Blackwell Unbound manages to have all the issues of its predecessor, and adds several more. Loraine is an even less relateable character than Rosa—her only personality trait is that she smokes. A lot. The game makes sure to emphasize this point in such a heavy-handed manner that I couldn’t help but wonder about the motives behind it, as it offered no perceivable benefit to the plot or the character.
In fact, the game starts with one of the worst imaginable puzzles, based around that fact. Loraine enters the apartment, and goes out for a smoke. All your actions get the same “plausible” response - “no, I’m smoking now, until I finish I won’t do anything”. She won’t interact with anything, and she won’t go anywhere. The smoking never ends. After several minutes of this controlled helplessness, I found the solution - it turns out you can control Joey directly now. Sure could’ve been nice to have the help menu tell you that, instead of being copy-pasted from the previous game.
For some reason, the developer was extremely proud of this sequence - it repeats three or four times throughout this very short game. It reeks of some agenda, but I honestly can’t figure out what it was.
Other aspects of the game have also deteriorated since the last game. You can now use inventory items on the environment, but there’s no way to un-select them besides right clicking on a hotspot. You still get to research leads, but because we’re in the 70s now, you use a phone book. Reasonable enough, except for some inexplicable reason, you have to type names yourself into the phone book, even if they appear quite plainly in your notes. I can see why the developer would want to add easter eggs, or extra challenge or whatever, but why not allow you to EITHER type OR use the notes is beyond me. As it is, because I play without pen and paper next to me, I had to memorize the spelling of several names during the course of the game.
Other than these new flaws, the old ones are still around: the game crashes frequently, Loraine is unable to make very simple deductions without the player combining notes for her and you have to move between locations just so you can use a phonebook. Not that these transitions are very slow, but it seems inconvenient to have to return home every time just to look someone up.
Unlike the previous game, this time I had to use a walkthrough for a “puzzle” where for some reason Loraine wouldn’t look at something in plain sight and refused to ask about it. There were similar incidents in other puzzles, such as the puzzle where you have to understand that suddenly the talking interface with characters has changed (so repeating questions gives different answers for some of the characters). Barring these poorly thought out sequences, the game is even easier than the last one, and again takes under an hour to complete.
The plot is still engrossing despite the wooden protagonist, though the ending is something of a cheat - presumably to keep some questions open for the next parts. I would recommend just reading a summary of the game, as its only value seems to be in setting the ground for the next installments - the game itself is just frustrating, far more than the last one.
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Time Played: 1-2 hours