Point and click adventure games have recently made a comeback in popularity on the PC, but the iOS market has also provided a home to this genre of video games that was popular in the past but then seemed to wane somewhat. One indie game company that has seen a positive reception of its point and click mystery adventures is Wadjet Eye Games with its entries of episodic mystery games in its Blackwell series. The first three episodes, Blackwell: Legacy, Blackwell: Unbound and Blackwell: Convergence, are now available for the first time on the App Store. These first episodes follow the adventures of Roseangela “Rosa” Blackwell and her aunt Lauren Blackwell as they attempt to understand their powers as mediums and how best to use their abilities in order to help the dead move on to the next world. The combination of the supernatural and the detective solving aspect makes for a landscape that is rife for Wadjet Eye Games to create an experience that is entertaining and more than just a little bit haunting.
Blackwell: Legacy: Rosa visiting her neighbor Hishanti and her doggy Moti.
The Blackwell series seems like it is right at home on the iPad (I reviewed these games on my iPad 2) and I found that I had no problems at all navigating and interacting with the world that is presented for the gamer to roam around in. To get around the levels, the players can simply tap where they want to go and the character will automatically walk to that spot. To interact with the environment, the player simply needs to tap on an object and a prompt will appear giving the player the option to interact with the object or just examine it. Rosa or Lauren will impart information about that object that will just be a description or will reveal important information about your current investigation. Although it may sound like this is a really simple game, there are some parts that will provide a decent challenge so being particularly aware of what is going on in your surroundings is very important to you making good progress in the investigations.
All three of the Blackwell games sport a really cool, retro pixel art style that fits well with the theme of the game that gives them a unique, stylized look. Each game sports better visuals than the last and shows that Wadjet Eye Games is committed to bringing a more polished game to its faithful followers. The character models are surprisingly detailed with large, even more detailed portrait images of the characters head showing on screen when dialogue is being spoken. I never realized that pixel art can represent such finely detailed elements as Wadjet Eye Games has been able to create for these games. Even though the pixel art may be a turn-off to some people, I found it very charming and a creative way to build the game world that would carry on through 3+ episodes (there are two more episodes in the series, releasing on iOS later this year).
Blackwell: Unbound: Lauren on the case in a local bar.
The soundtrack and sound effects in the Blackwell episodes is one of the standout aspects that sets it apart from other point and click adventures currently available. The music that plays during your adventure is at times haunting and morose when dealing with the oftentimes terrible circumstances that befell a particular wandering spirit when they were alive and yet can be upbeat and energetic when the time is right. The music really sets the mood and combines with the gameplay to pull you in deeper than you may have originally thought it would. The voice overs are of surprisingly good quality, even if the lines are sometime corny as all get out, but it comes across as being fun instead of precocious to the point of obnoxiousness and moves the story’s along at a good pace. The voice over cast is a little rough around the edges in the first episode, but they do seem to hit their stride in the second and third episodes as they become more comfortable with their roles. Sound effects are appropriately believable and help to make the world feel alive. The slam of a door, the bark of a dog in the distance or the wail of a wayward spirit are crisp and of high-quality and helps to flesh out Rosa and Lauren’s world so that it feels vibrant and alive and not just flat and one-dimensional.
Indie developers have really stepped up to the plate and have been able to fill a void that the bigger game publishers in the past have refused to even pander to. Wadjet Eye Games have put together an episodic game that is as ambitious as it is creative and have managed to create a product that fills the void left by the big guys. Blackwell: Legacy and Blackwell: Unbound are not particularly long games time-wise and can be finished in four to six hours depending on if you are trying to get all of the achievements and see all the game has to offer in one playthrough. Blackwell: Convergence, however, is longer in length than the first two episodes combined, sporting improved graphics and a much better menu and hint system. In addition there is a couple of bugs in the first episode that if encountered, hinders you from continuing in the game. The best way to get around this issue is to save often so that if you encounter them, you have an earlier save to revert back to and can try again.
Blackwell: Convergence: Rosa turning the screws to get much needed info on a case.
For myself, mobile gaming hasn’t been an attractive gaming option as console gaming has been my main focus for years; the mobile gaming scene didn’t seem to offer any games for those of us that consider ourselves to be hardcore gamers. I must admit that the Blackwell series has turned my thinking on its head and made me see mobile gaming in a new light. I didn’t think that it was possible to create an immersive and engaging experience on a device that doesn’t support a controller but the exploits of Rosa and Lauren shows that this type of game is possible on a tablet or phone. I really had to use my brainpower to solve a couple of the cases that I encountered and that’s when I knew that I was dealing with a game that was focused on engrossing gameplay and presenting the player with something more than just matching the same colored candy pieces. Adventure game enthusiasts that have been waiting for a solid experience with fun gameplay and an engaging storyline, the Blackwell series is one that I would highly recommend that you give a try. You won’t be disappointed.