The indie gaming market is a magical place that gives anyone the opportunity to make their creations the next big thing. It should be taken full advantage of, especially in this day and age, where gamers respond a lot more to the indie market than they did a few years ago. This is why I am led to believe that the Blackwell games, developed by Wadjet Eye Games, (they also released point-and-clicker Primordia) have been re-released.
The Blackwell bundle was released on January 13th, this year, at a cool £3.74 on Steam. Aside from the thought that this game may have been re-released to coincide with the ever increasing interest and success of Indie games. The bundle may also have been released to raise awareness. Awareness for the new Blackwell game out in fall, 2013.
Dates and numbers out the way, I’ve been given three of the titles to play through and tell you fantastic readers about.
To begin with, I admit, I did little research into the games and looked more into the developer and as such, missed the order of which the games are meant to be played. Starting with Blackwell Convergence and ending with Blackwell Unbound, the prequel to the first game, The Blackwell Legacy. However, it didn’t affect the perception of the story much, if at all! Just meant I was a bit early to the party of facts and relationships. For example, after finishing Convergence, I moved straight into Legacy, in which the relationship and bond that the protagonist, Roseangela, and her bonded ghost, Joey, is explained.
So, be sure to play them in order!
Okay, my shortcomings out of the way…
All of the Blackwell games are played in retro point-and-click adventure game style, that focuses on dialogue, item collection and logical thinking to solve the games dilemmas. The puzzles are not as strenuous as the brain-stressers of Primordia, which meant next to no alt tabbing to the walkthrough. It also means that the pacing of the game is less erratic, which means that you can get into the story and the characters much more. But, there are some overly simple puzzles that just feel like an exercise in trial and error, than anything else.
Roseangela herself, is a youthful freelance writer that lives in New York City, the setting for the games. Joey is a ghost from the 1920’s, that becomes bonded to Roseangela in the first game after a tragic event that changes Roseangela’s life.
Joey and Roseangela are superb protagonists for a game like this, with the chemistry between them both, or not in some cases, being shown through the stellar writing and voice-acting. The chemistry between Joey and Roseangela make for great listening, often throwing in hiccups of humour, that are all too fleeting, even if the game does have an overall, serious tone. (It does however, feels like the tone of the games should have sometimes been quite different).
Granted, there are some hiccups in the more tense moments; some awkward screams of disbelief, but it’s forgiven due to the lovely voice-acting. The game reuses a lot of characters, which gives a nice sense of familiarity, in Roseangela and Joey’s world. This also higlights the lonely world that Roseangela lives in.
Gameplay is a very typical point-and-click that revolves around Roseangela and Joey’s investigation into the ghost problems that NYC seems to be having. All of the titles use an interesting mechanic in which you switch between Joey and Roseangela, which can be done by pressing tab or going into the menu and clicking on J or R. This feature becomes useful when it comes to finding clues, eavesdropping and even messing around with electronics as Joey. However, these little advantages are diminished by the fact that he cannot interact with the physical world, unless you count blowing lightly on things as a real advantage. That being said, I know a few times I’ve solved a problem, just by blowing on it; if only real life was so easy. Primordia’s HUD holds a strong resemblance to the HUD in all of the Blackwell titles; meaning, it’s quick, simple and minimal.
The world itself is quirky, with a similar retro art-style in all, except for Blackwell Unbound, where you get an older, and more pixelated set of graphics, to go with the fact that it’s a prequel. The sets are detailed and full of little things that make the settings more of a living world, than just a location with characters, sitting their twiddling their thumbs. The soundtrack to these levels are all well and good, but they never really become more than just that; a soundtrack. Still, props should be directed towards the series’ composer Peter Gresser and Thomas Regin. The characters that inhabit the levels all have their own little quirks and simple pixel design and can all be conversed with, to help further your investigations into the paranormal. However, in similar fashion to Primordia, all of the games in this package suffer from some rather awkward animations.
After finishing all of the games in a relatively short period of time, it made me think about episodic gaming in general and how it should be done. All of the games are relatively short and will probably only last you about 2 hours, that’s at a stretch. Not that this is necessarily a bad thing, it just means that the games don’t overstay their welcome and they doesn’t suffer from any artificial length padding. With its short play-time, charming story, characters and simple play-style, the Blackwell games are accessible for anyone. When you consider Wadjet Eye Games more recent release, Primordia, and how difficult some of the puzzles were, this is a welcome blast from the past for adventure game enthusiasts and newcomers to the genre.
The Blackwell Bundle, does a decent job of helping people remember a series that time has forgotten and allowing more publicity to be built for Blackwell Epiphany (Due out in Fall, 2013). Simple interface, forgiving puzzles, memorable characters and a story, that will keep you playing through the various twists and turns in the supernatural world that Roseangela and Joey inhabit, the Blackwell series, will have you playing for a few hours, but not much more, only due to the fact that the games are so damn short.
The tone of the games did sometimes cause me some bother and despite the fact that the series doesn’t take itself too seriously, it could have focused more on humour. Small nit-picks for a series that managed to keep me entertained.
Pick it up from Steam for a sweet £3.74 and indulge in some acceptable adventuring.
Best of luck to Wadjet Eye Games and their future releases!