Blackwell Convergence



Genre:   Adventure

Developer & Publisher:    Wadjet Eye Games

Released:  July 2009

PC Requirements:  SVGA/XGA (640x480), Windows




by Becky


It’s a gray, rainy evening in New York City. In a deserted office, there’s a knock at the door. Enter Rosangela (Rosa) Blackwell, a talented medium who sees and converses with the dead. After finding ghosts who are trapped, restless and often unaware of their own deaths, Rosa frees them to continue on into the great beyond. This mission was thrust upon her unexpectedly, and she is still struggling with its implications.

I came to The Blackwell Convergence as a Blackwell newbie. I did not play the first two games: The Blackwell Legacy and Blackwell Unbound. The Blackwell Legacy was based on a true story of student suicides at a local university, a topic I found particularly unappealing. I was surprised at how much I enjoyed The Blackwell Convergence without any knowledge of the backstory from the prior games. It’s a good place to start, knowing that you can pick up and play the previous games if you like the most recent one.

In Old New York

The colorful, cartoon-like graphics have a retro look that evokes feelings of nostalgia for the early days of adventure gaming. Unlike games from a couple of decades ago, when pixelation was a consequence of then-current technology, Convergence’s graphics are purposely low resolution. I admit that I have fond memories of retro gaming in fantastical or comical environments. However, contemporary urban environments and retro graphics seemed a strange combination at first. I tried running the game in a window, which made the environments soft-edged and smoother. But the pixelated character models then “stuck out” even more, and the game window occupied only half the screen. So I played most of the game using the full screen option, and eventually acclimated to the game’s graphical style.

Convergence pays homage to New York City, home to writer/designer, Dave Gilbert. One iconic location in Convergence is the Roosevelt Island Lighthouse, once associated with the treacherous waters known as Hell Gate. Roosevelt Island, formerly named Blackwell’s Island, is a strip of land in the East River between Manhattan and Queens. In the past it contained multiple institutions, including a hospital, a prison, and an asylum.* I’m assuming that the Blackwell name is not a coincidence, that Rosa is descended from the Blackwells for whom the island was originally named -- and that we’ll be seeing more of this island in later games.

Right through the Very Heart of It

The game is well written and expertly voiced, and the personalities of the various New Yorkers in the game ring true. Convergence contains much dialog, some of which is optional, and you can click through the dialogs if you wish. Since this game’s strength is its character portrayals and banter, as well as the nuances of the mystery being investigated, I recommend listening to all the dialogs rather than skipping them.

When characters talk, you see a close-up of their faces in a character portrait. This is true of both the ghostly and the living characters. The character portraits are important because the low resolution of the in-game character models makes it difficult to distinguish facial expressions.

Especially enjoyable is the character of Joey Mallone, Rosa Blackwell’s spirit guide. Joey’s been dead for decades but has maintained a hardboiled noir character reminiscent of fictional detectives. His verbal expressions and attitudes are an entertaining contrast to those of Rosa -- a modern female dealing with contemporary reactions and insecurities.

Character movement in this third person, point-and-click game is surprisingly smooth – though of course the ghosts “float,” not ambulate. In fact, amusingly, they don’t have any feet. The area below their knees fades into nothingness.

Ambient sounds add atmosphere – the sound of rain falling, whispering voices, a mournful wind, and a reverberating echo when Joey listens at doors. Seductive cool jazz plays in the background.

It’s Up to You

Convergence does an unusually good job of using two characters with distinct abilities throughout the game; it’s an integral part of gameplay, not just an occasional novelty. An in-game map facilitates traveling to each location.

The game contains some simple inventory puzzles and dialog challenges. There’s also a computer search engine called “Oogle,” which can bring up intriguing essential and nonessential information. (Try Oogling “Dave Gilbert,” for instance). A not-too-difficult timed puzzle adds drama near the game’s end. Rosa carries a notebook with phrases that can be directed in question form at the various characters. However, important details didn’t always appear in the notebook, so I couldn’t grill the characters as much as I would have liked.

Challenges overall are on the easy side, partly because Rosa can ask Joey what to do next, which eliminates any confusion as to the current objective. Other characters also offer ideas that can be used as hints.

A Brand New Start of It

Convergence can be replayed with “Commentary” enabled. This is a novel and welcome feature (though you shouldn’t enable “Commentary” for the first playthrough because it breaks up the flow of the game). The second time through, I listened to Dave Gilbert’s explanations as to why decisions were made for the plot, locations and casting -- these enlivened the experience considerably.

I encountered only one small glitch – for about thirty minutes of gameplay, I heard a ticking sound in the background that persisted until I quit the game. Saving and then resuming from that saved game eliminated the problem.

Gameplay in Convergence necessarily revolves around the mystery, which supplies perplexing and beguiling moments. But it’s the game’s characters that make a lasting impression. If you like character interaction and development, you will enjoy this game. The game is a satisfying length, though it’s closer to an episode than to a full-fledged adventure game. I am quite curious to see what will happen to Rosa and Joey in the next Blackwell game.

Top of the List for The Blackwell Convergence

Third person point-and-click mystery adventure with a supernatural twist. Game Three in the Blackwell series. An involving story – a mystery with an unusual villain and out-of-this-world characters. It’s not necessary to play the first two games to enjoy this one, though by skipping the previous games you will miss some backstory.

Retro graphics based on Manhattan and its surrounds. Lots of clever dialog, occasional mild vulgarities, very good voiceovers.

Fairly easy dialog puzzles, “Oogle” searches, some inventory puzzles, one not-too-tricky timed puzzle. No sliders, no sound puzzles, no mazes, no color-based puzzles. About six hours of gameplay.

No problems with installation. One minor sound glitch. Thankfully, there are unlimited save slots. Optional tutorial and eye-opening commentary features.

The Blackwell Convergence is aimed at gamers who enjoy retro graphics, memorable characters, and a New York sensibility.

Final grade: B

Section headings are from “Theme from New York, New York,” lyrics by Fred Ebb.

*Information about the Roosevelt Island Lighthouse can be found here.

The Blackwell Convergence is an Independent Production of Wadjet Eye Games and can be purchased at the game’s website.

My Computer Specs:

Windows XP Professional

Pentium 2.80 GHz

2.00 GB RAM

Direct X 9.0c

512 MB NVIDIA GeForce 7800 GTX

SB X-Fi Audio

September, 2009

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