Reviewed by Mark Hasley
An admission must be made here, before I proceed. The truth is that I like BIG games. I generally want detail, scope, depth, large gaming areas, and several different locations. I have long believed that URU may well be the most significant game ever made. I am convinced that both Syberias combine into one of the most interesting stories and finest games that can be played. I even liked MYST V because of its variety and depth. All of that being said, it seems strange to find myself reviewing a small, short, and graphically challenged independent game. It seems even stranger to realize that I actually enjoyed the game a good deal.
The Blackwell Legacy is the first of what is supposed to be a series of Blackwell games. It tells the tale of Roseangela Blackwell and what she Ďinheritsí after the death of the aunt who had raised her from a baby. The story becomes strange rather rapidly because her inheritance is, in fact, a ghost named Joey whom only she can see. She also learns that she and her new ghost are allowed (sometimes condemned) to help dead souls accept the fact that they are indeed dead so that these souls may proceed to the afterworld. In this first game, their mission is accomplished by solving a fairly convoluted suicide/murder mystery. This story is far more interesting and acceptable than it sounds. It is also fairly unique in style and approach. The ingenious tale more than compensates for whatever technical shortcomings exist.
The game controls are extremely basic. The game is strictly a third person point & click game. There is a very small inventory, which is accessed by simply going to the top of the screen and clicking there. The few items and the several documents are then accessed using a right click. There is also a notebook wherein all kinds of clues are recorded. This is actually very clever because within the notebook Roseangela can combine the various clues and ideas and reach different conclusions. Itís a unique and clever idea. There are very few actual Ďpuzzle itemsí (keys, etc) that are required for puzzle solving. There are several documents and notes to read, but the usual simple right-click makes them easily readable.
The inventory is also the place where the player goes to make the usual 'Load', 'Save', and 'Quit' decisions. Subtitles are available. There is also a 'Help' setting, where the player can learn how to use the controls. There is also a 'Commentary' setting, where the designer, Dave Gilbert, gives all kinds of details and description to the gamer as he proceeds. I found it rather intrusive at first, but once I had played the game through, I replayed it with the commentary and learned a good deal.
The area taken in by the game is also rather limited. There are only four or five places that Roseangela visits during the game, and they are all easily reached by clicking on an inventory map. The gamer moves Roseangela by clicking a strange-looking pocket watch-shaped cursor in whatever direction she is supposed to go. She just follows the watch.
The background music here is adequate, and the other ambient sounds are fine, but neither stands out as being particularly good nor especially bad. Both elements are there and are reasonable. They are simply not great.
The graphics, on the other hand, are extremely not great. They are so basic, in fact, that they remind me of when my daughters were playing The Smurf Game on our first Atari game. That was about 20 years ago. There was a graininess and simplicity to the pictures that several people have found quite unique. I simply found them to be old looking. In fairness, I had the feeling that if I could have made my Windows XP set the resolution lower than 800 x 600, the graphics would have been improved. Sadly, while my old video card would have allowed me to make that adjustment, my new one wonít.
So The Blackwell Legacy has barely adequate sound effects, fairly poor graphics, and is an extremely simplistic game. By now a reader is probably thinking that I didnít like it. That reader would be incorrect. This game does a few things extremely well, and is well worth the price. Any experienced gamer will get a very reasonable bang for his buck.
The game has a couple of unique and very special characteristics. There are a great many conversations in this game. Whenever they occur, the two people who are conversing appear as enlarged characters in the upper right and left corners of the screen. The animation for these scenes is fairly effective, and the larger images provide some much more impressive graphics. I liked this idea a good deal and canít believe that Iíve not seen it before.
Another interesting element of these conversations is that generally the player has three options for the tone of the conversation. Roseangela or Joey can talk politely, aggressively, or even nastily. Each of these options is provided by the game, and the player simply clicks on one of the choices at the bottom of the screen in order to choose how he wishes the character to act or react. I found this process rather interesting and quite entertaining.
More importantly, the game is well acted and there is a very cleverly thought out plot. The idea that a whiny, wimpy-type female character like Roseangela can inherit her own ghost, and can then be forced to take on some rather complex obligations, makes for a really clever tale with some very interesting story twists.
The puzzles too are interesting, and quite different. There are no mazes or sliders. Indeed there are few traditional puzzles. The player must just think about everything heís heard, consider what must be done to accomplish the next step, and go on from there. Again, I enjoyed the approach.
A player should be forewarned that this is an extremely short game. I finished it in about six hours and would have been done sooner if I had not gotten myself confused over a nothing question. Once someone gave me that hint, it was smooth sailing throughout. The game ran perfectly with never a glitch.
My final comments are generally positive. The Blackwell Legacy is a small game in every respect, but in that context it was quite entertaining. It took only an afternoon to play, but it made for a very nice afternoon. It has very basic graphics and sounds, but it also has some very good voice acting, intriguingly different puzzles, and a clever and rather special storyline. This game is a little game, but it offers some real value for its time and trouble. In fact, I am going to finish this review and then, since we here in Michigan are having another cold, wet, snowy afternoon, I intend to play Blackwell Unbound, which is the next game in the series. I hope to let the readers of Mr. Billís website know if that game is as good as this one has been.
© March 2008 Mark Hasley
Developed (2006) and published by Wadjet Eye Games
Minimum System Requirements:
PC: Pentium II 300 MHz Processor or Higher; Windows 98 / 2000 / ME / XP / Vista; 64 MB RAM; CD/DVD-ROM Drive; Directx Compatible Graphics Card; Directx Compatible Sound Card; Directx 5.0 or Above; 250 MB of Free Hard Drive Space; Mouse
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