While I don’t have an extensive history with traditional adventure games, I do have fond childhood memories of playing The Black Cauldron on my cousin's Amiga and Zork on my best friend's Commodore 64. My nostalgia for those games derives from the sense of discovery they offered, and the gratification of actually thinking your way through a problem through conversational clues and seemingly random objects.
In the first few hours of playing Wadjet Eye Games’ The Blackwell Deception, that feeling of nostalgia is coming back in spades. A true-blue 2D point-and-click adventure, The Blackwell Deception follows a psychic named Rosa Blackwell and her spirit guide, the ghost of a 1930’s gumshoe named Joey Malone. In this fourth installment of the series, the two are investigating a group of street psychics/con artists whose clients have begun dying mysteriously.
The simple to use controls are easy to pick up for even non-adventure gamers. In each location the characters find themselves in, you click to move around and interact with objects and people. Each location has conversational and environmental puzzles that need to be solved, often through a combination of actions and objects. What separates this game mechanically from others of its ilk is the way the two main characters compliment each other. Because Joey is a ghost, he can’t interact with tangible objects in normal ways. He has ability to create a small gust of wind that can move objects slightly, but it’s Rosa that has to do any tangible manipulation. On the flipside, Joey can get into places Rosa can’t, as he can pass through things like locked doors. Because their abilities are so different, you have to think about each puzzle from two perspectives. That can make sussing out the answer to a puzzle more difficult to begin with, but all the more rewarding when you use Rosa and Joey together to accomplish a goal.
You need to put Joey and Rosa’s skills to the test right out of the gate, as they find themselves on a yacht where the control room is locked. Without spoiling anything, it took me a while to stumble onto the clever solution to getting in the room, but it made perfect sense once I figured it out.
So far, The Blackwell Deception is a refreshing trip back to the days when games put a premium on story and you had to think your way out of a problem. It’s got a great visual style, the voice acting is well-done and the characters are interesting. I’m looking forward to delving further into the game’s mysteries, and I’ll be back with a full review when I finish the game.
The Blackwell Deception is now available to download for PC for $14.99 over on the Wadjet Eye Games Blackwell site. You can also download a free demo of the game to get a taste of what the Blackwell games are all about. I'll be interviewing the game's creator Dave Gilbert at NYCC this week, so look for that on the podcast soon.