First posted on 25 September 2012. Last updated on 25 September 2012.
The game is available at GamersGate.
Blackwell Bundle is comprised of 3 episodes:
- Episode 1: The Blackwell Legacy
- Episode 2: Blackwell Unbound
- Episode 3: The Blackwell Convergence
Blackwell Unbound is the second game in the Blackwell series from Dave Gilbert of Wadjet Eye Games. In an unusual twist for the series, this prequel to The Blackwell Legacy goes back in time and tells the story, not of Rosangela "Rosa" Blackwell, but of her aunt Lauren Blackwell, whose ashes is seen scattered by Rosa from the Queensboro Bridge in the original game. Once more, Gilbert has inimitably penned an exceptional story for this short but riveting game. As in The Blackwell Legacy, Gilbert has chosen to use familiar New York surroundings and landmarks as backdrops in Blackwell Unbound, such as the Queensboro Bridge and the Roosevelt Island Promenade.
Blackwell Unbound is a classic third-person adventure game. There are 2 protagonists in the game. In addition to Lauren, who is an embittered, chain smoking, and unwilling medium, there is Joey Mallone, who is a wise-cracking ghost and Lauren’s spirit guide. Joey is the star attraction of the game and is brought to life by an exceptional performance from professional voice actor Abe Goldfarb. Together, Lauren and Joey investigate supernatural occurrences and assist tormented spirits pass into a spirit world nirvana.
Created using Adventure Game Studio, the game supports a resolution of 640x480 pixels in 16-bit color. While the graphics may appear outdated when compared to those in more contemporary games, this game reproduces much of the charm of playing classic DOS adventure games with perfection. Indeed, little is lost in the visuals in the game despite the limited resolution. The sprites are zany and colorful, and each character has its own identifiable and unique attribute.
Installation of the game is easy. Once installed, you can select Options from the main menu to enable or disable Speech, Subtitles, and Commentary in the game. These settings can also be toggled in the Options menu accessible from within the game proper.
The year is 1973. The game begins with Lauren chain smoking on the balcony outside her apartment. Once Joey gets her inside, they go over potential cases that they have gleaned from reports of suspicious deaths in local newspapers. The authority does not believe that there is foul play involved in any of these deaths. Only Lauren and Joey believe that there is an enigmatic killer on the loose, who must be stopped from striking again. Gathering her camera and dictating machine, Lauren (aided by Joey) embarks on an investigation to solve these cases. Her investigation quickly leads Lauren to the Roosevelt Island Promenade. It is a starry night. The lone ethereal, spiritual sound of a saxophone permeates the still of night. She sees a ghost playing a score reminiscent of a Charlie "Bird" Parker rendition and learns that the ghost's name is Isaac who has been murdered. Who is the killer? The chase has just begun.
Navigation in this game is simple. There are only 2 cursors used in the game: a small arrow indicates that you are in control of the action; a stopwatch indicates that you must wait until the current action is finished. Left-clicking on an object or a character interacts with that object or character, whereas right-clicking on an object or a character examines that object or character and gives a description.
Unlike The Blackwell Legacy, you control both of the main protagonists in Blackwell Unbound. As Lauren and Joey are limited to what they can do individually, they must team up to make progress in their quests. You can switch between the characters by hitting the Tab key. You can also switch to Joey by hitting the J key or Lauren by hitting the L key.
During the game, you can access the inventory and a notebook from a menu that appears when you hover the cursor near the top of the screen. Once Lauren is given access to a notebook, she can use it to write down clues as notes. You can use the notebook to question other characters and to combine notes which Lauren has previously gathered to form new notes. You can look at an object in the inventory by right clicking on that object. You can combine objects within the inventory by first left-clicking on an object and then dragging it onto another object. The game has a built-in hotspot finder that highlights important objects or characters as you hover the mouse over them.
The dialog system in this game is extremely well structured. You click on a character to initiate a conversation. Once a conversation is started, several choices appear on the bottom left of the screen. From there, you can choose between different demeanors to extract information from the character, such as direct, tactical, angry, inquisitive, or other approaches. Each choice may yield a different response from the character, but the information you eventually receive is the same. A lot of the dialogs are quite long, and much important information can be learned from exhausting each entire dialog tree. The dialog is often witty and informative, presented with pathos and feeling by the lovable characters.
The game has a pleasant musical score that is played continuously in the background. Saxophone and piano music are the predominant melodies heard in the game. Sound effects are limited but well done. I am most impressed with the professionally done voiceovers. The dialogs are spoken with feeling and empathy. The voice actors are able to extract the emotion of each character to give each role a true identity.
As with The Blackwell Legacy, Blackwell Unbound is a short game. The game plays out over 3 short cases. There are only 7 different locations and 13 other characters in the game. There are only 14 items to collect in the inventory. The puzzles are very limited, mostly related to adding notes to the notebook or causing a distraction somewhere to gather an object.
In sum, Blackwell Unbound is a worthy sequel in the Blackwell series and a throwback to classic adventure games of Sierra and LucasArts. The game tells a compelling story and has a strong cast of characters. For a budget title, there is plenty of fun to be had from playing this game.