The Blackwell Deception
Trying to find a great point-and-click is like trying to find the perfect ramen shop - everything has to be just right. Noodles can’t be too soft or firm, soup has to have the right amount of seasoning and not heavy on the salt, and there has to be a harmonious presence of proportions when you combine the two, topped with the right blend of meat and veggies that won’t go soggy on you. In this time of hunger, Wadjet Eye, thankfully, serves up yet another steaming bowl of goodness with a continuation of their allstar series: The Blackwell Deception.
Taking place after Convergence, Rosa Blackwell, writer/gumshoe/spirit medium, and her spectral partner, Joey Mallone, have gone ahead to branch out their paranormal expertise for more lucrative pursuits. One night, the dynamic duo is contacted by an old friend asking for assistance in uncovering a breaking news story. What was supposed to have been a simple research gig develops into something more; an unraveling of an underground street psychic conspiracy, riddled with lost souls in need of saving.
This may be a bit much to take in if you’re a newcomer to the Blackwell world, but Deception’s got you covered with an illustrious prologue/tutorial chapter. Before you know it, you’ll be sucked in by the series’ signature dual play – while Rosa can interact with the corporeal, Joey can phase through solid objects and walls to scout ahead, interact with ghosts, and use his icy breath to move light objects. Blackwell veterans will rejoice with the addition of Rosa’s MyPhone for making calls, checking e-mail, cross referencing clues, and surfing the web on the fly, thus bringing an end to mundane return trips home to use the phone and computer.
Deception’s greatest strength lies in its capacity to maintain a steady pace. Most other point-and-clicks trip themselves with puzzles that sprawl all over the difficulty map. Some provide no challenge, while others can take hours to figure out – checking up on FAQs or just quitting after revisiting the same locales over and over. Deception’s puzzles are maintained at the right difficulty, not too hard but not too easy. While a number of today’s titles resort to an elaborate hint system, Deception only provides a small idea of how to tackle an objective; its constant play with the ongoing “right-under-your-nose” theme. Therefore, difficulty determined by one’s own attention to detail is greatly emphasized.
Also facilitating the game’s flow is its mood. Aside from a refreshingly smooth jazz soundtrack, Deception charms the eyes with tasteful retro and flavorful backgrounds. Think of the graphics as a jeweled center between SNES/Genesis and PSX graphics. Topping it off is an involving story. Each time you solve a case, the narrative continues to tease - keeping you drawn and motivated in getting to the bottom of the overall mystery, while strengthening your resolve to bring justice to the culprits as you near the lion’s den. The combination of the perfect pace and a story that tests clean of rushed narratives results in an experience that lasts at the right duration, allowing one to truly savor the fun.
The common blemish of point-and-clicks is the fact that not many of them have any replayability. Once you’ve figured out the entire game, there’s very little reason to come back. Fortunately, Deception continues with the series’ feature of opting to turn on the commentaries during play. Out of all the game commentaries I’ve encountered, Deception is incredibly insightful as David Gilbert not only explains the dev process but includes bloopers, background of cast and crew, and occasionally revealing some concept art. The commentaries do in fact provide a lot of spoilers so it’s best advised to save the experience as fuel for a return trip.
Perhaps the only thing that is difficult about The Blackwell Deception is tracking down any significant flaws. At times, the voice overs are accompanied by boom mic interference and the final challenge is a tad cheesy and anti-climactic, but it’s not altogether a hindrance. When you finally mow down the last of the evil doers, the game ends at a brilliant cliffhanger that is sure to arouse hype over disappointment for another Blackwell installment.
The Blackwell Deception will definitely add more followers to its ranks, enticing its new recruits to try out the previous installments. Newbies will attest that this is one of the better point-and-clicks ever conceived, while fans will agree that this is the best Blackwell game yet. To come up with any sort of an excuse to miss out on this delightful romp would be the only deception at work here. Open your mind, and start believing.
Nine out of ten