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Review: The Blackwell Convergence (Wadjet Eye)

JULY 22, 2009

Before I begin, I must make the point that I have not played either of the original titles in the Blackwell series. You know how it is - there's a list of games in your head that you keep telling yourself you should get around to playing, but in the end you just completely forget and it falls to the back of your mind.

Hence I am yet to try out both The Blackwell Legacy and Blackwell Unbound. Instead I have begun my delving into the miniseries with The Blackwell Convergence, the latest addition to the series. While it's an incredibly short and sometimes simple experience, this story-orientated adventure is a very grown-up take on the genre and is sure to please any Blackwell fan.

The action follows Rosangela Blackwell, a spirit medium, and her ghostly guide Joey Mallone as they attempt to locate wandering souls and help them find peace. Players take control of both Rosa and Joey, each with their unique abilities, in an attempt to piece together exactly what happened to each ghost they find and set about easing them into the light.

The short introduction scene eases players into the setup, with an option to skip the tutorial for those who are already familiar with the ins and outs. I found that the opening was masterfully done, allowing newcomers to get their heads around what it is Rosa and Joey are trying to achieve, while also giving a feeling of 'business as usual' for veterans.

Once the main portion of the game springs into life, it doesn't take long to work out what angle Dave Gilbert and his team are trying for. For anyone who has played (and loved) the Broken Sword games, you should feel right at home here. Rather than aiming to be your typical 'use this item with that' point-and-clicker, The Blackwell Convergence is more story-based with an emphasis on gathering information from people and surrounding, then using your new-found scoop to your advantage. In fact for the most part it felt more like an interactive story rather than an adventure game (or at least what I'd suggest an adventure game is).

This has both its pros and cons. I really enjoyed the story and always felt in control - like I knew what I was meant to be doing and where I should be going next to progress. Unfortunately this also meant it was a little too simple at times. In general, the way to advance through the story is to simply make sure you've tried every conversation tree and been to every area, and eventually someone will spill the beans and blow open a whole new line of enquiry. It's not necessarily a bad thing, but it does mean that you never really feel that pride which adventure games normally give at managing to complete a puzzle.

The story itself is a rather grown-up experience in the sense that there is rarely a childish moment or immature joke - again, as mentioned before, it fits in nicely next to the likes of Revolution Software's Broken Sword series. There's the occasional witty banter here and there, but in general Rosa and Joey mean business and you'll find yourself becoming immersed in their interrogations and probe work. Rosa jots down any new information in her notebook for later discussion, and simultaneously I found myself reaching for a pen and a scrap of paper so I could make some notes of my own!

The Wadjet Eye team went for a unique blend of retro-style adventure gaming graphics and a fantastic, jazz-filled musical score and it all works so well. I found the nostalgic look pleasing, while the music is beautifully written and blends well with all of Blackwell's situations, from laidback conversations in Rosa's flat to the more action-orientated scenes. It would not be right to forget to mention the voice-acting too. There are literally hundreds of lines of dialogue, all lovingly voice-overed by a select cast, with not a bad egg among the bunch. It was clearly a huge undertaking and the team have been rewarded in spades.

It's too bad, then, that this journey is so incredibly short. Clocking in at around 2-3 hours, it's all over too soon. Considering this is my first venture into the world of Blackwell, I felt like I had just gotten to know these characters and then it was all over. Of course you could argue that my next port of call should be to go back and play through the other two titles, but at $15 I think the adventure gamer of today (or any gamer for that matter!) would expect to see a lot more content.

On the subject of the other games in the series, while it did not feel essential to have experienced the prequels, I did occasionally get the sense that I was missing something important whenever Rosa and Joey discussed past events. For example, there is mention of Rosa's aunt now and again, who appears to be the subject of the second of the Blackwell series. Playing through the first two games will definitely make Convergence's storyline a little more enlightening.

The Blackwell series has made itself a new fan, and is bound to pick up a good number more. The Blackwell Convergence is an educated take on the adventure game genre which is bound to delight both Blackwell greenhorns and the more experienced alike. If you can see past the brevity of play coupled with the sometimes over-simplicity of progression and instead immerse yourself into the story and characters, there's plenty to enjoy.

The Blackwell Convergence will be released later today (July 22nd) and is now available for pre-order. If you can't decide whether it's for you, give the demo a download.

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