Wadjet Eye Games’ supernatural adventure The Blackwell Legacy haunts iOS
Death is a part of life. Everyone has different viewpoints on death, and everyone deals with it differently. Many ask themselves what hand of fate controls what happens to them upon death, and time and time again, no answer is found. What if things got turned around, however? What if one day you stopped asking yourself what the hands of fate will do to you, because those very same hands are yours? Imagine how difficult it would be to help others out this world and into the next. Well that, readers, is exactly how the “Blackwell” series begins.
The Blackwell Legacy starts with the protagonist, Rosangela Blackwell (“Rosa” for short), in a psychiatric hospital. No, this isn’t one of those “escape the asylum” type games. Rather, Rosa’s aunt, Lauren Blackwell, had just passed away. Although she did not know her aunt well due to her elongated hospital stay, Lauren was Rosa’s only family so she felt an obligation to stay by her side until her dying day. Without trying to spoil the game too much, it is revealed rather quickly that, while Lauren was in fact comatose most of her stay, there were several strange occurrences over the years. Doctors had recorded several instances of lucidity, although Lauren always became comatose once again soon after. The most intriguing part however, was the fact that Lauren would occasionally mutter the word “Joey”. Lauren was also not the first to enter a strange state of consciousness; her mother before her had also “gone insane” and had also been noted mentioning the name “Joey”. There was no Joey Blackwell that anyone knew of, so who could this strange person be? After a bit more conversation Rosa excuses herself, and the adventure begins.
The Blackwell Legacy is, in all senses of the word, a Point-and-Click Adventure Game. The player controls Rosa’s movements and actions via the touch screen. touching the ground in an area causes Rosa to move there, and clicking on certain intractable items, people, or creatures allows Rosa to interact with them. The interactions in the game always come in two rather straightforward ways; “examine”, or “interact”. While examination is rather straightforward, interacting with something could mean many different things. Rather than forcing the player to choose from many options (touch, speak, look, taste, etc.) as was the norm in older games, Blackwell has the courtesy to allow Rosa to do the correct actions. Sorry guys; no silly attempts to eat people or talk to rocks.
If you are anything like me, you spend most of your time in point-and-click adventures hopelessly clicking on every pixel and frantically asking yourself why a particular item is so difficult to find, you will be very happy to know that the game stays away from the obscenely small clickable item gimmick and instead o relies heavily on dialogue, interaction, and problem solving. In many conversations, players have dialogue trees, which allow Rosa to answer in different ways, or pick from different choices. While some are there for (much appreciated) flavor such as choosing to whether to answer someone in a sarcastic or straightforward manner, others effect how the story goes along. Rosa also carries with her, a notebook in which she writes key words and phrases that might be helpful. As one might expect, these keywords come in handy when trying to get information out of people. The notebook isn’t just a list of words to use however; players must also combine words and phrases in order to gain new insight. (SPOILER) The names “Alexander” and “Davenport” are too vague by themselves, but what happens when you combine the words to form “Alexander Davenport”? Ah! Now you have a full name; one which people may recognize! (END SPOILER) While there are a few instances that may make you scratch your head a bit, the game does a relatively good job of making sure that the player is conscious about their available assets, and does not simply stick to one mechanic.
I would say that the difficulty of the game lies a little bit over medium. It’s definitely got some brain-teasers in it, but the game never seems to get difficult just for the sake of getting difficult. Personally, I find that to be rather charming. I’m one of the first people to play “Hard Mode” on most games, but there’s a difference between “difficult” and downright mean. Perhaps it is just my point-and-click inexperience poking through, but I have always felt as though the genre had a lot of things placed in games just for the sake of frustrating the player and elongating time. It was usually the case of “this game is only two rooms, but you need to find a bunch of items and they’re all hidden in ridiculous places”. This game certainly takes some thinking, but it’s clear that the developers wanted you to look past the simple point-and-click mechanic and delve deeper into the story of the Blackwell universe. Kudos to you.
As I had previously stated, the game relies heavily on dialogue. To my surprise, that meant that everything was fully voice-acted! Now before I continue, I will let you know that I am fairly picky when it comes to voice acting. Fortunately, I felt as though it was great for the most part. I felt as though all of the main characters were voiced quite well, and were very expressive at that. The only problem I had voice-wise was with a few of the minor characters (I will not say who for I do not wish to skew the opinion of anyone) who either sounded a bit on the stuffy side, and, in one case, had a bit of background noise going on. While there were a few discrepancies from text to speech, the were very sparse and almost small enough that one might not catch them. And who knows, maybe it was intended for each individual to sound the way that they did. These characters are supposed to be real people and, you know what, real people don’t sound crisp and clear all of the time. I certainly know that my allergies can cause me to sound stuffy too.
Now, let’s move onto the characters themselves. What with this being a game heavily based on talking and character development, you would think that the characters would need to be fleshed out and for the most part they were. A lot of time was clearly put into Rosa, and while playing the game I really felt as though I were controlling a normal person (aside from the whole being able to see ghosts thing). She had her ups and downs, and was strong but clearly aware that she was not perfect. The way she came to terms with being a medium was also rather believable, and I feel that had the game not been so short that there was some real potential do set up a big emotional struggle. Rosa was completely out of her mind when she met Joey, and with good reason. Her aunt and grandmother had both apparently been in contact with this spirit, and they didn’t necessarily have the happiest of endings. Still, Rosa managed to pull herself through the crisis and came to work with Joey in order to lay wayward spirits to rest. Joey himself is great, too. One would think that a ghost who has been around for decades would have one to say, and this one most definitely fits that bill. Throughout the game, the player can attempt to slowly prod Joey for information. The more you work on it, the more information you are eventually rewarded with. This is a great example of using the game’s mechanics in order to add extra bits of lore to a series. I also personally love they style in which they portrayed Joey. He always seems so out of place, and yet he doesn’t let the advances of time get the better of him.
The way in which both the characters and scenery are drawn in The Blackwell Legacy are also quite appealing. While I am no art major, I would best explain it as “retro with a touch of hand-drawn goodness”. The game was made in a fashion that almost gives it an older computer or Super Nintendo look; things are pixelated, but everything comes together very nicely with the hand-drawn touches of certain features. I find the contrast between the (mostly) clear character dialogue and the graphics to be quite charming. I was honestly surprised when I first saw the game and then heard the characters speak. Unfortunately, the music was a bit lacking, especially compared to the visuals. I did really like the dormitory music but I felt as though most of the music was rather plain, which is a disappointment seeing as how I tend to be “that guy”. You know, the one who can listen to video game music, even sound effects, and tell you where they’re from? I blame it on my musical upbringing. Either way, it fell a bit short in my opinion. The game really isn’t about music though, so I never really found it to be a problem. Considering the fact that there is so much talking going on throughout the game, you most likely wouldn’t hear much of it any way!
Whether point-and-clicks are your thing, or you just want a short game with a nice plot, I would give The Blackwell Legacy a thumbs up to you. It does have its ups and downs in a few areas, but overall it’s a solid game; especially for iOS. So next time you’re on the App Store looking for something nice to play, take it from me; Blackwell is worth checking out. And hey, there are four more games after this one if you like it!
Final Verdict: 4/5
Platform: iOS (Reviewed), PC; Publisher: Wadjet Eye Games; Developer: Wadjet Eye Game; Players: 1; Release Date: July 10th, 2014; ESRB: Not Yet Rated; MSRP: $1.99
Note: This review is based on review code provided by the game’s publisher, Wadjet Eye Games