The Black Widow serves as a sort of interactive testimony from Flux regarding Louisa Collins, the woman widely considered to be Australia’s first female serial killer.
Upon starting the game, you’re thrown directly into the gameplay with little explanation, which works quite well for this type of story. The interface for The Black Widow is straightforward, and its simplicity is both a blessing and a curse. Essentially, the entire game consists of a ouija board and a black-and-white photo, both contained by an ornate metallic frame. To begin playing, you type out a word using the letters on the board.
Here is where things get dicey, and The Black Widow risks losing its audience entirely. The photo of Louisa Collins animates upon the input of a relevant word, which then leads to her recounting aspects of the case to the player. The animation is truly cringeworthy and unsettling, but not in a good or impressive way. Collins’s lips move in a forced and inorganic nature, clashing harshly with the otherwise realistic photo. Additionally, the movements of her mouth fail entirely to match the words coming from it.
This gives the impression of the words being badly dubbed, which is a shame considering that the quality of the voice acting itself is actually stellar. Each bit of monologue sounds incredible, containing enticing detail and deeply believable inflection. The audio varies from pensive to amusing to haunting, covering a satisfying range of emotional and intellectual content. This is only enhanced by the knowledge that The Black Widow is a retelling of a real case from over 100 years ago. In all, the voice acting is something that sticks with you well after the end of the game.
This helps to compensate for the lackluster visuals and limited gameplay. While The Black Widow certainly grabs your attention and invites you to contemplate the individual aspects of the case for yourself, the means to do so are decidedly constrained. Fans of other mystery games like Her Story (which tend to be few and far between) will be excited by the details of the narrative, but they may also be frustrated with such a simple interface. Aside from clicking letters on the board to enter words, the player is given no other means of interaction, nor any means of notetaking within the game.
However, this simplicity is not entirely a negative thing. Because the mechanics are so simple to grasp, The Black Widow remains accessible to a wide audience without holding your hand. For folks who are interested in an engaging mystery or a deep dive into a historical case, it’s easy to overlook the game’s less impressive qualities. Ultimately, The Black Widow is a noteworthy example of a historically accurate game that lends valuable insight into the lives of real people.