Mystery, ghosts, conspiracy and drama … the best way I can describe the Blackwell Series. We have officially completed all five chapters in this series and we have our review of chapters 1-3 for you today.
Confident Gamers was extremely excited when we were originally approached regarding conducting a review of Blackwell Deception. Although it is the fourth installment of the series, we knew picking it up and starting there would be just fine and we would still have a great appreciation for the game. Shortly after that, the fifth and final chapter of the series, Blackwell Epiphany was released and we also jumped on the opportunity try it out and provide a review.
We enjoy both of these installments to the series so much that we just had to see what we were missing out on by not experiencing the first three chapters. So here we are, a few weeks later and we have now official completed the entire series and just couldn’t wait to share our review with you.
The Blackwell series was developed by Wadjet Eye games. Founded in 2006, Wadjet Eye Games has developed a reputation for producing award-winning and critically acclaimed adventure games for the PC, many of which are now being made available on the most recent iOS platform. The company’s award-winning portfolio includes The Shivah and the Blackwell series, both of which have garnered Game Developers Choice nominations, Puzzle Bots, which was selected for the Penny Arcade Expo’s PAX 10 showcase, and IGF Student Showcase winner Gemini Rue.
Storyline of Each of the Games
If you are not familiar with the Blackwell Series, the best place to start is with the first installment of the series, Blackwell Legacy. Here you are first introduced to Rosa Blackwell and Joey Mallone. Rosa, has just discovered her only living relative has now passed and the doctor overseeing her relative warns her that it is possible that she may begin to exhibit the same symptoms of her now deceased aunt, and if she does she must contact him immediately. When symptoms do begin and you discover the root of the problem, a family legacy of having the ability to not only see but talk to the deceased in your area, things as a reporter/journalist become a lot more interesting. Here you being your journey of using your new skills as a medium and gift of having your own personal ghost partner, Joey to help lost souls make their way to the other side.
In the next chapter, Blackwell Unbound, you get a little more back story on the Blackwell family, particularly the aunt that had passed during Blackwell Legacy. By playing as Lauren Blackwell, accompanied by her companion Joey Mallone, here are you introduced to a storyline and characters that will be extremely important as you stick around for the entire series. You discover a few seemingly unconnected huntings in the area and take on the challenge to help these lost souls move on. As things unravel you discover that not only are these cases connected, but you are not the only medium in the city. These people and situations will come back that will play a big part in the resolving future puzzles and problems.
As mentioned, in the third addition to the series, Blackwell Convergence you go back to playing as Rosa and like Lauren discover several cases of spirits that seem at first to not be related. However as things progress and you learn more about the people and their circumstances you are soon introduced to a key figure that played in a larger role in Blackwell Unbound. It is up to you and Joey to attempt to solve this mystery combining the history that Joey has from being bound to Lauren and now Rosa.
Having the opportunity to play through the three of them so close together allowed me to really appreciate and quickly see the connection between the different storylines. It also gave me the opportunity to really get to know the characters more and see how the develop from chapter to chapter. While truly each game could stand by itself and be a really enjoyable experience, staying with the series from beginning to end, there are several points along the way that you will have a greater appreciation for knowing a bit more about the history and evolution of the Blackwell storyline.
Each of the Blackwell games play out the same way in terms of how to manage the characters and move the story along. Once you are introduced to Joey, your ghost guide and companion, you will have the ability to switch between the characters. When you play as Rosa (or Lauren in Blackwell Unbound) you have the ability to interact with and study objects, talk with other humans to gain access and information and use your resources to gain additional information such as your computer, a phone book or your cell phone. All of your game functions such as accessing inventory items collected, studying facts and clues as well as switching between characters all reside the games menu which can be accessed at the top of the screen. In the menu you can also combine items or facts to create new objects or to gain further insight in to people ore places.
All of the Blackwell games that we played for these reviews were on our iPhones as we are playing the re-released iOS versions of the original PC game. So much of our poking and clicking was done on the screen. You simply tap objects or people and select usually one of two options, speak audibly about the object to gain inside or, pick up the object. When the object is actually a person the concept is the same, you can either talk about the person or interact with them and actually talk to them. You can also select items from the menus to combine with other objects or to give the object to a person.
Other than the some times difficult and challenging puzzles to solve, I really didn’t encounter and set backs or hiccups with any of the games. I don’t recall any in game glitches along the way. Everything ran extremely smoothly. The only thing I noticed, which didn’t effect the game play at all was some audio echoing whenever switched from the game to another app and back.
The Blackwell Series, much like many of the other games produced by the Wadjet Eye team have a very classic retro feel to them. Many of their games take modern ideas and concepts and place the characters and plot in a very 80’s type setting. While they are not the prettiest most top notch quality graphics, the game runs at low resolution (640×480) and all of the characters and backgrounds are very blocky and pixilated, it does have an appeal to them that you kind of get used to and slowly begin to appreciate it. You get the sense that it isn’t a low budget indie developer, but an intentional style choice that is signature and unique to Wadjet Eye and the games they develop.
The sounds of the Blackwell series also play a huge part in your overall enjoyment of the game. The background tracks, like the graphics have a very retro feel to them as well as some of the dialogue. What Blackwell lacks in graphics they really make up for in their voice acting. Dave Gilbert, the CCO and founder of Wadget Eye Games really puts a lot of attention to deal and selectivity in the people whom he chooses to act out the roles for each of the characters in his games. The team involved really do a wonderful job of bringing the characters to life and telling a story.
Like many story driven puzzle games, it is hard to really sell the replayability factor. Unless achievements are involved, once you play through the story, there isn’t much to hold you there. Now granted I do see myself picking up the series again in the distant future to relieve the story and see if I discover anything new about the characters and plots that I didn’t uncover during my first play through. The storyline and development is so well thought out and laid out before you that you could potentially play through again and have different thoughts and emotions about the people and their situations. As well as relieving the puzzles themselves. The puzzles presented in each of these stories are all very complex and not exactly straight forward. You will have to put into practice the skill of talking to everyone, looking at everything, combining items, and combining facts in your notes history in order to uncover details that may otherwise go undiscovered.
After playing just one of the games in this series I was convinced that it was a well spent investment. Now after completing the entire set, I would never look back with regret. Also I am extremely happy that I was able to experience all of the games using my mobile device. Being able to take the game with me where ever I was is brilliant. It is not often you can take a game that was designed for PC on the road with you.
If you are interested you can read more about Wadjet Eye Games, and check our more of what they have accomplished as a successful game development company. If you are ready to check out the entire series, it is now on the App Store, with all five Blackwell games being made available in a cost-saving bundle, as well as individual downloads:
Get all five games in a Blackwell bundle ($14.99)
- Blackwell 1: Legacy ($2.99)
- Blackwell 2: Unbound ($3.99)
- Blackwell 3: Convergence ($3.99)
- Blackwell 4: Deception ($3.99)
- Blackwell 5: Epiphany ($3.99)