“This one looks promising.”
Independent game producer, Wadjet Eye Games, introduced us to
Rosangela Blackwell and Joey Mallone in December 2006 with its release of
The Blackwell Legacy. This release was planned as the first in a
series about the pair.
Blackwell Unbound continues this series, but as a prequel to the
first game. While Joey is still central to the story, Rosangela has been
replaced by her aunt, Lauren Blackwell.
Story: “Life. Death. Tormented souls. It’s all the same to me.”
This game is set in the New York City of 1973. As it opens, Lauren and
Joey have culled the newspaper searching for unexplained events that could
be linked to spirits which haven’t quite made the final journey. They have
settled on two—one involving unexplained music heard from time to time at
the Roosevelt Island Promenade, and another involving mysterious accidents
plaguing a construction site. Though neither is positively identified as a
ghostly phenomenon, Lauren and Joey feel compelled to check into them.
Characters: “I wish I could feel sorry for you, but I don’t feel
much of anything anymore.” Lauren
Lauren and Joey are an odd couple inexplicably joined by fate. She is a
sad, troubled, nearly apathetic, chain-smoking medium who assists spirits
into eternity. It’s not what she wants to be or do, and brings her little
joy. But still, she is destined to do it.
Joey is Lauren’s spirit guide, joined to her in some undefined way. He
is a ghost with an attitude, as their mocking banter plainly shows. Their
friendship is evident, and yet, at times, there is a well-defined tension
You have the ability to freely switch between both characters. You’ll
find that each brings a unique skill set and you will need to take
advantage of both to successfully conclude your adventure.
In addition to this dynamic duo, there are several non-player
characters. Among others, you’ll meet a weird psychotic lady who turns up
in the oddest places spouting incomprehensible jargon, a saxophone playing
ghost who is not happy to be interrupted, and a pianist who might or might
not know more than he is letting on.
Dialogue: “A joke. Yeah. I’m a riot.” Lauren
Dialogue plays a central part in Blackwell Unbound, both
unfolding the story and defining the characters. The amusing repartee
between Lauren and Joey contrasts quite effectively with the pathos of
Lauren’s inner questioning. We learn a bit about both main characters from
what they say, as well as what they don’t say!
Accordingly, there is a lot of chatting in this game, but it is usually
entertaining. It is important to pay attention to what is being said, as
you may need that information on down the line.
I liked the way the dialogue tree displayed. Instead of showing you the
exact wording, it displayed a choice of general comments such as: “State
the obvious,” or “Be direct,” or (my favorite) “Keep pushing.” This
allowed me to be surprised at what the character actually said.
Be warned, there are a few mild expletives scattered throughout. In
addition, there are several instances of profanity which may offend those
with religious sensibilities. In my opinion, it added nothing to the game
but it is no worse than that found on television.
Sound: “It’s been years since I heard his voice.” The Countess
The voice acting in Blackwell Unbound is professional and
enjoyable. Each voice seemed to fit the character well. None were
aggravating, and the two main characters were particularly apt.
Dani Marco provides Lauren with a sad voice, with mostly flat
inflections. As she is initially portrayed as a woman burned out and fed
up with life, this depiction fits like a glove.
Abe Goldfarb brings Joey to life, which is a great accomplishment,
considering that Joey is dead.
I must give kudos to the background music. It runs the gamut from
moody, sad, and melancholy -- then ventures into the upbeat, and then
races over to the dangerous. It is never intrusive, but does successfully
set and intensify the atmosphere.
There are few ambient sounds in this game. No footsteps, no opening and
closing doors, no wind noises—in short, not much of what most gamers have
come to expect. However, because of the retro feel, it works.
Sometimes, it worked too well. Each visit to one location sent my dogs
running upstairs to bark madly at our front door in response to the
in-game door bell.
Graphics: “Oh look at the sweat on this guy's brow.” Joey
The characters, the dialogue, and the story are more important than the
graphics, which have a decidedly dated look. Characters and details are
blocky, simple, and low resolution, reminding me of the games of long ago.
Lip synching is adequate and in tune with the nostalgic feel.
You’ll explore seven locations. Most are simple backgrounds for the
character interaction, but there are one or two exceptions.
Lauren’s apartment provides a peek back to the time when a TV with
rabbit ears was standard, ashtrays populated every room, and a candle in a
bottle was considered chic.
