Publisher: Wadjet Eye
Developer: Wadjet Eye
Platform: Windows, Linux, Mac, iOS, Android
The first game of a five-part series, The Blackwell Legacy is fairly short and fairly mundane, but it does a nice job of establishing a lore and providing a springboard to the rest of the story.
Rosangela Blackwell is a book review columnist in New York City. The game opens as she scatters the ashes of her late aunt Lauren, who was her last remaining family member and had been in a vegetative state for twenty years. Battling her melancholy, Rosa is assigned by her paper to investigate a suicide of an NYU student. During her investigation, a ghost appears, claiming to be a family ghost who had been tied to Rosa’s aunt (and before that, her grandmother). In short order he convinces Rosa of his legitimacy, and then explains that his role has been unwittingly to help the Blackwell family help other ghosts accept their own deaths and move onto the afterlife.
The ghost’s name is Joey Mallone. Sporting a fedora and a film noir shtick, his personality is far from ingratiating. He seems more annoyed than Rosa of his existence, especially since he’s literally tied to the Blackwells and couldn’t leave Lauren’s hospital room for twenty years. Unable to go to the afterlife himself (for a reason unknown to him), Joey tries to take some satisfaction in helping other ghosts. While the concept of the character is pretty rad, Joey himself is not. He incessantly refers to Rosa as ‘sweetheart’ and ‘dollface,’ and he is unrelentingly condescending. It’s hard to fully invest in a game where one of the two protagonists grates on you.
On the flip side, Rosa is much easier to like. She’s pretty straight-laced and not interested in charming anyone. Unlike Joey, she’s not a jerk; she just doesn’t have time for people’s bullshit and wants to get to the point and get out. Given her life story, her personality makes sense. One delightful quirk is that when Rosa has to fake a positive emotion in conversation, she puts on a ridiculous phony smile that amused me every time.
Despite the underwhelming characters (including the voice acting, outside of Rosa), I felt very at home in this adventure. There are no fetch quests or ridiculous puzzles to pad the length. While there are a few puzzles that are contrived, they are logical and in general require trickery, an approach I tend to find pretty satisfying. Rosa keeps a notebook of clues, and several puzzles also require you to combine these clues to provoke advancement of the story. Interestingly, while you can combine inventory items together, you don’t directly use them on the screen. If an inventory item is relevant, its use will become an option during direct conversation. I appreciate this as it reduces the temptation of inventory spamming each screen.
The graphics are done really well; each room is detailed and there is no pixel-hunting necessary. The background music is also pleasant; unfortunately, at a couple of moments it can drown out the conversation and there is no way to turn it down.
There is essentially just the one mystery to solve, and there are no significant plot developments or surprises. While there is likely nothing in The Blackwell Legacy that will wow anyone, it is solid through and through and leaves me eager to keep playing on.