Review: Blackwell Deception – An adventure from Wadjet Eye Games

blackwell deception screenshot - I can see right through you
Review: Blackwell Deception – An adventure from Wadjet Eye Games

Platforms: PC

Game Name: Blackwell Deception

Publisher: Wadjet Eye

Developer: Wadjet Eye

Genre: Adventure

Release Date: October 12, 2011

Developer Summary:

Street psychics. Their blinking neon signs are everywhere, promising love and wealth and happiness. They make a fortune preying on the gullible and milking them dry. So when these victims begin dying and leaving confused spirits behind, it can only take a genuine psychic (and her wayward spirit guide) to clean up the mess.

From seedy downtown nightclubs to penthouse apartments to a luxury yacht on the Hudson River, Rosa and Joey will unearth the truth about the underground world of street psychics. Including some secrets that Joey would rather be left buried.

Though this is the series’ fourth installment, it’s a standalone game that can be enjoyed without having played the previous Blackwell games.

What We Think:

It’s hard to find a good adventure game these days. Heck, it’s hard to find a bad adventure game anymore. I don’t mean these hopped-up action platformers the kids call adventure games, like “Tomb Raider”. I mean the good old-fashioned, click on everything, combine this comb with that iguana to make a puppet to give to the troll to escape the prison cell, pixelated games of the 1990s.

Luckily, Wadjet Eye felt the same way. “Blackwell Deception”, their latest entry in a series of classic adventure games, hearkens back to the days of classic Sierra adventure games, even down to the graphics. Without giving too much away, you control two protagonists–a psychic detective and her ghostly partner–attempting to put the ghosts of the recently deceased to rest by solving the mystery of their demise. In a creative twist, you control both characters separately, using the complimentary abilities of each to overcome the various obstacles in your path.

Gameplay is standard for the genre. Movement and interaction is accomplished by mouse-clicks. The basic strategy, if you’ve never played one of these, is to go into every room or environment and click on everything. Talk to people, look at paintings or weird smudges on a wall, pick up objects, and generally snoop around. Gradually, you get clues as to what’s going on, and proceed accordingly.

blackwell deception screenshot -ghost in the darkness

In “Blackwell Deception”, this process is aided by two welcome innovations: the smartphone, and the hint system. Roseangela, the psychic, carries a smartphone with her to keep track of important leads, and to allow her to search the Internet. Through the progress of the investigation, key words will appear in the “Notes app” of the phone; combining entries with each other–an interesting twist on the classic trope of mixing inventory items–will sometimes result in a new clue. It’s portrayed so organically that it doesn’t feel like random clicking; Roseangela will “talk out” a possible connection between the two notes, either resulting in the conclusion that the two are either unrelated or irrelevant, or arriving at a eureka moment.

blackwell deception screenshot - I can see right through you

The hint system is every bit as immersive. At any point in the game, either Roseangela or her ghostly companion can talk to each other about their next step. The resulting speech is a spoiler-free hint as to where to go next. By incorporating this system, Wadjet Eye deftly avoids a pitfall common to the genre. In even the best adventures, the player often runs into a dead-end, and either gives up entirely or finds the answer on the Internet; in either case, it ruins the immersion. Wadjet Eye’s solution is brilliant.

Is the game perfect? Well, no. At times, the voice acting can sound a bit amateurish. There are moments when you can hear the woodenness that comes into a voice when people are trying not to sound like they’re reading their lines. It doesn’t detract from the game, really, but it’s there, and it is noticeable.

Another issue, pixel-hunting, is so endemic to the genre as to be almost unworthy of mention. Point-and-click rookies and disaffected veterans will both be a little frustrated after spending fifteen minutes trying to solve a problem only to find that they’d been clicking on the pixel next to the one they were looking for. Again, this is almost a feature of the genre rather than a problem, but it has turned people off and will continue to do so, I suspect.

blackwell deception screenshot - crackpot theory

“Blackwell Deception” does avoid another common issue with adventure games by making puzzles logical. The format means that it’s almost impossible for a player to solve problems in a dynamic way. To a certain extent, you aren’t trying to solve a problem; you’re trying to figure out how the developer wants you to solve a problem. In some games, that means you don’t shoot the monster with the gun you’re carrying; you use the gun to shoot the chandelier above him. Although “Blackwell” sticks to the rails, the solution to each problem makes sense. Better yet, the few puzzles in the game are solvable with clues in the game.

All of this combines to make “Blackwell Deception” challenging without being frustrating. Not many adventure games manage the balance between difficulty and narrative progression, but Wadjet Eye pulled it off quite nicely. This is an easy recommendation for fans of the genre, and a good way to introduce old-school adventure gaming to newbies without scaring them off.

Purchase or download the demo for Blackwell Deception at Wadjet Eye Games

Check out all the Blackwell titles and bundle at Wadjet Eye

[xrr rating=”5/5″]

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