Though the upper body area is well defined, the lower bodies of Joey
and the other ghostly characters trail off into nothingness.
This is a static game. Environments provide a background for the story,
but there is no movement from within them. Usually that would bother me.
But in this game, in this framework, that’s okay.
Puzzles: ”What was I supposed to do? Give you a towel?” Joey
The puzzles in Blackwell Unbound are overwhelmingly dialogue
based. It’s a matter of soliciting the correct information and then
combining it with other facts to lead Joey and Lauren down the correct
Occasionally, an uncomplicated inventory puzzle arises. They are all
There are no mazes, no timed sequences, no sliders, no music or color
dependent puzzles. There are no mini-games and you cannot die.
Interface: “Think you can handle it?” Lauren
Blackwell Unbound features a point and click interface and tells
its story from a third person perspective. There is no paper manual, but
instructions are in the downloaded file and also available in-game from
the help menu.
Switching between the two playable characters is as easy as clicking
the mouse or pushing a button on the keyboard. While you move between
locales swiftly using the in-game map, you will have to elicit certain
facts before some sites become available.
Left clicking moves Lauren and Joey around and performs actions. Right
clicking examines items, and often results in a droll description.
You’ll have a notebook which automatically updates as you discover new
information. A neat innovation is that by clicking on the notebook, you
can have Lauren look for connections between disparate facts.
There is a tutorial which would be great for a gaming newbie. However,
it cannot be turned of from within the game. If you elect to skip the
tutorial, this information can also be accessed via the options menu.
Saves are at will, you name them, and they are unlimited. The game is
Alt+Tab friendly. Options include subtitles, speech, author’s commentary,
and a photo album.
Bonuses: “I don’t know. Something’s different.” Joey
The author’s commentary is an interesting and welcome addition, and
adds replay value. It works much the same as commentary found on DVD
movies. Once turned on, Dave Gilbert (writer, producer) pops up from time
to time to add tidbits of information about the scene, the character, the
animation, etc. Obviously, this would detract from the story the first
time around (so leave it off), but gives you an incentive to play again to
see what he has to say.
Also, there is the photo album. Taking certain pictures during game
play unlocks special content. I only took one bonus photo. It enabled me
to hear some of the lead artist’s thoughts on the game. I will go back
again and see if I can unlock the rest of the content as time permits.
The credits feature snapshots of each of the major contributors.
Normally, I don’t stick around for the credits (if I have a choice), but I
enjoyed seeing the faces that had created this game.
Also, there is a bit of individualized game trivia revealed at the end
of the credits.
Game length: “What a surprise.” Joey
Blackwell Unbound is a short game. I downloaded it around lunch
time and finished by dinner time with a break for a short nap and several
other interruptions scattered throughout.
Stability: “Maybe tonight will be an easy night.” Joey
I experienced no glitches or crashes and there are no patches at this
Delivery System: “Bam. You’re right into the thick of it.” Dave
Gilbert, from his commentary
This game is available directly from
Wadjet Eye Games either by
download or on CD.
Download took about 15 minutes on my medium speed DSL line. The CD
version is more expensive, but comes with an extra CD of the game’s
Summary: “Okay, I’m finished.” Lauren
Blackwell Unbound provided me a pleasant afternoon’s gaming. The
story, while fairly predictable, revealed itself in such a manner as to
keep me playing. The dialogue has its funny moments. The graphics, while
primitive, are adequate to the task of giving background to the story. The
voice acting is good, and the background music enhances the atmosphere.
This could be a good introductory game to a novice adventurer, or just
the game to play upon finding yourself with a few unscheduled hours.
Grade: B –
Short List: “You’re the one carrying the list. Why don’t you take
a closer look at it?” Joey
3rd person view
Point and click (though you
will need the keyboard to answer a few questions)
Save at will
Name your own saves
Notebook updates as information
Voice acting well done
Mood-setting background music
Few ambient sounds
Preponderantly, though not
exclusively, dialogue puzzles
No mazes, sound, color
dependant, or timed puzzles
No action challenges
Some mild expletives
Several profanities which those
with religious sensibilities might find offensive
3 to 5 hour playing time
Stable, no glitches or patches
Bonus features included
I played on:
Intel Pentium 4
1 GB Dual
Channel DDR400 SDRAM
NVIDIA Geforce FX5200 Ultra (video card)
design copyright ©