The Blackwell Legacy
To say Roseangela Blackwell is not having a great day would be an understatement. First, she has to scatter the ashes of her recently deceased aunt, who was her only remaining family member, and then she is denied entry to her own apartment by the new doorman, who doesn’t recognize her. If this wasn’t bad enough, she learns that the dementia that her aunt suffered from during her 25-year stint in the psychiatric hospital might be hereditary. Since her grandmother also suffered from mental issues, Rosangela fears that she might be next in line. Needless to say, when a ghost introducing himself as Joey Mallone appears before her, Roseangela is less than impressed. However, this ghost claims that he is part of her family legacy and that she will be stuck with him for the rest of her life.
The Blackwell Legacy takes the form of a school point-and-click adventure that harkens back to the glory days of Lucasarts and Sierra. Players are cast in the role of the aforementioned Roseangela Blackwell as she learns all about her new life involving the dearly departed. Despite being very short, the game takes a while to get to the point, as first players must help Roseangela deal with the obnoxious guy barring her entry to her apartment. This puzzle involves going to a nearby park to fetch a neighbor who can vouch for her, which will likely frustrate players. From there, we learn that Roseangela, or Rosa to her friends, is a book reviewer for the small local newspaper, the Village Eye. When Rosa is instructed by her editor to write an article about the suicide of a student named JoAnn, she reluctantly agrees. During this task, Joey makes his appearance, and the game takes a turn for the paranormal.
In true point-and-click adventure fashion, players can left-click to direct Rosa where to walk as well as interact with objects. The right mouse button is reserved for examining objects in the environment and in Rosa’s inventory. However, unlike traditional point-and-click adventures, the game is thankfully light on puzzles that involve combining obscure items in the correct order. Instead, the developer has taken a page from Discworld Noir and given Rosa a notepad with important names and keywords. Whenever Rosa speaks to someone, anything useful they say is automatically added to the notepad. Players can use the words in the notepad to ask questions when talking to other people or to form clues by combining two names or phrases. It’s an interesting system that streamlines certain puzzles, but the game still has its fair share of cryptic solutions to some puzzles.
To mimic the look and style of classic point-and-click adventures, The Blackwell Legacy uses a VGA-like resolution for the visuals. However, these visuals not only look authentic but are also quite good by pixel art standards and feature great animations as well as some neat backgrounds. In addition, the game also has some great character portraits to help convey emotion better during conversations. However, the number of locations is somewhat limited, with only Rosa’s apartment building, the Britanny Hall dorm, Bellevue Psychiatric Hospital, and Washington Square Park being accessible. Fortunately, these locations have more than one screen and are packed with detail.
The Blackwell Legacy goes above and beyond what most fans expect from indie-developed point-and-click adventure games by featuring full-voice acting. Considering the amount of dialogue in the game, this is quite a feat, and the acting, for the most part, is pretty good too. The tradeoff is that there are fewer objects and items in the environment for players to examine, no doubt to cut back on the number of fully voiced descriptions by Rosa. Instead of the dialogue trees that fans of the genre might be familiar with, the game uses Rosa’s notepad. Players need to click on keywords, and if whoever they are conversing with knows anything about it, they will talk about it and hopefully add new keywords. In some instances, players can also choose how Rosa reacts to questions or statements by selecting options such as “honest,” “callous,” or “paranoid,” depending on the situation. These don’t appear to alter the conversations too much, but having at least the illusion of choice is nice. The music in The Blackwell Legacy is really good, but some of the styles sound like weird choices for some locations.
As mentioned, The Blackwell Legacy is a concise game and feels like an introduction to something larger. This is understandable, as it is the first title in a series, and the developer was still finding his feet with the premise and characters. While the entire game can be completed in about three hours, there is at least some motivation for an additional playthrough. Along with some achievements that can be missed the first time through the game, it also features two commentary tracks by the developer, Dave Gilbert, that can be enabled. These obviously contain a lot of spoilers for the game, so saving them for the second playthrough is recommended. The first commentary was made shortly after the game’s release, and players can hear Dave being very critical of some of the mistakes he’s made and expand on why he did certain things in specific ways. The second commentary was recorded by Dave five years after the game’s release and sees him reflecting on it with a few more sequels under his belt. Both tracks are fascinating and can be enabled simultaneously, as they don’t overlap.
Overall, The Blackwell Legacy is a good game but suffers from being the first title in the series. Not only is it relatively short, but a lot of the game involves large info dumps as Rosa learns about her family legacy and new purpose in life. At some point, players are even-handed an envelope containing 25 pages of documents and photos to peruse. Rosa is a fascinating protagonist as she’s not the usual bold, brash, point-and-click heroine with the self-confidence to steal every item in sight. Instead, she would have been much happier writing her book reviews than having a ghost who looks and sounds like he’s from the 1930s permanently tethered to her. Since Joey can’t move more than 30 feet from the person he’s bound to, he will accompany Rosa for most of the adventure, but he cannot be controlled directly. Instead, players can influence his behavior at specific points. It took us a while to warm up to Joey, so seeing how his character is fleshed out in the sequels will be interesting.
The premise of having to help ghosts who are stuck to accept their deaths and pass on to the afterlife is not very original, but The Blackwell Legacy makes it work. It will never replace something like Gabriel Knight: Sins of the Father, Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis, or Broken Sword: The Shadow of The Templars, but it does a decent job for an indie title. Judging by the developer’s commentary, Dave Gilbert knew exactly where he went wrong with The Blackwell Legacy, so we look forward to seeing how the sequels improved.
- OS:Windows ME or higher
- Processor:Pentium or higher
- Memory:64 MB RAM
- Graphics:640×400, 32-bit colour: 700 Mhz system minimum
- Hard Drive:200 MB HD space
- Sound:All DirectX-compatible sound cards