Review: Blackwell Epiphany – The Blackwell Saga Concludes!

Wadjet Eye Games is one of my favorite current game developers. Adventure games are experiencing a surge in popularity again, and they’re putting out some of the best on the market. Check out my reviews of Primordia, Gemini Rue, and The Shivah for what I thought of those. Sarah also did a great interview with Dave Gilbert a while back, and you can read that here.

Watch the trailer:

This review will reference events in the previous games: The Blackwell Legacy, Blackwell Unbound, Blackwell Convergence, and Blackwell Deception, but I will not spoil them outright.

Plot

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A dead man’s soul cries out against the force of a ferocious blizzard. He cries for help. He cries for answers. Then he screams as he is torn apart like damp tissue paper. This wasn’t the first time, and it won’t be the last. The police are powerless to stop it, so the duty falls to the only ones who can. What force could be so powerful – and so malevolent – that it would destroy the very core of a life in order to get what it wants? Rosa Blackwell and Joey Mallone mean to find out, even if it means risking themselves in the process.

Rosa and Joey are some of my favorite characters in gaming. Joey is from the 1920s, Rosa is very much an introvert, and they’re bound together such that Joey can never be too far away from Rosa. Their banter is wonderful, and by this point in the series they’re a killer team. Many other familiar faces from the past games appear, such as Detective Derkin and The Countess. The Blackwell series has always involved ghosts (Rosa is a medium and can bring the spirits through to the next world, with Joey’s help), but this was the scariest of the five. There are a lot of unsettling supernatural elements, coupled with real-life fears, that make this one the most horror-like. However, you won’t be scared to the point where you can’t sleep. (Probably, anyway. I’m fairly confident.) The plot picks up six months after Blackwell Deception, and I was quite satisfied with the ending, although I won’t say a thing about it here. I would definitely recommend playing the other games before this one if you haven’t already, because there are a lot of callbacks to previous games that won’t mean anything if you haven’t played them.

Rosa has been the main character throughout the series (with the exception of Unbound, which took players back in time to play as her Aunt Lauren). There are a lot of women in the games, and this game in particular has quite a number of women to interact with, both living and dead. The women characters, not only in Blackwell, but in all Wadjet Eye games, have been well-rounded and not sexualized. And they’re really cool!

Graphics and Sound

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Epiphany is the best-looking Blackwell game by far. I enjoyed the art style of all the others, but this is the most modern-looking and detailed of them all. It reminded me quite a bit of Primordia in the size of the sprites and the fluid animation, and a lot of the backgrounds could easily be called works of art. Little things really stand out, like the way Rosa puts on her coat when she leaves the house. Reflections are particularly well-done, as are city lights. I also appreciate that they went back to going to places on a map instead of places in Rosa’s cell phone; I missed the map artwork. The voice acting continues to be excellent; Abe Goldfarb as Joey is a standout, and Rebecca Whittaker is a wonderfully dry Rosa who still cracks some (questionable) jokes once in a while. Everyone else sounds great too, and the studio has really improved since the early days of the games in terms of recording quality. The only thing I would like to note is that despite living in New York City, no one has a strong city accent, which I never really thought about until the last game. The music is high-quality, dynamic, and jazzy. A commentary is offered, as is standard in Wadjet Eye games.

Gameplay

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One of the best things about Wadjet Eye adventures is that you’re not just solving inventory puzzles in the traditional sense. Instead, you hunt for clues through dialogue and observation, then ask people about those clues to get more information. This is how you progress, for the most part, although there’s still some picking up of objects involved. This makes the Wadjet Eye games really stand out, plus giving you the feeling of being a detective. Joey and Rosa have to work together a lot; because Joey is a ghost, locked doors don’t mean anything to him. He also has ghost breath, which allows him to blow small objects around if they’re out of Rosa’s reach. The bulk of puzzles in Blackwell games involve getting ghosts to move onto the next life. This involves getting to know what they were like in real life. Along the way, across the five games, we’ve learned a lot of cool stuff about the ghosts, their world, and their rules; Epiphany completes that knowledge. The inventory is at the top of the screen (along with Rosa’s phone), left click interacts with objects, and right click looks at them. Joey, being non-corporeal, will be looking a lot. It’s also worth looking at things with both Joey and Rosa; this got me my biggest laugh of the game. There’s no button to show hotspots, which puts this more on the classic side, but I never had a problem finding anything. None of the puzzles frustrated me, and if you’re stuck you can always ask Joey or Rosa for a nudge in the right direction, which is helpful without giving it away. There are eighteen Steam achievements (I had eleven by the end of the game) and trading cards are available. 

Final Thoughts

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Wadjet Eye never disappoints, and the Blackwell saga is by far one of my favorite adventure game series. This is a wonderful end to the Blackwell story, and you should pick up the whole series immediately if you haven’t played it yet.

Score: A

You can get Blackwell Epiphany on GOG, Steam, and the official website for $14.99. You can also find the demo on the official site. Like Wadjet Eye Games on Facebook, follow them on Twitter, and subscribe on YouTube.

[EIC Note/Disclaimer: The author of this review and the artist of this game entered a relationship in December 2014. They were not acquainted at the time of this review. A review code was provided to review this game.]

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