Blackwell Unbound review
The Blackwell series seems to be a collection of games that hopes to recreate the magic of classic point-and-click adventure titles. The first game, The Blackwell Legacy, succeeded in delivering smart characters, witty dialogue, and an intriguing plot. Add to that some fun adventure gameplay and mystery-solving, and it's safe to say that the game really captured a lot of the genre's charm. The second game in the series, Blackwell Unbound, manages to deliver yet another engrossing experience--an experience that's not only better than its predecessor, but also one of the best in the adventure genre in years.
Blackwell Unbound takes place several years before the events in the first game. You play as Lauren Blackwell, the aunt of Rosangela from the first game. Lauren is a lot different from her niece, who at this point hasn't even been born. She seems to be a bit more hardened, which is likely due to the fact that she's been dealing with her abilities as a medium--an individual who sees the dead and must help spirits move on to the next world--for a longer time. Despite this, however, Lauren is still really brooding, and her constant smoking indicates that's she's really having a hard time dealing with all of this ghost business.
Together with Joey Mallone, her spirit guide and link to the ghost world, Lauren must uncover the mystery behind the ghosts of two people who were brutally choked to death. As you play through the game, you soon find out that hese two seemingly unrelated cases end up being part of a bigger mystery, and it is up to Lauren and Joey to find out exactly who murdered these individuals and why.
Blackwell Unbound manages to top its predecessor exponentially as far as characters, dialogue, and plot are concerned. The first game's story was interesting, but this title's narrative is truly gripping, The character interactions are really something special, and though some of the characters' voice acting could use some work, there's no denying that this is adventure game storytelling at its finest. From Lauren's depressed tone and (sexy) smoker's voice to Joey's old school detective way of talking, Blackwell Unbound features two awesome star characters, and the supporting cast is pretty cool, too.
As far as gameplay is concerned, Blackwell Unbound has a leg up on the first game here, too. The basic point-and-click elements are still present, but a few new mechanics have been thrown in. This time around you can switch between Lauren and Joey, which is great for interacting with ghosts and collecting evidence. You can also snap pictures using Lauren's camera, which is essential in a few spots for gathering more clues. Lastly, because this game takes place in the 1970s, Lauren doesn't have the same tools as her niece would years later, so rather than doing research on the internet, this game's protagonist needs a more hands-on approach, dealing with different people even it means rubbing them the wrong way and prying them for information.
Blackwell Unbound looks a lot like the first game in the series, which is to say it has a nice pixelated aesthetic. Where the first game suffered from lo-res visuals, though, this entry in the series smooths things out and looks a lot clearer. Blackwell Unbound also features a nice jazzy soundtrack. It's catchy, and though it tends to loop, it fits nicely with the 1970s mystery theme of the game.
Like its predecessor, Blackwell Unbound took me three hours to get through. That's not long by any means, but for adventure games, I find that anything longer than five hours can feel like overkill. In three hours, Blackwell Unbound tells a great story--one that's rife with awesome writing, important and strong characters, a bit of humor, and a protagonist you really care about. If you liked The Blackwell Legacy, there's no reason for you to skip this game. It's a far better title overall, and it features some of the best storytelling and gameplay in the traditional point-and-click genre of the last few years.