Where it All Comes Together: The Blackwell Clan’s Past catches up to the present in The Blackwell Convergence for iOS
We all experience events in our lifetime that seem insignificant. Perhaps it was saying hello to someone, or helping a stranger with something. Most of the time, we forget such trivial matters. But what if these so-called “trivial matters” didn’t forget us? This was the case between the second installment of the Blackwell Saga, Blackwell Unbound, and the third installment The Blackwell Convergence. Before diving into the Convergence, let us examine a few things about Unbound. The most noticeable thing about the second installment was that rather than controlling Rosa Blackwell, the protagonist from the first installment, players were thrown many years into the past and were put in control of Rosa’s now-deceased aunt, Lauren Blackwell. Lauren, like every Blackwell medium, sought to send spirits to the afterlife. While she did indeed do that, another medium appeared throughout the game, calling herself the “Countess”. While she did not have a spirit guide of her own, the Countess also sought to “free” living individuals from the burden of life by choking them to death. After several events, Lauren and the her ever-familiar spirit guide Joey saw that the Countess finally met her demise as she was pushed off of a balcony. The Blackwell Convergence takes place once again in the present-day and switches back to the original protagonist, Rosa Blackwell. The game begins with a run-of-the mill case (if such a thing can even be called run-of-the-mill), but the dynamic duo soon find out that several people have died recently. These deaths were caused by heavy strangulation, but the victims didn’t ever seem to have any bruises; the Countess was back. Thus, the dynamic duo begin yet another perilous quest to maintain peace between the world of the living, and the world beyond.
Like its predecessor, Convergence assumes that this is not the player’s first game in the series. While it certainly doesn’t hold your hand, first case that Rosa and Joey come across is very short and simpler than normal and serves as a nice first course so-to-speak for both newbies learning to play the game, as well as Blackwell veterans who just want to freshen up. There is an optional tutorial and, for those savvy enough, an achievement for solving the first case in a “good” way. The game’s controls and premise are the exact same as they were in the other two; a Point-And-Click adventure game that relies on puzzle-solving, dialogue, and the mystery of the unknown. Rosa and Joey navigate their way around New York City in search of various haunting grounds and the spirits that haunt them. Once a spirit is finally found, it is the duo’s job to convince the ghost that they are not in fact alive any more. This always sounds easier than it is. Convincing a stubborn haunt to leave its haunting ground can take a lot of work; gathering information, collecting items, and even speaking to the ghost itself can all be very time-consuming and brain-busting. Once the spirit has finally realized its fate however they are helped, by Rosa and Joey, into the great beyond.
Along with the the familiar interface come familiar and welcoming game mechanics.The trusty notepad used by both Rosa and Lauren once again returns in the game, allowing notes to automatically be taken when an important event or person comes up. When such a clue is found, a pop-up informs the player of the new information, which can be viewed any time and also open up new dialogue options when interrogating someone. Rosa’s computer (a notebook for Lauren) also makes a return, allowing players to search for various people and places using an in-game search engine named “Oogle”. Players must manually type in things that they wish to search, as Rosa will not do it automatically. This is something that players should keep in mind during gameplay! No name is ever too insignificant in a case. Along with the search engine, players are also allowed to look into the email account of Rosa (and later on, a few other individuals) to snoop through email. While a lot of it is nicely-done backstory and flavor texts, certain emails may strike players as suspect (or, in one case, eerie) and would do best to be remembered. Players are also allowed to switch between Rosa and Joey, encouraging players to explore every area from the perspective of both characters while serving as a reminder of the importance of teamwork.
Convergence also continues the tradition of blending story, puzzle-solving, conversing, and staple Point-And-Click elements together nicely to create a game that flows incredibly well and keeps players thinking, all while making sure that nothing ever feels bland or stale. This installment, like the rest, make sure not to ever emphasize hopeless clicking about a room. Rather, Convergence encourages players to think with what they already have and to explore every possible aspect of the situation in which they are currently placed. When several options are given to you at once, it can be easy to overlook things. The game, in my opinion, does a great job of steering clear of dead ends in order to keep the player focused on the task at hand, all while still making the game challenging. And, in my opinion, this Blackwell installment is most definitely the most challenging one yet. Despite the difficulty increase, I can still say that I was very much enthralled in the game and never once felt as though it was being unfair.
The art style once again remains reminiscent of games past, adopting old-school PC graphics similar to those of Kings Quest, or Darkseed. While indeed similar, Blackwell Convergence has undergone a notable graphical upgrade; a feature that I find just as pleasing as ultra-retro graphics. Despite this, everything is still crystal-clear in terms of item visibility; never once did I find myself scratching my head and squinting at the screen thinking “now where is this item supposed to be?” And, for those who may have difficulty seeing things sometimes, there is the option to press and hold down on the screen thus revealing every clickable item in the room that you are currently in! It really is a great feature, and I feel as though that it does not really detract from gameplay at all. Portraits also make a return in this game, once again allowing players to get a detailed and more animated look at the person currently talking on-screen. Character portraits are also visibly animated, and have several facial expressions. I have always been a fan of features such as this, as I feel it adds a very visible spark of life into almost any game; especially when it is done well.
The overall feel of the music was nicely done. While not the best game soundtrack I have heard, it was composed well, enjoyable, and was most definitely fitting to the places and scenario in the game. What really impressed me however, was the dramatic improvement of the voice acting cast. I finally got the feeling that every actor was truly dedicated to the character which they were voicing, and it made it so much easier to immerse oneself into the game. The acting was largely appropriate, and was very enjoyable overall. I was quite impressed with how much of an improvement upon voice acting Blackwell Convergence had made.
While similar in terms of mechanics, Blackwell Convergence was a definite improvement in the Blackwell series. Now, more than ever, I would encourage those interested to begin the Blackwell journey for themselves in order to seek out the mystery and wonder that awaits them. Although I do see this to be the best installment yet, I still highly encourage everyone to begin the series from the first game. You won’t regret it!
Final Verdict: 4/5
Available on: iOS (Reviewed), PC; Publisher: Wadjet Eye Games; Developer: Wadjet Eye Games; Players: 1; Released: July 10th, 2014; Genre: Point-and-Click Adventure; MSRP: $2.99
Note: This review is based on iOS review code provided by the game’s publisher, Wadjet Eye Games