Blackwell 4: Deception continues the Blackwell series of point-and-click adventures. Created by Wadjet Eye Games, the fourth game in the Blackwell series keeps the company’s retro style and signature focus on story and dialogue.
Whether on PC or touchscreen device, Wadjet Eye Games have always embraced a look reminiscent of classic adventure game classics like Monkey Island. Blackwell 4: Deception is no exception, with the company almost stubbornly sticking to their signature retro-visual style.
But in some ways this is to Deception’s benefit, with their beautiful hand-drawn sprites having a certain dated-yet-timeless quality to them. In contrast, their insistence on retaining a 4:3 aspect ratio does at times feel unnecessary – particularly when the free space could be used for menus or other user-friendly additions.
Normally I wouldn’t start by outlining a game’s visual or interface oddities, but here it is important. The aesthetic gives a poor first impression and, at times, makes the interface feel clunky – like switching between characters, which demands you pull up a menu bar and then jab at an unresponsive button to change.
Stick with it, however, and you start to see where the developers have spent their time - and you don’t even have to dig that far beneath the surface. Story, dialogue, and voice acting are the focus for Wadjet Eye. The point-and-click genre was always a bastion of storytelling, but the Blackwell series – and Deception in particular – sets a high watermark with its fiction.
Taking control of Rosa Blackwell and her ghostly companion Joey Malone, you must investigate spiritual mysteries. These cases are often at the request haunted individuals, but your role is usually more beneficial to the haunters as it is only with your help that they are able to pass on to the other side.
The opening scene is a perfect example of this. You are hired to investigate a yacht. As you check the vessel you discover a ghost trying to flee to Boston to escape the police because he doesn't realize he is dead. It is only with your help that this spirit is able to realize he is dead and pass on.
It’s the details and writing that make this work. There are a number of item puzzles that must be figured out by collaborating the efforts of Rosa and Joey. Joey is able to access places Rosa cannot, while Rosa can actually touch items and use her mePhone to look up information.
This second option is particularly useful, as it lets Rosa investigate more about situations and discover topics to fuel conversation with the ghost. This is where the sharp writing and voice work come into their own, as you explore dialogue options and make changes to the world to reach solutions to Blackwell’s intelligently constructed puzzles.
A gripping, ghostly tale
If you can look past Blackwell 4: Deception’s clunky menu’s and anachronistic look, you will be treated to some of the best traditional point-and-click adventuring currently available. With its sharp and engaging story, the only question you will have to ask yourself is whether you want to start with the original Blackwell 1: Legacy to get the full story or try and pick things up as you go.