October 26, 2011

Review – The Blackwell Deception

Filed under: Reviews — Tags: , , — TJ "Kyatt" Cordes @ 10:27 pm

Review Blackwell Deception
A while back, I was asked if I wanted to review an upcoming point and click adventure game called The Blackwell Deception. Before deciding, the first thing I did was check out the trailer for the game. Twenty nine seconds in, I said “holy crap, did that ghost just shoot that other ghost?! Sign me up!”

Unfortunately, the ghost shooting is not as rampant as I was hoping, but The Blackwell Deception is still an interesting and visually striking supernatural adventure.

Review Blackwell Deception
The Blackwell Deception is the fourth game in the Blackwell series, which is focused around medium Rosangela Blackwell and her ghost pal Joey Mallone, who solve mysteries and help other ghosts come to terms with their death.

Between Joey’s ability to pass through walls in order to find evidence, and Rosa’s ability to actually touch objects and talk to the living, they are an unstoppable pair. In this latest release, Rosa and Joey have to investigate a series of suspicious deaths revolving around some phony psychic healers. It’s a fairly dark and gripping mystery, delightfully interrupted by Joey insulting suspects and other people of interest who, if they were truly psychic, would be able to hear and get offended by him.

Joey also has the ability to talk to (and get shot by) the recently deceased, although as a result, the story is packed with occasions when he gives Rosa knowledge that she then has no way of backing up, because most people won’t accept “a ghost helped me find it” as a valid excuse. This duality also lends itself to some rather interesting gameplay, and the game is loaded with clever little nuances; when hovering over an interactive object or person, its name will appear, but depending on which character is being controlled, the name may vary based on that character’s perception of it. The game is full of these touches that make the player identify with, and as a result, gain interest in the characters.

Review Blackwell Deception
The visual style nods to the classic low-resolution point and click adventure games of the past, and the game is rather nicely animated and full of visually intriguing (for the lack of a better term) “ghost effects”.

It’s evident that a lot of work went into making the pixel art compositions that fill the screen; however, this presentation is somewhat marred by the fact that whenever a character is talking, a large high resolution illustration of said character done in a wildly clashing style appears on-screen. Even worse, when the phone menu is brought up to show the list of locations available to visit, the icons next to the locations are horribly inconsistent; some of the icons are the pixel art elements used by the game, but some are scaled down versions of the aforementioned high-res drawings. It’s probably a trivial point, but to me, the charm of pixel art relies on some level of consistency in regards to style and pixel size.

Deception’s sound is pretty great as well – there’s a wide variety of music to set the mood of an area as well as fully voiced dialogue, and most of it is pretty good. When the ghosts talk, their echoes bring back memories of Castlevania: Symphony of the Night’s hilarious voiceovers, but it’s justified, in that these characters are all ghosts.

Review Blackwell Deception

Fresh off the heels of more streamlined adventure games like Hector: Badge of Carnage and Puzzle Agent, I was somewhat unprepared for how complex, cryptic, and/or precise some games of this genre can be; one such example, and one that I am a bit uncomfortable admitting, is how I was stuck in a dark room for 5 to 10 minutes, unable to interact with anything before realizing that I was supposed to manually turn on a small light switch at the entrance of the room.

Information about a case can be obtained by presenting a set of gathered clues to people, or, as most information is obtained nowadays, by Googling it using Rosa’s phone. If truly stuck, it is possible for Rosa and Joey to talk to one another and offer the player hints about what to do next, with one restriction – for obvious reasons, they can’t talk to each other in the presence of other people, forcing the duo to sometimes first retreat to a more private location. It is an annoying feature, but it’s clever and immersive enough to make me enjoy that it’s there.

While I’m unfamiliar with the rest of the series, I found The Blackwell Deception to be an occasionally challenging and lengthy adventure with points of visual flair, as well as a game full of some of the most interesting ghost-based puzzles I’ve encountered in a while. Now that I think about it, the only other ghost puzzles I’ve encountered may have been the ones in Geist, but regardless, this is still a good game.

Wadjet Eye Games

Wadjet Eye Games



Release Date
October 12, 2011

*A copy of this title was provided by the publisher for review

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