New York City is the city that never sleeps – perhaps doubly so if you happen to be a restless spirit trapped between this world and next. Fortunately, Rosangela Blackwell (likely NYC’s only legitimate medium) and her ghostly spirit guide Joey Mallone are in the business of offering spiritual aid to the dearly departed who don’t even realize they’re dead. Building upon previous series instalments, Blackwell Deception offers these unlikely spiritual investigators a new set of challenges to overcome and dramatic new events that reveal more and more secrets about the spirit world and the Bestowers of Eternity. Their latest adventure offers some familiar challenges along the way, in addition to some new twists that keep the storyline interesting and fresh.
If you’re new to the series (as I was when I began), the fourth Blackwell game – but only the third starring Rosa – continues the ongoing story of a young woman who has inherited a wisecracking ghostly companion. Joey is a spirit from the early twentieth century and looks the part in his translucent fedora and suit. He has somehow been drawn into an afterlife of servitude, helping spirits of this world move onto the next, and has been inextricably attached to the Blackwell women throughout the generations. With her rare ability to see ghosts, Rosangela is the latest to inherit Joey, and she has had to come to terms with her unusual legacy in order to avoid an inevitable descent into madness.
Following on from previous episodes, Rosa has now turned her abilities into a job, complete with fluorescent new business cards. At the beginning of Deception she is working just such a contract, investigating a vacant yacht that unmoors itself every night and starts motoring into the New York harbour. This initial task provides a tutorial for new players, though it’s by no means a pushover to complete in its own right. On completing this assignment, Rosa receives a call from her old friend Jeremy, who is a newspaper reporter and needs help on a story that he is close to breaking. But Rosa arrives at Jeremy’s apartment only to discover that he too is no longer with the living yet is blissfully unaware of the fact. Intrigued and dismayed, Rosangela plays along with Jeremy’s request until she is able to learn more information and help him on his way. Her investigation quickly leads to an unidentified contact who may have been the key lead Jeremy was following.
Despite being a ghost story, Deception actually plays as an interactive drama and detective story, which leaves you with a metaphorical (or metaphysical if you prefer) trail of bread crumbs that slowly reveals a deeper tale of intrigue and murder. As more and more of the plot is revealed, you’ll find yourself embroiled in the world of phony street front psychics (they’re everywhere in NY, apparently), in which clients visit a particular shop and then later appear dead from seemingly natural causes. It’s your job to find the clues to the mystery behind their deaths, help those who have passed on, and wrap up the case before more even more victims are taken – possibly even yourself.
The unique relationship between both Rosangela and Joey not only provides some amusement through their frequent banter but also impacts the gameplay itself. The strength of this partnership comes from both characters working together with their varied abilities, unable to ever move very far from the other. Rosa can interact with both the dead and the living but is naturally blocked by physical obstacles, whilst Joey can’t openly manipulate real world objects (a fact he sarcastically reminds you of whenever you try to pick something up…), though in spectral form he is able to explore locations which would otherwise be closed. Joey also has the ability to project small gusts of wind (blowing!) or using his (ethereal) tie, which acts as a mechanism for helping spirits move on. One recurring challenge is helping spirits to understand that they have passed away. This is normally done through conversations about their lives or presenting objects to jog their memories.
Deception plays well as a standalone game, so even if you’re not familiar with the rest of the series a whole, it is relatively easy to pick up. There are some references to previous characters and events, but they aren’t essential to the game in any way. There is a brief return of one character in particular from Blackwell Convergence whose role will require some familiarity to understand, but on the whole you can move through the story comfortably from start to finish without any knowledge of the previous games. Another notable point is that Deception is considerably larger than any of the previous Blackwell games, delivering up to ten hours’ worth of play time.
As with its predecessors, Deception includes excellent voice acting to complement its quality script, flowing naturally and effectively demonstrating a variety of emotions such as amusement, anger and suffering. There’s also a good range of background music for each scene, such as a snappy jazz tune in Rosangela’s apartment and appropriately eerie scores for some of the more supernatural moments. There’s very little to criticise here, though there are some minor issues related to volume changes between scenes, leaving players walking into areas where the music is suddenly much louder than the previous scene. In general, however, most players won’t even notice this and it takes little away from what is an overall an excellent effort.Continued on the next page...
What our readers think of The Blackwell Deception
Posted by thorn969 on Jul 5, 2014
Great addition to the Blackwell Bundle
I feel this was the first game of the series to get the difficulty just right and built a really great twist on the story. I can't wait to play the conclusion. Also, the first game to feel long enough to be a full game on its own. Something like... twice as...
Posted by Antrax on Dec 29, 2012
Best part in the series (but still short)
First of all, I'm happy to say that finally I was able to play the entire game without any crashes. The interface was re-done and seems much prettier. The graphics were changed to be more cartoonish, which might not be to everyone's taste. Most importantly,...
Posted by Niclas on Aug 23, 2012