Sunday, September 28, 2014

Blackwell Unbound

Developed and published by Wadjet Eye Games

     I've played several Wadjet Eye games now, and they all fall into the same category – retro-styled point-and-click adventure games with extremely strong, serious stories. The Blackwell series, the masterwork of the developer (with 5 different games, Unbound being the second) is no different.
     A prequel to the original, you play as Lauren Blackwell (Dani Marco), a medium who, along with her spirit guide Joey (Abe Goldfarb), has to help ghosts move on. This game features 2 different cases, a man who won't stop playing the sax and a woman who believes she's still in her apartment, and naturally, the more things go on, the more it seems the cases may be connected somehow.
     While this is an adventure game, it doesn't have puzzles in the traditional sense. Which is to say that your inventory exists, but rarely will trying to combine everything with everything result in anything. There's only a handful of inventory puzzles throughout the game, even. Instead, the puzzles revolve more around the dialogue. You have to use each new little piece of information to figure out how to get the next piece, and so on. You might have to look up a name in the phonebook, or combine two clues to get a new one, all so you have a new topic to ask someone about. It can sometimes feel like you're wandering around without a clue, but once you get that clue, the pieces quickly fall together.
     And having everything based around dialogue means that you're constantly invested in figuring out the mystery. You want to know who these people are, how they died, and what you need to do to help them move on. By tying the game so strongly around the story, you're that much more interested in the story. It's a loving care that shows throughout the game. The graphics are spectacular, showing so much detail with so little, and small details (Lauren will pull out a cigarette when she's not doing anything) give the game a lot of life. It's a fairly short game (2 hours max), but it's satisfying to play through. My only complaint is small, but still fairly striking—the voice acting occasionally have microphone pop. Again, it's a small thing, but it takes you so thoroughly out of the game that it's very disappointing.

     In a way, Blackwell Unbound is like an episode of a TV show (maybe not surprising, considering the series was meant to be 10 games long). It's short but engaging, with a strong story that makes you want to come back for the next one.

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