(As a disclaimer, I’d like to admit that I’ve already played through the entire Blackwell series, and that writing this review from a fresh and new stand-point that is separate and non-comparative to the later entries in the series is difficult. With a clear point of reference, I can see a lot of flaws in this game. Having said that, however, what the first installment lacks is corrected in its sequels. I highly recommend giving the full series a try before dismissing it entirely. I bought it during the most recent Steam Summer sale in a bundle with the other games, so if you can get it for cheap, go for it.)
Developed by Wadjet Eye Games and the brainchild of Dave Gilbert, “The Blackwell Legacy” is an enjoyable, safe little toe-in-the-water dip into the point-and-click and supernatural genres. It’s a game centered on death without falling into the bad habit of thrusting gore and maddening tragedy into the player’s face, forcing them to live the lives of the main characters in their most painful, sad and terrified moments. “Legacy” is light without wandering too far from the subject at hand, prone to telling rather than showing, and chock full of (thankfully) skippable exposition.
Chock full is an understatement, really. There are, at moments, walls of text that are, admittedly, not entirely interesting to read without the context of later games. The puzzle pieces of lore that complement and fill the holes of the series can be missed, but once found, tend to drag on. If I wasn’t so in love with the story and writing as a whole, reading the dozen or so letters sent between the now-deceased members of the Blackwell family would leave me wondering what the point of reading them even was. Why should I care about these people who are mentioned rarely in passing and seemingly have no influence on the plot as a whole? New players will find themselves skipping text to progress the plot and move onto the next puzzle, missing the nuances of throwaway lines. That’s the glaring flaw of “Legacy”: it leans heavily on its sequels for relevancy, like a tree that’s deemed useless until it bears fruit. “Legacy” works well as the first chapter of a multi-chaptered story, but as a stand-alone, first glimpse, it doesn’t really do much to bait the player into continuing on.
So, what’s the draw? The characters. Very real and very relatable, the named characters are believable and not clichéd in the least bit. The main character is an anti-social, socially awkward writer who was bounced around in foster care for most of her life. Her deceased aunt, frequently spoken of posthumously, is remembered fondly by everyone (well, almost), but the fact that the main character faithfully visited this woman for decades while she was hospitalized speaks volumes of her character (the details of which you, as the player, dictate). Rosangela Blackwell chooses to carry on the family legacy partially out of fear of what refusing the call will do to her, partially from the cajoling from her newly-made eternal partner, but mostly out of a need to find herself. She’s willing to bear the same cross her aunt did, and more readily accepts the life her grandmother denied: one of selfless, sometimes dangerous service to others. There’s more to life than her little apartment, and it took death for her to go out and live. It’s refreshing to see character growth, and “The Blackwell Legacy” displays the tiny beginning steps of Rosa’s own journey neatly. Having Joey Mallone there certainly helps as well; I must say, of all the character interactions throughout the series, the ones I enjoyed the most involved Joey. He cares for the women he works alongside without coddling them, he’s funny without being crude, and he’s honest without being cruel. As Rosa’s only link to her family, he’s an excellent little window into her lost past, and one of the primary reasons why I continued on with the series.
Before I wrap up the review, I felt the need to touch upon the audio and visual quality of the game… Or, rather, lack thereof. The visuals are fine, I suppose, given that the game came out more than a decade ago; although some characters seem oddly-shaped (like the psychiatric hospital guard’s neck) or oddly-colored (your neighbor across the hall looks a tad green). The audio quality of spoken lines possesses the pop of headset-quality microphones, but given that the original voice-over work was done in 2006, that’s understandable. I was pleasantly surprised that all of the spoken lines were voiced. The music is well done and enjoyable, and gives the game a nice little “explore at your own pace” kind of feel. The horror movie scare chord used in the early game to signify a brain-ripping “headache” felt out-of-place and was thankfully short-lived (I don’t recall it being used in the series ever again, but it isn’t missed). The characters’ voices aren’t cartoonish caricatures of real accents, so that’s a plus, but that doesn’t mean a character or two wouldn’t have benefited from better direction or a different actor. And, it kind of goes without saying but, after sitting through a few hours of Commentary Hell, I can now easily spot which characters Dave Gilbert voiced himself (I swear, this man loves the sound of his own voice… But, really, you can tell he takes a lot of pride in his work, so I guess it’s forgivable).
All in all, “The Blackwell Legacy” is a paranormal, interactive story that’s fairly easy for experienced point-and-click gamers and casual puzzle solvers. Nothing feels repetitive, the controls are simple and straight-forward, and the game moves at a decent pace.
- The ability to save and load anywhere (except during cutscenes) and auto-save that feels well-placed, so you can easily jump back and redo something if you messed up
- Forgiving puzzles
- Interesting characters
- The living ball of awkwardness that is Rosangela Blackwell partnered with the smooth-as-silk and sarcastic Joey Mallone
- Abe Goldfarb
- Moti 🙂
- Slightly off voice acting in certain characters
- Too short; I finished my first playthrough in just under 2 hours
- It’s only easy to get around because there’s very little to do and very few places to visit
- “Hear Me” achievement isn’t titled “Commentary Hell”
- Not enough Abe Goldfarb
- Too much Dave Gilbert
- All the things you do to Moti 😦