I'm writing this review immediately after playing through The Blackwell Deception and despite the fact that it wont be appearing on Gnome's Lair for the next two or so weeks. Now, I do understand that this wouldn't really matter to anyone else, but it just felt right letting you know kind reader. It also feels right to immediately start typing away in the hope of conveying the feeling of the game; its powerful aftertaste. Oh, and don't worry, I have all the time in the world to fix typos and make sure this review reads less like the ramblings of an over-excited fantasy creature and more like an almost proper review.
So, feelings... Well, there's all sorts of them. That feeling one gets when finishing a great book that most obviously needs a sequel. A certain empathy with the game's protagonists. A deep appreciation for the work that has so obviously gone into this game. Sheer enjoyment of beauty. Catharsis. And thoughts. Thoughts about real problems, real places, real people and not so real ghosts. Thoughts about just how more interesting, smart, enjoyable, relevant and beautiful a small indie offering can be when compared to a multi-million dollar piece of mainstream boredom. Thoughts that could dangerously lead to spoiler-territory; the arch-enemy of all story and character driven games.
For Blackwell Deception, the fourth installment in the Blackwell series by Dave Gilbert, is one of those rare games that do actually tell a great story. A story that manages to both engage the player and provide with that sense of involvement only our dear interactive medium can, err, provide and only a point-and-click adventure game can do so well. A story about tormented ghosts and the private detective sort of couple helping them move on to a probably serene afterlife, while something bigger and more sinister is going on in the background. A story about introverted psychic Rosagnela, her ghostly side-kick Joey and New York City. A story that works perfectly on its own, but even better when experienced as part of a series, as it does indeed advance the over-arching plot.
Interestingly and quite impressively the plot and the puzzles are tightly knit together in a cohesive whole, without ever getting into each others way. The game might not be extremely easy -it actually is a fair and at times challenging adventure- but the puzzles are varied, interesting, logical and progressively harder. Making phone calls to an increasing selection of contacts, changing between two playable characters of vastly differing abilities, searching through a slightly underdeveloped version of the web, asking around, solving dialogue puzzles and even, more traditionally, combining items, make sure things never get stale.
Add the excellent pacing, the top-notch animation (by none other than the incredibly talented Ben 304), the beautiful pixel-art, them lovely and at times animated or scrolling backgrounds, the stunning character portraits, the quality of the writing, the overall polish, the embedded and most enlightening commentary, the game's hefty length, the professional voice-acting and that jazzy soundtrack, and you have one of the best adventure games since 2000. Deception is also easily the best Blackwell game so far, as long time fans are bound to discover, but also a great starting point for those wishing to join the fun.
Verdict: A fantastic adventure game. Buy it now and make sure to thank me afterwards. Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to give it another playthrough.
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