What better way to spend an evening than to wander around New York with a ghost from the 1920s, solving puzzles and bestowing eternity onto lost spirits everywhere through the use of a mystical tie. I certainly can’t think of anything.
Developer and Publisher Wadjet Eye Games hold particular esteem in my eyes as the creator of some really good adventure games. I haven’t quite played through their whole list but of the ones I have played there has only been one which I can say I didn’t enjoy. But I definitely enjoy the Blackwell series, currently at four games with a fifth in the works.
The Blackwell series are a series of adventure games about Rosangela Blackwell, a medium whose duty is to help lost spirits move on to the next world. She is aided in her task by Joey Malone, a ghost from the 1920s who acts as her spirit guide. Each game is a very typical point and click adventure game. There are a few twists on the classic formula with the use of multiple characters and frequent use of clue combining, but any fan of adventure games will be very familiar with the style.
When it comes to gameplay adventure games tend to have three challenges: Object/Inventory Puzzles, Dialogue Puzzles, Straight up Puzzle. For non-adventure gamers here is a very quick breakdown. Object/Inventory requires you to use objects in your inventory or on the environment in order to solve a puzzle. Dialogue requires you to pick the right option through a dialogue tree in order to proceed. Straight up puzzle is just a straight up puzzle, this can range from sliding puzzles, pin puzzles, chess puzzles, it’s a pretty broad category.
The Blackwell series is fond of the first two which I am very glad about. In the games Rosangela and Joey must investigate lost spirits and try to convince them that they are dead in order to move them on beyond the world of the living and into the afterlife. Of course it’s never that simple and there is generally an evil presence working against the team. The series is episodic with each game linking to the others and creating an overarching plot, with each game seeming to raise the stakes as it goes. This means the games themselves are pretty short but they are priced accordingly so that isn’t too bothersome.
Adventure games tend to be short and unfortunately have little replay value. After all once you’ve solved a puzzle it remains solved, the only way to really enjoy it again is either if the game has alternate routes (which few do) or to wait until you’ve forgotten what happens and play it again. I chose to replay these games after acquiring the Blackwell Bundle from Steam.
I also chose to play them with the commentary from creator Dave Gilbert and I have to say it was very interesting to listen to all the behind the scenes stuff regarding characters, actors, and the fan reaction to the game. As you play each one you can tell that there is a refining and experimental process going on and listening to Dave Gilbert acknowledging how and why these changes came about is very interesting and well worth it. But play the games without the commentary first unless you want serious spoilers.
The story is really engaging and the relationship between the two main characters is always entertaining. Wadjet Eye does excellent characterisation and always has excellent voice acting. There are a few actors that appear in pretty much all of Wadjet Eye’s games and this is acknowledged in the commentary.
But Dave Gilbert is no Tim Burton so people like Abe Goldfarb,who provides the voice of Joey and a whole host of other characters in other games, don’t feel tired and overused. It’s as great hearing him here as it is hearing him as the little robot companion in Primordia.
I am a fan of Wadjet Eye; it’s great to see original story-telling, beautiful artwork, and seeing it delivered frequently and consistently. More than that it’s also good to see a company actually learn from their games and always try to improve them. I think that’s one of the things that impresses me most and will always make me come back to try their next game.