Blackwell (series)

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Blackwell
Blackwell cover.png
Artwork for the Blackwell Bundle compilation.
From left to right: Convergence, Unbound and Legacy.
Genres Graphic adventure
Developer(s) Wadjet Eye Games
Publisher(s) Wadjet Eye Games
Creator(s) Dave Gilbert
Composer(s) Peter Gresser, Thomas Regin
Platforms Microsoft Windows, OS X, Linux, iOS, Android
First release The Blackwell Legacy
December 23, 2006
Latest release Blackwell Epiphany
April 24, 2014

Blackwell is a series of five graphic adventure video games from independent game developer Wadjet Eye Games, created by Dave Gilbert. The plots of the games generally focus on Rosangela Blackwell, a spiritual medium, and her spirit guide Joey Mallone, who work to help ghosts transition to the afterlife.

Gameplay[edit]

All five games are retro-style point-and-click graphic adventure games.

Games[edit]

The Blackwell Legacy[edit]

The protagonist of the game is Rosangela Blackwell (Rosa), who is a young freelance writer living a solitary life in New York City. Soon after her only relative, aunt Lauren Blackwell, passes, she is asked to write about a suicide in a college dorm. Rosa experiences headaches throughout the day and it culminates in a ghost named Joey Mallone making an appearance in her apartment. He explains that she is a "medium" like her aunt and that her job is to help ghosts that are stuck in the real world "move on". Reluctantly she accepts the explanation and proceeds to solve a case about the girl whose ghost is now haunting a dog park. She soon discovers that the girl is one of three close friends and that two of them have already committed suicide after they summoned a restless ghost with a ouija board. She learns how to and helps the ghost "move on". The third girl also attempts to commit suicide but is taken to the hospital, where Rosa finds her and the restless ghost. She then helps the ghost move on as well.[1]

The game runs under the Adventure Game Studio platform. It was nominated for 4 AGS Awards for games released in 2006 and won the award for Best Character Art.[2] Character art was drawn by Ian 'Big Brother' Schlapfer of Herculean Effort Productions.

Known for its excellent story and voiceovers, the game starred Sande Chen as Rosangela Blackwell and Abe Goldfarb as Joey Mallone[citation needed]. It was re-released in 2011, with Rebecca Whittaker starring as Rosangela (reprising the role from the later games in the series). This was done for consistency with the later games, but also because Dave Gilbert wanted to change some of Rosangela's dialogue, and add some new lines.[3]

The project originally began as Bestowers of Eternity. This game was released as free software in 2003 via the Internet under that title, and gained much popularity. Subsequently, it was decided for the project to be extended and redone into a proper commercial product – and thus The Blackwell Legacy was born.

Gilbert has previously stated for the concept of The Shivah that he wanted to do an investigation, but have the hero be someone other than a detective. On a separate occasion, he mentioned that he watched a movie about a medium contacting her spirit guide, and started thinking about what the poor spirit must go through to help this woman. From the union of these two ideas, Joey and Rosa's relationship was born.

The game was first released on December 23, 2006.

Blackwell Unbound[edit]

The second game is a prequel to Legacy and follows the investigations of Rosa's aunt Lauren Blackwell and Joey back in the 70s. They investigate two ghosts – a murdered saxophone player and a murdered woman haunting a construction site of her old apartment building. While investigating the two seemingly unrelated incidents, Lauren discovers that both ghosts have been murdered by the same elderly, homeless woman that calls herself The Countess. She claims that she is a medium like Lauren and is also helping the people move on. But she is in fact mad and is killing them. The duo tries to catch her, but she escapes. Puzzled by The Countess' claims about being a medium, despite the obvious lack of a spirit guide following her, they discover that she is using New Yorker journalist Joseph Mitchell as a spirit guide substitute and kills whoever he writes about. Mitchell eventually made the connection himself, and stopped writing all together out of fear of getting anyone else killed. Lauren then convinces Mitchell to write about her to lure The Countess out of hiding. The plan works and she arrives at Lauren's place to kill her, where she is overpowered and Lauren is forced to kill her. At the end of the game, Lauren decides to get in touch with her brother again, despite Joey's misgivings about it.[4]

As with Legacy, Unbound uses the Adventure Game Studio engine. Unbound was originally supposed to be a flashback sequence in the next game, Blackwell Convergence, but it grew so large that it became a game in its own right. The game was nominated for Best Story and won Best Music in the AGS Awards for games released in 2007.[5]

The story features a real person as a character: writer Joseph Mitchell of the New Yorker.

