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To date there are 4 titles in the BLACKWELL Indie-series of Steam driven PC games. These are: The Blackwell Legacy, Blackwell Unbound, Blackwell Convergence and Blackwell Deception.
The games are designed by Dave Gilbert and published by Wadjet Eye Games  The fifth and final instalment is due to be released in early 2014 and is liable to be called The Blackwell Epiphany

          

The first game, the Blackwell Legacy, introduces the player to Rosa (Rosangela Blackwell), a freelance writer living in New York City. Her aunt, Lauren Blackwell, was a psychic medium before she died and it isn't too long after her death that Rosa begins to experience headaches which culminate in the ghost of Joey Mallone appearing and explaining to her that her aunt used to help spirits and ghosts move on after death, especially the ghosts of people who died a frightening or complicated death and now that Lauren has passed the job has fallen to Rosa. With your help Rosa proceeds to solve her first "case" about a ghost haunting a local dog park. After bouncing around the locations you find through detection - mail, phone calls, speaking to the neighbour etc - that three close friends made a suicide pact after conjuring a spirit by a ouija board. Rosa (you) finds the third girl in hospital after her suicide attemp fails and eventually you discover how to help her move on.

Graphically these games fall into the latest retro approach to computer visuals, a state I am not that comfortable with to be honest - I cannot understand the craze to play games that don't take advantage of the technology you are paying through the nose for with the latest in PCs and consoles. Also it took me a long time to get really involved in the stories because I kept losing interest having to click and check everything, make inane chatter with colourless characters, and continually flip back and forth between locations.

           

BLACKWELL UNBOUND is the next in the series and is a prequel to Legacy. Set back in the 70s the characters are now Lauren and Joey and follows their psychic investigations of  two murders - a saxophone player and a woman whose ghost has begun haunting her old apartment building which is now under reconstruction.  As Lauren you uncover facts that show both people were murdered by the same person, a woman known as The Countess. Although she claims to be a medium like Lauren, the Countess is in fact a mad woman who is killing people written about in the New Yorker magazine by the writer Joseph Mitchell. (both the magazine and Joseph Mitchell are actually real, though I have found nothing to suggest that anyone did kill people based on Mitchell's penmanship).  The game play and mechanics are very much the same as in Legacy and the same basic engine is used for both of the games. It is good to play games that are connected especially when they have fairly decent storylines, but as said previously I am not a great fan of the retro style. The story is good but as always it involves a lot of travelling back and forth between locations asking questions, searching and seeking, clicking and hoping.

            

The third game, Blackwell Convergence, is back in the present, well almost and your characters are once again Rosa and Joey's ghost. The Countess returns as the antagonist and once more seemingly unassociated murders are found to be her work and indeed are connected. he action for the player is much of the same, repeating the to-ing and fro-ing from location to npc to location and a return to an npc, back and forth in the way that so many point and click adventures consider to be a challenge. At the start of the game the rain falls in elongated straight-line pixels.

The fourth game - the Blackwell Deception - supposedly introduces a new look to the graphics, meant to be less cartoon more animation, and a variation in game style, but I have to admit that I never noticed any difference. The graphics are still blocky and pixellated and the action is still knocking your head on the wall frustrating . It introduces a new antagonist, Gavin, who has been prevented from entering through the Gates of Death and had his soul destroyed. He feeds off the energy of ghosts and spirits and channels his energy through another psychic medium, Lisa, using her to bring ghosts for him to feed off.

Great ideas, imaginative tales and user-friendly interface are the plus points, pixelated graphics, repetitive locations, inane questioning and the lack of being able to do what you want to be able to do (or at least think you want to do) are the negatives.

 

© Chris Baylis 2011-2015