The Blackwell Bundle (PC) Review

By Adam Riley 27.02.2014 3

Review for The Blackwell Bundle on PC

Starting all the way back in 2003, Dave Gilbert brought the world a free-to-play adventure title by the name of Bestowers of Eternity - Part 1, a traditional point-and-click game built using Chris Jones' venerable Adventure Game Studio development tool. After winning Best Story and Best Supporting Character at the annual AGS Awards that year, rather than churn out another lower quality effort, three years passed and the game was completely remade and revamped for retail release under the name of The Blackwell Legacy. From that point onwards, the adventure community was in for a whole host of point-and-click goodness, stretching through to 2011, with the fourth game, The Blackwell Deception. As a precursor to the fifth and final release, Blackwell Epiphany, which is due later this year, Cubed3 took The Blackwell Bundle for a test drive - working through all four previous releases to see what many readers may have missed out on.

As mentioned above, it all kicks off with The Blackwell Legacy. Anyone that played Bestowers of Eternity will immediately see the correlation between the two games, with only minor changes to the position of certain items or locations being laid out slightly differently. Pretty much all the conversations and puzzles remain intact, although there are some pleasing additions to extend the experience and add new challenge (one early example being how to distract a woman playing the flute at a park - in Bestowers of Eternity lead character Rosa Blackwell simply has to talk to her, whilst in The Blackwell Legacy there is a set of events that need to be triggered in order to start a conversation).

Anyway, the premise is that Rosa Blackwell has just attended the funeral of her aunt and is living out her life in a rather mundane manner not quite knowing what her life's purpose is, doing a bit of writing here and there. In the early stages she keeps getting what seem to be sharp bouts of migraine, but eventually it turns out to be a transition period, and suddenly appears an apparition, in the form of Joey, who is her partner throughout the series. Quick witted, and sometimes infuriating (for Rosa), Joey is a great opposite for the otherwise bland Rosa. Point the cursor where Rosa needs to go, click and off she meanders. See something of interest? Once more, simply point and then click. This is standard fare for those that have played examples of the genre time and time again. What defines The Blackwell Legacy, and its subsequent releases, is the gripping story and fantastic audio production.

Screenshot for The Blackwell Bundle on PC

Upon conclusion of Rosa's opening tale, which lasts a mere hour and a half for even the most average of gamer, Blackwell Unbound steps in as the next entry in the lineage. It is slightly weaker overall, though, and proves to be confusing to start with as it throws players straight into the story without any real explanation. By the end, however, the connection between player and story develops more, but not enough to care as much about the adventure as much as in Legacy. It all revolves around Rosa's aunt, Lauren Blackwell, but still with Joey in tow, this time with the setting in the 1970s. The narrative is intriguing throughout as Lauren's attitude is extremely different to that of Rosa's due to her being more accustomed to Joey's lingering presence, which certainly adds a great slant to the action, and married with the ever faithful mechanic of character switching to work through certain puzzles (either by tapping the Tab key or using the mouse to click the 'L' for Lauren or 'J' for Joey featured on the inventory at the top of the screen) means that by the final credits any qualms with the poor start are washed away completely.

Smart-talking and fast-paced, it is easy to see why what initially started as a flashback seen for Blackwell Unbound was extended into its own chapter. Sadly, though, as with Legacy, despite puzzles being intriguing, the climax is reached far too quickly.

Screenshot for The Blackwell Bundle on PC

In steps game number three, The Blackwell Convergence, which eases players into the adventure a little bit smoother than before, and also starts to show how the idea behind the quite light-hearted tale actually has a far darker undertone. Here there are spiritual links to murders being committed at the hand of humans knowing they somehow have a connection with an entity with the power to kill. As with the previous two releases, the development of puzzle creation is what keeps Convergence flowing nicely, with intricate processes in place to get players thinking outside the box to piece together clues picked up from talking with various non-playable characters, making use of objects collected and stored in the inventory, as well as getting to test reactions in some time-based shenanigans. The use of Joey is especially impressive, with his ghostly skills coming into use in various inventive ways. It is trying to figure out the best way to use the tools the game deploys in the smartest possible way. Oh, and the achievements are always an added incentive to scour every corner of the in-game world, as well as attempt to crack conundrums and master puzzle sequences first time.

Screenshot for The Blackwell Bundle on PC

Feeling elated by the end of Convergence, what transpires in The Blackwell Deception shockingly blows that away. Deception is the final part released so far and is easily the best of the bunch, showing how far Gilbert and the team have come since the early days. The script is as sharp as ever - if not a tad wittier than before - with brilliant voice work (again) to convey the emotive narrative, and a soundtrack that really comes into its own on several occasions. There is much more emphasis on the dual-character setup and the depth of the puzzles included is considerably more appealing than before, with some really well-implemented design (one particular maze-like conversation thread that takes place in a club with fantastic music playing in the background springs to mind). Having the option to increase the speed of character movement for this fourth title is also a great addition, since there is nothing worse than having to sit around waiting for characters to slowly traipse around, especially in situations where going back and forth between the same locations frequently occurs.

In general, most of the aimless wandering found in games of this ilk is removed thanks to being able to reach locations merely by clicking on a map. Key notes are also kept as the adventure moves forwards, and there is a handy Internet search function that comes into play. Overall it is a case of The Black Legacy being a very strong reinvention of the 'test the water' project that was Bestowers of Eternity - Part 1, and any of the minor foibles being ironed out over subsequent years to lead to the fantastic finale of The Blackwell Deception…except that is not the end of the road for Joey and Rosa, since a fifth - and really final - iteration is due out in the near future, called The Blackwell Epiphany. Definitely get The Blackwell Bundle first, though, and spend the three-to-four nights necessary to work through and get the full grasp of the story that is constantly twisting and turning, drawing players in more and more.

Screenshot for The Blackwell Bundle on PC

Cubed3 Rating

8/10
Rated 8 out of 10

Great - Silver Award

Rated 8 out of 10

2006-2011 saw one of the finest point-and-click adventures go from humble beginnings to a transformation into a lovingly crafted piece of work, with a story that is carefully woven over each of the four entries included in The Blackwell Bundle - The Blackwell Legacy, Blackwell Unbound, The Blackwell Convergence and The Blackwell Deception. Impressive voice acting from the very start helps distract from the initially lacklustre visuals (which improve with each passing game), and the development of puzzle intricacy and impressiveness over the four interlinked 'chapters' more than make up for any frustrations related to each separate game's short length or the sometimes clunky player switching process.

Developer

Wadjet Eye Games

Publisher

Wadjet Eye Games

Genre

Adventure

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  8/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

Comments

One of the best series ever made!

Nicely done, Adam!

If you haven't seen it yet, the new Humble Bundle is all kinds of retro P&C Adventure goodness!

Thanks for the feedback Smilie Really thought I wasn't going to enjoy Blackwell Legacy at first, and then something clicked after the first 15 minutes and I was hooked!!

I'm just about to jump into Cognition - the one Jane Jensen was involved with. Can't wait Smilie

Adam Riley [ Operations Director :: Senior Editor :: Cubed3 Limited ]
Watch Adam on the BBC! | K-Pop Korner FB Page | Voice123 Profile | AdamC3 on Twitter

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