The game was released on September 4, 2007.

Blackwell Convergence[edit]

The third game takes place six months after the events in Legacy. While visiting a gallery viewing, Rosa starts to investigate a possible lead from a director at a film company. She soon finds out that an actor from their recent film has been murdered. Rosa also finds out about an old murder of a researcher whose work was stolen to benefit a rival corporation. Finally, on the gallery's opening night The Countess makes an appearance as a ghost and kills the artist whose paintings are on display. In all three cases, the companies were funded by the venture capitalist firm Meltzer Foundation and Rosa finds out that they benefited greatly from all three deaths. Rosa confronts them and also learns that it was The Countess who did the killings after forming a bond with Charles Meltzer, one of two brothers owning the Meltzer Foundation. He tries to kill Rosa as well, but The Countess' old guide Madeline interferes and Rosa helps her to break the bond between The Countess and Charles Meltzer. Freed from the bond, The Countess tries to take revenge on Charles, but is stopped by Rosa and Joey and Rosa helps her to move on. Rosa learns that The Countess broke her bond with her guide Madeline and soon lost her mind; she then bonded with Joe Gould, later Joseph Mitchell, and finally Charles Meltzer.[6]

This game was originally to be released sometime around June 2008, but was delayed for a variety of reasons. However, the game was released on July 22, 2009 to mostly positive reviews.

Two real people are included in the cast of characters: writer Joseph Mitchell returns, as well as New York eccentric Joe Gould.

Blackwell Deception[edit]

The fourth game focuses on Rosa and Joey again and takes place some time after the third game. Rosa receives a call from a former co-worker asking to investigate a case for him. She soon finds out that he has been murdered while investigating a contact given by a psychic Lisa Tenzin. Rosa then proceeds to solve two more murder cases and finds out that Lisa had referred both to a man named Gavin. She confronts the psychic about their deaths and it turns out Gavin had brainwashed her into helping him. Gavin has in fact been "feeding" on their energy to remain immortal. Gavin then captures Rosa and kills Lisa who tries to escape. He brainwashes Rosa into trapping Joey and tries to feed on her. However, Joey escapes and manages to bring Rosa to her senses. As she breaks Gavin's ritual of feeding on her, she accidentally kills him. Since Gavin fed on large amount of Souls he tries to resurrect himself but Lisa's Ghost distracts him. Rosa takes advantage and drags him as well as Lisa's Soul to the Gates where someone unseen stops Gavin from moving on and, in order to punish Gavin for failing his mission, somehow destroys his Soul. After Lisa's departure Rosa, confused by her purpose, decides to track down the organization that was behind Gavin and found a full scale "Ghost Investigation" Agency.[7]

The game was released on October 12, 2011. An updated version was released on October 31, 2013. Notably, this version changed the character portraits from the original comic-style, to a more realistic style matching the other games in the series.

Blackwell Epiphany[edit]

Blackwell Epiphany is the fifth and final game in the series. It was released on April 24, 2014.[8] The game received critical acclaim, and won numerous awards from websites such as Adventure Game Studio and Adventure Gamers. [9][10]

The story starts off with Rosa investigating a condemned building. After freeing a soul, Rosa witnesses a man named George Ostin being shot dead. George's ghost pleads for Rosa's help, knowing that she's a legitimate spirit medium, but before Rosa can take any action, George's ghost is ripped apart by an unknown force.

Rosa investigates George's death and, through the trail of several other ghosts, uncovers the existence of a church-based self-help group known as the Grace Group. Every member is in danger of dying or already dead, and their ghosts are in danger of being torn apart by an unknown force instead of moving on. With the help of Madeline, the former spirit guide of the Countess, Rosa and Joey are able to protect most of the souls. Later, however, Madeline betrays everyone by revealing that she had been ripping the souls herself to absorb them and gain their life force, and that she had targeted the Grace Group because their souls were exceptionally weak. Madeline explains that she wants nothing more than to end her several centuries of thankless work as a spirit guide, and intends to return to life because she cannot pass on. She absorbs the souls of the remaining Grace Group members and possesses Rosa's body, effectively returning to life. Joey is able to extract Madeline from Rosa's body, but in doing so, Rosa's mind becomes overloaded with "the knowledge of the universe", and is driven insane the same way as her aunt and grandmother before her. Madeline reveals that she was responsible for driving the other Blackwell women insane by attempting to possess them, but failing due to her insufficient life force and the emotional weakness of the host. Madeline's occupancy then departure would cause the universe to fill the void left behind and overstimulate the mediums' senses.

