Review: “The Blackwell Deception” (Computer Game)

2016 Artwork Blackwell Deception Review sketch

Well, today, I thought that I’d review “The Blackwell Deception”. This is the fourth game in the “Blackwell” series (you can read my reviews of the previous three games here, here and here).

Whilst this game appears to be self-contained at first, you should probably play the previous three games first, or some later parts of the game may not make sense to you. Likewise, you’ll probably want to play the fifth and final game when you finish this one.

Although I bought the first four games (in a collection called “The Blackwell Bundle”) when they were on special offer at GOG in November, the fifth game seems to cost as much as the entire collection (at the time of writing, at least). So, I’m not sure when or if I’ll review that game [EDIT: Expect a review in late July].

Even though I’ll try to avoid them, I should probably warn you that this review may contain some SPOILERS.

Anyway, let’s take a look at “The Blackwell Deception”.

Blackwell Deception - Title screen

“The Blackwell Deception” is a 1990s-style film noir/ paranormal detective/ horror “point and click” adventure game that is set in New York in 2010.

You play as Rosa Blackwell, a medium who – along with her ghostly companion Joey (also a playable character) – finds ghosts and investigates how they died, so that they can pass over into the afterlife.

- Via this place. Which, yet again, has a cooler design in each game.

– Via this place. Which, yet again, has a cooler design in each game.

This game begins with Rosa and Joey investigating a haunted boat. This serves as a tutorial/ pre-credits scene and it contains some surprisingly tricky puzzles.

After you’ve solved everything on the boat, Rosa and Joey return home only for Rosa to get a call from Jeremy Sams, a reporter she used to work with.

Jeremy has come down with the flu and wants Rosa to help him finish the story he’s been working on. I won’t spoil anything, but it quickly becomes evident that there’s more to this story than Rosa thought….

Yes, it's another case!

Yes, it’s another case!

One of the first things that I will say about this game is that it took me a while to get into. Compared to the previous three games, there are a lot of subtle changes here (to the gameplay, graphics etc..). Some of these changes are good and some of them aren’t.

As for the story, it’s more complex and dramatic than in the previous games. Not only does Rosa find herself in the middle of a really compelling case, but we also eventually get to learn more about Joey too.

I really loved the story in this game, although it’s clear that there are still a few plot threads that will be resolved in the next game. Whilst this game doesn’t quite end on a cliffhanger, you’ll still be left with at least a few questions by the end.

Likewise, the series has also returned to the horror genre slightly in this game too πŸ™‚ Although it isn’t really as scary as the first “Blackwell” game was, it still contains a few surprisingly creepy characters, scenes, plot twists and story elements.

Not only that, the game also contains a fair amount of humour too. For example, one amusing part of the game is that, when you’re playing as Joey, some item and character descriptions will change slightly.

If you're playing as Rosa, this thing will be described as a "GPS Unit", rather than a "Map Gizmo" LOL!

If you’re playing as Rosa, this thing will be described as a “GPS Unit”, rather than a “Map Gizmo” LOL!

LOL! It's funny because it's true!

LOL! It’s funny because it’s true!

The characters are, as you would expect, as great as ever. Not only does Rosa have slightly more character development in this game, but Joey also gets a surprising amount of character development too

Visually, this game has received an upgrade too. Although I personally didn’t like the new sprite for Rosa (eg: she looks too minimalist and, whenever she walks, her legs remain slightly too straight etc..) – she has a few more animations than she did in the previous games, including a couple of idle animations if you don’t do anything.

Not only that, this game has significantly improved backgrounds and illustrations. Seriously, I love the backgrounds in this game – they really lend everything a “film noir” style atmosphere πŸ™‚ Not to mention that a couple of the backgrounds near the beginning of the game are even animated slightly too.

But, yes, this game is a lot more atmospheric than the previous three games were.

Oooooh! This looks like something from "Blade Runner"!

Oooooh! This looks like something from “Blade Runner”!

And check out this cityscape too :)

And check out this cityscape πŸ™‚

A grizzled old detective, in a city bathed in the amber glow of streetlights? YES!!!!!

A grizzled old detective, in a city bathed in the amber glow of streetlights? YES!!!!!

As for the gameplay, “The Blackwell Deception” is a lot more like a traditional “point and click” game than I expected.

Although you still have to do some detective work, the gameplay is a lot more puzzle-heavy than it was in any of the previous three games. There’s a greater variety of puzzles here too – including everything from inventory puzzles, to (almost) pixel hunting, to dialogue puzzles.

Hint: The key to the room is that tiny collection of 6-8 pixels by the door. Yay! Pixel hunting!

Hint: The key to the room is that tiny collection of 6-8 pixels by the door. Yay! Pixel hunting!

As I’ve mentioned in other reviews, I’m terrible at adventure game puzzles. Although I was able to solve a few of the puzzles in this game on my own, I ended up resorting to using a walkthrough quite a few times.

So – if, like me, you play adventure games for the story, art and characters – then make sure you keep a walkthrough handy when playing this game.

The gameplay has also had a few other changes from the previous games. Some of these are good and some of these are bad. Connecting clues together is a gameplay mechanic once again and so is searching the internet too. But, unfortunately, Rosa has bought one of those annoying modern smartphones.

Although this means that you don’t have to go back and forth to Rosa’s apartment like you did in the previous game, it also kind of detracts quite a bit from the “film noir” atmosphere of the game.

Dammit, I avoid these annoying things in real life. WHY does one of them have to appear in this game? Seriously, what's wrong with a desktop computer and a good old notebook?

Dammit, I avoid these annoying things in real life. WHY does one of them have to appear in this game? Seriously, what’s wrong with a desktop computer and a good old notebook?

On the plus side, if you decide to leave a room whilst playing as Joey, you don’t have to switch back to Rosa first. Although this is a small change, it really helps to streamline the gameplay slightly.

In terms of length, this game is slightly longer than the previous three games were. With the frequent use of a walkthrough, this game took me about four hours or so to complete (compared to about 2-3 hours for the previous games). But, given the difficulty of a couple of the puzzles, I’d guess that it would take a fair amount longer if you don’t use a walkthrough.

It might not be the notorious "Rubber Duck" puzzle from "The Longest Journey", but this still looks a bit too much like an old-school inventory puzzle for my liking....

It might not be the notorious “Rubber Duck” puzzle from “The Longest Journey”, but this still looks a bit too much like an old-school inventory puzzle for my liking….

All in all, even though some of the changes to the gameplay in this game annoyed me, I still really liked this game. The story is thrillingly compelling and somewhat longer than you might expect. The characters are brilliant. The graphics are wonderfully atmospheric. The dialogue is well-written. There’s also a good blend of horror, film noir and comedy here too. Just make sure you keep a walkthrough handy though…

If I had to give this game a rating out of five, it would get a four.

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