These games came at a perfect time in my life. For the past two or three years, I have been writing a story where one main character can see ghosts. Unfortunately, in the past year alone I have had three older family members pass away due to health issues, two shootings have occurred very close to my college, and the constant fear of death has been harping on me for a while. I needed something to keep me less focused on death and more focused on something after it…something like ghosts for example. That’s why these games were almost a godsend—here I needed something about some sort of afterlife, and here it is. Since the first game has already been reviewed, I’ll go on to review the second.
Blackwell Unbound is a prequel to the first game, The Blackwell Legacy. Instead of following around Rosa Blackwell, the main character of the rest of the series, we are following her aunt Lauren in 1973. We begin with Lauren smoking a cigarette in the infinity that is in her mind, wondering if, after all of the crazy things she has seen, she’ll ever find anything strange every again. That’s a pretty good question, seeing that Lauren is a medium who, with her spirit guide Joey Malone, helps ghosts who are trapped on Earth move on. I’m guessing you’d find a lot of unbelievable things, supernatural or not, in that line of work. There are two cases in this game, both of which are somewhat connected. Both ghosts were murdered after being interviewed by a man for his column on interesting people for The New Yorker. Before both ghosts move on, they say they’d been strangled by a crazy old woman, the same old woman the two spirit saviors had run into several times that night. This woman and the mystery of her identity is what fuels the major plot of the next few games.
The game itself is pretty good. I liked the story a lot and the gameplay was that of your standard point-and-click adventure: pick this up, talk to everyone about everything, show everyone every single thing in your inventory, and try to get results. It’s all very cut and dry, but there were a few things I disliked. To look up a person or a place, you had to got back to Lauren’s apartment to look it up in the phone book. It was small things like that that had me a bit annoyed. You would go somewhere for a fairly short time and then you’d go back to where you started. It might have just been me, but that still got me a little miffed.
Another thing that had me more confused than anything else was the fact that there wasn’t exactly a dialogue tree set up for when you were asking people questions from your notebook. Instead, the game had you continue clicking on the option that you had already asked to get more information. At first it was very confusing, since it would only give me snippets of information and I wouldn’t be able to move on.
Blackwell Unbound brought the new mechanic of switching characters to do certain puzzles. You would switch between Lauren and Joey from time to time to talk to ghosts and go through walls, or to pick up items, talk to living beings, and leave the screen. It lets you go at your own pace and explore a bit, rather than having the game just switch it for you when it was time to go on. Both characters have their own comments on different things, and both characters have their own skills for getting through the game.
The music, voice acting, and look of the game are all pretty great. I like the music overall, and don’t exactly know how well I can describe it other than it fits and sometimes has a noir feel to it. The voice acting is well done; not amazing, but well done. The game’s art style is a tad pixelated, but not as pixelated as something like The Last Door. Instead, it’s all fairly clear—clear enough that you can see what everything is and you’re able to make out people’s faces. All in all, a good atmosphere for the game and a look that’s nice and simple.
As far as story goes, it’s not all that exciting at first. That doesn’t mean the story is really dull or anything. It just doesn’t feel all that exciting until it gets to a certain point. Maybe that’s how Lauren felt about her job as a medium, like everything was kind of old hat and that this was just another normal night. The ending is where things get more interesting and exciting. Or maybe I just wasn’t as impressed as I should have been…who knows.
It’s a fairly short game for a point-and-click adventure, but it didn’t seem too short. Where games like Monkey Island and The Night of the Rabbit took me about twelve hours, this game only took me around two or three hours to complete. The length felt perfect for the story, seeing that it was mostly plot and not so much puzzles and inventory management.
If you’re a fan of story-driven games, I’d give this one a try. The story is great and it’s just a really neat game overall. It’s got a noir type of feeling to it that makes it feel like you’re a kind of paranormal detective (or at least that’s what it felt like to me). A short game that has a good story, if you’re looking for one, with pretty simple mechanics. Overall, a game I’d suggest.