The Blackwell Legacy is a point-and-click style mystery adventure game developed and published by Wadjet Eye Games. It was first released in 2006 and re-released with new dialogue and voice acting in 2011. The game stars Rosangela (Rosa) Blackwell, a young writer and eventual spiritual medium who inherits more than her fair share of trouble after the death of her aunt. She becomes “haunted” by Joey Mallone, a rough-around-the-edges kind of guy who happens to be a ghost, apparently from the 1940s. Reluctantly, Rosa becomes a sort of spirit detect whose job it is to find lost and lingering ghosts and to help them “move on” to the next life. Rosa and Joey investigate the sudden and mysterious suicide of college student Alli Montego as they help her spirit come to terms with her own death and pass on to the next life.
As mentioned before, The Blackwell Legacy is a point-and-click adventure, and, as such, much of the gameplay involves a lot of pointing and clicking of the mouse to move the character and examine/use various objects in the world. The majority of the game, however, focuses on talking to or interviewing various other characters and figuring out different ways to get them to tell you what you need to know to progress. Much of this is done through use of your notepad, which contains a list of subjects to ask about. Generally, you bring up a subject on the notepad, then the character you are talking to will tell you what they know, which often either gives you a new notepad entry or prompts you to talk to another character or go to a different location. Another neat thing about the notepad is that you can look at it outside of conversations and cross-reference the entries with each other to give yourself a clue or even a new entry.
Outside of the notepad, you also have an inventory that you can look through and occasionally combine items you have with each other or with objects in the world. There are also the occasional instances where you need to interact with the world in a special way. For example, in order to get a certain character’s attention, you have to lead her dog around a light pole and get him stuck.
The notepad system and dialogue-heavy gameplay do a fantastic job at conveying the tone of mystery that is prevalent in this game. They genuinely make you feel like some sort of reporter or detective as you go about solving supernatural cases. Somehow, even the ghostly aspects contribute to immersing yourself in this game’s story.
The story in The Blackwell Legacy is somehow simple and complex and sad and sweet all at the same time. The premise of being some sort of spirit detective was cool and interesting. The way it blended the real-world mystery of a college girl’s sudden and mysterious suicide with the supernatural mystery behind what drove her to suicide and how to send her off was very impressive. There were a lot of bittersweet moments in the game, especially when sending the ghosts off. After spending the time to learn how they met their ends, watching them finally come to terms with their deaths and slowly float toward the light leaves you with just enough time to consider how tragic their stories are and how beautifully they end. In a way, the same can be said for Alli’s roommate Kelly and best friend Susan, who are both obviously affected by the death of someone so close to them, and even Rosa herself as she deals with the loss of her aunt and acclimates to her new life as a spirit medium. There is a cocktail of deep bitter sadness mixed in with sweet hope for almost every character, both living and dead.
There are a few things in the story that feel a little off or unexplained. There is never any real explanation as to how Rosa’s family heirloom turned out to be a ghost or why it was passed down to her. The best explanation is literally Joey saying “I don’t know.” Also, being a medium clearly had something to do with Rosa’s grandmother and aunt both being admitted into mental health facilities, but whether that is just a result of them talking to Joey in public or that being/retiring from medium-ship actually broke their minds was never explained. All of this is somewhat excusable, though, since the entire game focused on Rosa’s perspective, and she was too busy detective-ing to really investigate these questions. Finally, I will have to admit that the game starts off pretty slow and ends rather abruptly. You don’t actually start seeing the ghosts until about halfway through, and then there are only two of them.
There’s really not much that can be said about the graphics in this game. It uses a sort of retro 16-bit art style. The animation has a kind of stiff and oddly-paced quality that makes it really feel like an older 1990s point-and-click adventure. I’m sure that kind of style is great for those who’ve spent a great deal of time playing games like Monkey Island, but it also just seems dated. While the graphics were not particularly pleasing to the eye, they also were not so bad as to take away too much from the overall experience. Everything was still clear enough to not cause confusion.
The music was catchy and, most importantly, not annoying or grating at all, which is a godsend when you’re sitting in one spot for long periods of time trying to figure out what to do or say next. By far the best thing about this game audibly though, is the superb voice-acting. Every bit of dialogue is fully voice-acted, and every voice actor does a great job of portraying their character. They all have a sort of kick that leaves them memorable. I especially liked Rosa’s, Joey’s, and Adrian’s voices, but really all of them made me think wow.
Right now, you can pick up The Blackwell Legacy off of Steam for $4.99. In my humble opinion, any video game that costs less than your average movie ticket is already worth the buy. As a general rule, I like to think of 1 hour of gameplay as equal to $1. I have already spent a little over 4 hours on this game and could easily see myself playing through it a second time in the future.
The Blackwell Legacy is a great little gem. The gameplay is pretty fun for a point-and-click mystery. The graphics are passable, maybe even a little nostalgic if you were into those old point-and-clicks. The story and the voice-acting are just hands down amazing. My biggest complaint is that it was too short. In the end there were really only two ghosts to solve, which was by far the best part. Fortunately, it is the first in a series of five games. Even in its brevity, The Blackwell Legacy is well worth the five dollar price tag. I look forward to playing the sequels and maybe even replaying the whole thing.
Score: 4 / 5