Genre: Mystery Fantasy Adventure
Release Date: October 12, 2011
Note: Originally published 20 October 2011
The Return to Blackwell
It’s time to return to the Blackwell series. This is an innovative series about an unlikely pair who help ghosts move forward to the beyond. Joey is our ghost hero and he has an unspoken, mysterious past that is hinted at but never explored. Rosa is the medium, with a confusing family history. When we last saw Rosa and Joey, Rosa was creating a web site to advertise their services. Past games in the series have included an innovative notebook inventory system, a mysterious ghost that Rosa dreams about—but never remembers—and a handful of real life New York City locations. The biggest question after playing part three was “When can I get more?” The answer is today.
Life on a Boat
The story starts out with Rosa and Joey on a case. This is, in essence, the tutorial level. It teaches you all the mechanics of the game. It teaches you how to control Rosa and Joey, how to use inventory, and how to save ghosts. I found this level to be slightly more challenging than some of the past tutorial levels; which made it more enjoyable for a seasoned veteran to play. But, it should still be simple enough for the newcomers to get through. It’s a nice little introduction to the world of saving ghosts.
After that we start to get into the real story. Rosa gets a call from an old reporting buddy, Jeremy Sans. Jeremy and Rosa used to write together at a previous assignment.
Unfortunately, at their first meeting Jeremy has a big surprise for Rosa. I won’t spoil it, but it is a great, surprising way to start off the game’s main plot that sends Rosa and Joey once again looking for lost souls.
Who needs Saving Tonight?
Jamie Graham and Tiffany Walters are two spirits that our unlikely pair discovers. What is their story? How are they related? The bulk of the game focuses on this, while also starting to introduce an in-game conspiracy theory.
You’ll meet another medium in this game, and she’ll have ties to a mysterious character, Gavin, who seems to have more importance in the larger story arc of the series. The spirit guide, Madeline, who first appeared in Blackwell Convergence, makes another appearance here. Some of Joey’s history is written between the lines of the main plot. If you’ve been a fan of the series, this is chock full of informational nuggets. If you’re not a fan, the game works well stand-alone; but be sure to revisit the past history too.
The interface will be familiar to fans of the previous games. It is a marriage between the best of parser interfaces and the best of typing interfaces. Rosa’s computer and notebook are now replaced with her smart phone, which she carries with her all the time. You can always check her notes or email or even perform a web search with the in-game Google clone.
This game also reintroduces the ability to combine notes together in order to create new talking points with other characters. Pay close attention to names, places, and other information as you’ll need to combine said information into searches on your phone to discover more names, hints, and places to go.
The Graphics and Sound
The game uses wonderfully detailed character portraits as characters are talking. Unfortunately, they aren’t animated, but I’m impressed with the visuals. The backgrounds are done well enough for a game like this. They hold a steady mix of modern images and nostalgia for the games of old.
The background music is apt and appropriate. It bolsters the scene while never distracting from the action. The soft jazz behind the opening theme is almost familiar at this point. The voice characters are well-versed and rarely miss a beat.
Where do we go from here?
This chapter wraps up nicely, and I felt very satisfied after finishing the game. But the game has a clear direction for the series, so there is definitely more to come.
I love the fact that these stories take place in New York, with real locations. I’d love to see Rosa and Joey move beyond their New York roots. The mansions in Newport, Rhode Island are probably ripe for a ghost adventure game story, or even a trip to Niagara Falls in upstate New York. I thought they might be practical given Dave Gilbert, the creator, could easily visit them to scout real world locations. However, the plot direction could easily extend out to something larger, such as jaunts to Paris, London, and Egypt.
I finish this chapter left wanting more. The sooner the better.
Final Grade: A
Windows XP SP3/Vista/7
Pentium 4 1.6 GHz or equivalent
64 MB RAM (1 GB RAM - Vista/7)
Graphics Card 128 MB (GeForce 5900 or better)