The problem of a series is that with characters being fully fleshed out and the same formula tested again, routine can set in, so is Wadjet Eye Games’ The Blackwell Deception another example of these failed attempts?
(USA 2011, developer/publisher: Wadjet Eye Games, platform: PC)
Rosa and Joey investigate the murder of an old reporter friend of hers, while the deaths of other people lead to a man feeding on their sorrows.
Don’t I know this story?
If a game series is in its fourth installment, (over)familiarity with the characters can set in, or even fatigue. The plot itself isn’t bad per se, but it isn’t nearly as engaging as the other games, while there isn’t much to Rosangela’s character. Joey gets a bit more background story, but not enough to really feel sympathy for him if one found him slightly obnoxious before. Of course these are subjective judgements, but it can’t be denied that the overall story is quite reminiscent of what one has played before. It’s not even because of the bring-ghost-to-the-other-side formula, but that the idea of some kind of guru mistreating his disciples isn’t very original. Still, what the game lacks in suspense, it again makes up for in some very well-written characters who all reveal their own share of isolation and insecurities in different situations and environments, making them more touching and memorable than the slightly exaggerated bad guy and the connection to other games.
Haven’t I played this before?
The gameplay received slight improvements or adjustments, some for the better, some for the worse. On the one hand, there’s a more flexible phoning interface, making contact with other characters easier and a fun part of progressing in the game. Waiting for Joey to exit the screens has also been removed, so jumping between locations is made easier. On the other hand, puzzles are still sometimes obscure and few hints are provided despite an interesting mix of Joey’s and Rosa’s interactions to solve certain problems.
Havent’ I seen and heard this before?
The low audio quality isn’t new, and there are some amateurish voice actors which make certain scenes unintentionally funny again. This is also due to the character portraits which show weird expressions and are also much less detailed. It’s telling that there was an updated version in 2013 which replaced the more realistic character portraits with comic-style ones. Still, past games managed to showcase an art style which fit much better. However, not everything is bad in the newest installment, as the soundtrack is more varied with some faster tunes.
Déjà vu gaming and storytelling
The Blackwell Deception is the weakest entry of the series so far. This has to do with certain repeated themes, two protagonists who don’t seem to offer anything new, and of course the outdated technology and less than perfect puzzle design. Still, the game is very good in providing some (short) hours of well-written NPC conversations and an engaging investigation which are still compelling enough to (mostly) forget about the obvious flaws.
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