REVIEW / Blackwell Mystery Series, Episodes 4 & 5 (iOS)

 

Back in August of 2014, I got the supreme pleasure of reviewing the first three games in the Blackwell Mystery Series. With the release of the final installment in this fascinating point-and-click adventure, I though it would be cool to review the final two installments to see how Wadjet Eye Games had grown as a development studio. And I’ll admit, I missed Roseangela “Rosa” Blackwell and her snarky ghostly sidekick Joey Mallone.  Blackwell Deception and Blackwell Epiphany, episodes 4 & 5 respectively, continue the adventures of the medium/private investigator as she deals with how her life has changed since she decided to embrace her  “ghost whispering” gift.  She and Joey help souls still clinging to life realize that they’ve passed on and need to continue their journey into the light.

 

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Blackwell Deception: Detective Durkin helps you make a little money off of the city but don’t put all of your trust in him.

 

The Blackwell Mystery Series is a series of point-and-click PC and iOS games developed at a small indie studio in Park Slope, Brooklyn. This small, four-person team has been creating awesome adventure games since 2006.  In the fourth installment of the series, Blackwell Deception, Rosa and Joey must investigate a series of murders committed against patrons of street psychics.  After meeting many confused spirits that have all been involved with them in one way or another, Rosa and Joey take it upon themselves to look into their connections and to send those spirits onto their next lives.  The fifth and final installment, Blackwell Epiphany, finds Rosa and Joey facing a violent and brutal force that is literally tearing its victims apart on the streets.  The duo are prepared to risk everything, including their own safety and well-being, in order to stop this menace and to help those already destroyed to finally rest in peace.

 

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Blackwell Deception: Something strange is going on with “Street Psychics.” Can Rosa and Joey get to the bottom of things before someone else dies?

 

The jewel in the crown of the Blackwell Mystery Series is definitely the gameplay.  In order to figure out why a particular lost spirit is, well…lost, Rosa and Joey must work together to find clues and solve puzzles that pose an obstacle in their path.  Being that Joel is incorporeal, he can’t actually touch anything in the game.  He can only communicate with Rosa as well as having the ability to move certain objects by blowing on them with his breath.  Weird, I know, but it works well because Rosa is then able to manipulate those real-word objects, solve the puzzle and move the investigations forward.  The abilities of both Rosa And Joey must be taken advantage of in order to solve the mysteries involved with each case, and as is normal in the Blackwell games, you will need to be very creative in how you determine how to solve each conundrum.

 

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Blackwell Epiphany: Epiphany takes place during the winter months so everything is covered in snow making for a very isolated feeling.

 

One of the other features that really pulls me in about the Blackwell games is the retro-styled visuals that the series is known for.  As a child of the 8-bit video game era, pixel-art games hold a very special place in my heart and these games have the ability to tug at every heart-string that I have available.  Environments are surreal and highly detailed regardless of the lack of modern HD graphics.  Wadjet is able to create settings that add a level of depth and realness to the locations that you will visit in the game as well as an additional feature that dramatically grounds the story and makes it feel believable.  This is a game series about death and the paranormal, after all, so most of the story locations are the last places that the spirits Rosa and Joey come across were alive, so they are dour with an air of sadness.

 

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Blackwell Epiphany: The level of detail in the environments as well as the character designs is astounding.

 

Pulling the game play and the visuals together is the outstanding music, sound effects and voice-overs.  I’ll admit the these elements were very rough in the first game, Blackwell Legacy, but through the course of five games, the Wadjet Eye team has been able to hone these elements to a sharp edge.  The music that plays during the investigations is highly Jazz influenced and hearken back to the musical era when Joey was a living man.  The quality level of the ambient sounds has definitely improved and make the environments feel alive and thriving.  The actors that voice Rosa and Joey have been the same two actors through all five games.  They have gained a deep understanding of the characters motivations and have developed their own unique styles in bringing these characters to life.  The quality of their deliveries as well as their chemistry has very evidently improved and works to elevate this episodic game straight into the history books.

 

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Blackwell Epiphany: Rosa and Joey use their skills to help the lost and confused dead to find their way home.

 

I reviewed these games on my three year+ old iPad 2 and the game played beautifully, considering the advanced age of my tablet.  Being mainly a console and PC gamer, I can count the games that I regularly play on my tablet or cellphone on two hands, and the Blackwell Mystery Series takes up one whole hand.  You can find all of the games in the series on iTunes; Legacy will run you only $2.99 but Unbound, Convergence, Deception and Epiphany will run you $3.99 each.  On Steam for PC, you can get the first three, Legacy, Unbound, and Convergence, for $4.99 each, and Deception and Epiphany for $9.99 each.  If you are into mysteries and murder then this series is right up your alley and whether you play them on iOS or PC does not matter, just play them.

*Both games earn a score of 9.3.

 

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