As someone who’s never witnessed any paranormal activity, I’d probably crap myself should I ever come across a ghost in real life. Luckily I’ve got the Blackwell adventure games to give me a tidy little taste of the supernatural.
The episodic game series introduces you to the spirit world through the eyes of Rosangela Blackwell, for whom dealing with specters comes as no surprise, thanks to her family’s long history of strange and unexplained happenings. Her story unfolds over five games that were originally released on PC (and ported to Mac). The first three games in the series, recently ported smoothly and successfully to iOS, introduce us to a brilliantly told story driven by dialogue and character interaction, with many problem-solving elements.
Each game retains the fantastic writing and voice acting from the original PC series. Best played full-screen on the iPad, the iOS versions follow a tap-and-click mechanism in which players will spend a considerable amount of time working through dialogue and solving problems as the story unfolds.
The most maddening mystery of all, however, might be why all five games haven’t been ported to iOS.
The initial entry, Blackwell 1: Legacy ($2.99 in the App Store), lays down a strong foundation for what fast becomes a brilliant series. We join Rosangela as she learns more about her family’s supernatural past and in particular a ghost named Joey Mallone. We follow her journey as she unearths the truth behind her aunt’s mystery illness and the strange events that occurred in the family in years past.
Blackwell 2: Unbound ($3.99), the second entry in the series (and a prequel to the first), introduces us to Rosangela’s chain-smoking aunt, Lauren Blackwell, as she investigates a jazz musician’s last days and comes to grips with a mother suffering from a severe case of agoraphobia.
Blackwell 3: Convergence ($3.99) then returns us to a present-day Rosangela, who has clearly learned to be more comfortable in her medium duties as she works her way through a case surrounding an actor who has suffered a heart attack.
Both the second and third entries in the series offer grand improvements on the first, with the storyline and game mechanics taking a rather noticeable step up in quality. All three games are considerably short, packing in about three hours per installment.
Dialogue trees occasionally allow the player to decide which direction the story takes and how it plays out. The games never get overly difficult, and all three are fairly logical for the most part, but they do pack in a good few brainteasers. Newcomers to the point-and-click genre will likely prefer to play the Blackwell games in short bursts, since point-and-click adventures can feel slightly frustrating at times.
The series certainly improves as you progress, with the plot becoming much more complex as the story advances, but the voice acting stays consistent throughout, with outstanding performances from Rebecca Whittaker (who plays Rosangela Blackwell) and Abe Goldfarb (Joey Mallone), plus some fantastic cameos from creator Dave Gilbert throughout each game.
Disappointingly, the one aspect that cannot be saved by the excellent voice acting and hugely engrossing storyline is the graphics, which look fairly dated for the most part. Though you can use the excuse that these are iOS ports of classic games that retain the originals’ older-style aesthetics, the text-heavy dialogue is rather difficult to read on an iPhone screen and should have been adapted for mobile displays.
The plot drags a little initially, but it all ties up into an exciting, action-packed and fast-paced conclusion by the end of the third installment that will set you up rather nicely for the final two games (not yet available on iOS). There isn’t much replay-ability here, unless you are a huge fan of the story perhaps, but there are a few alternate solutions to discover throughout the plot, as well as various achievements to unlock.
If you’re a fan of point-and-click adventures, then you should definitely pick this up. If you’re a casual gamer who loves a good story, then this will most certainly keep you entertained for a handful of hours.
Cheap and cheerful on iOS, the games are definitely worth the purchase price for the time you can put into these fine installments. Each episode more gripping than the last, you’ll most likely find yourself in want of more, though sadly the series can currently only be continued and concluded on PC and Mac (the series concluded in April with Blackwell Epiphany). We hope it won’t be long before we see the final two installments of the Blackwell series on iOS.
|The Blackwell series by Wadjet Eye Games ($2.99 to $3.99)|
The good: Strong, exciting plot; top-notch voice-acting/
The bad: Final two installments not available on iOS.
The verdict: Point-and-click adventure at its finest.
Buy from App Store