged out. When I had done an action that was supposed to have sparked a reaction…nothing happened. Afterwards, attempting to do the same action wouldn’t work anymore because it had already been done, thus resulting in my game hitting a dead end. Unable to progress, and having gotten too far in to actually think about restarting the whole thing, I turned my attention towards a playthrough video, which as it turned out showed me that I only had a short while left anyway before the end.
There’s a tonne of dialogue options, but it feels like they don’t really impact the game. Also, annoyingly, the options on screen are so small that it requires you to really pay attention to where you’re poking, because sometimes you press the wrong thing just because it’s hard to home in on where you want to press sometimes. You can press and hold to view the interactive items in a room, but sometimes you can accidentally tap the edge of the level and leave when you didn’t want too.
It’s a fantastically developed game, hitting the right place in all elements. The soundtrack is emotional and catchy, although when the beat comes in it can cause difficulty listening to the characters. The voice acting is great and really portrays the emotions that each character is going through, which is vital in a game where you don’t have a realtime view of their physical emotions. The story is unique, as are the characters and their personalities shine through the mobile screen.