Rosa is placed in solitary confinement at Bellevue Mental Hospital. With the help of Joey and the ghost of her late aunt, Rosa gains temporary control over her immense knowledge, and explains that Madeline is now threatening to wipe out all life in New York in an attempt to forcibly vaporize her own soul by drawing in the power of the universe through a portal. Rosa and Joey escape the hospital, and confront Madeline. Rosa takes control of the portal and subsequently allows every departed soul currently in the world to flow through her and pass on, Madeline and her aunt included. Joey, however, is still unable to pass on. The portal closes. Rosa, losing control of her mind again, decides to pass her life force to Joey with her remaining power. Joey's body becomes corporeal as he is properly alive again, and Rosa dies.

The end scene shows Joey spreading Rosa's ashes over the docks where Rosa had spread her aunt's ashes at the beginning of the series. Joey monologues about how he has tried to look for spirits to help since Rosa's death by investigating the scene of a recent highway accident following rumors of disembodied screams and cries, but finds that he is no longer able to hear and see ghosts like before. Uncertain of what to do now that he is just a regular human again, Joey merely concludes that "life is worth living", and promises to live it out fully to honor Rosa's sacrifice.

Staff[edit]

Task Game
The Blackwell Legacy Blackwell Unbound Blackwell Convergence Blackwell Deception Blackwell Epiphany
Coding & writing Dave Gilbert
Character art Ian Schlaepfer Erin Robinson Shane Stevens Ben Chandler
Background art Tom Scary, Chris Femo Luminous Arts, Karen Petrasko Indrek Plavutski Ben Chandler
Additional art Eyal Jammer Eyal Jammer, Julie Gilberg Eyal Jammer, Jenna Leder Shane Stevens, Eyal Jammer, Jenna Leder, Emma Grahn, Jose Navarro, Luminous Arts, Ian Schlaepfer
Music Peter Gresser Thomas Regin

Characters and voice actors[edit]

Rosangela Blackwell - Rosa is a textbook introvert: she keeps mostly to herself and has almost no friends, likely a consequence of having been raised under numerous foster homes following the institutionalization of her aunt at Bellevue Mental Hospital as a child, and her parents' untimely demise in a car accident when she was 5. Rosa is the third medium in the Blackwell family. Rosa moonlights as a writer in order to support her ghost hunting activities, though her books rarely sell, if they're even published. Though highly intelligent and tough, Rosa lacks social skills and her lack thereof often leads to her receiving multiple restraining orders whilst on the job. She's also described as emotionally strong, as she actually comes to accept her job has a spirit medium, unlike her predecessors. She becomes somewhat of a coffee addict as the series progresses, as her job as a medium forces her to work almost exclusively at night.

As a spirit medium, Rosa's mind houses a portal to "the universe", where spirits can fly towards the light and properly "move on". Using a tie Joey still wears around his neck, Rosa can drag self-aware ghosts into her mind and allow them to move on, stopping the ghost from haunting a part of New York. While described as a safe and calming space, Rosa's mind is far from a sanctuary, as it can be visited by other supernatural forces to affect the ghosts currently en route to passing on.

Joey Mallone - Joey is a ghost who originally lived during 1920s New York, and had worked as a tailor. He died in a gunfight with mobsters while trying to protect his assistant, Danny, from late payments to loan sharks. He was helped by Madeline and the Countess to move on before suddenly getting tied down to the Blackwell family once Madeline was banished by the Countess shortly afterwards. Joey is bold, snarky, and sarcastic, often condescending towards Rosa and Lauren due his own bitterness at the eternity of his job and the fact that he is physically limited to be within 30 ft. from his host at any given time. However, he genuinely cares about the Blackwell women, and would do everything he can to protect them when they're in danger. As a spirit guide, he links his host to the spirit world and is responsible for getting ghosts inside his host's mind once they're ready to move on. Because he's also invisible to most people and non-corporeal, he can spy on others, create distractions, and enter restricted areas. Up until Rosa finally met with Lauren's ghost, Joey was the only source of knowledge from whom Rosa could learn anything about her family.

Lauren Blackwell - Rosa's aunt on her dad's side, and her predecessor as a spirit medium. Lauren had spent most of her adult life in the 70s as a spirit medium, albeit with great reluctance as it forced her to all but sever her close relationship with her younger brother, Rosa's dad. Like Rosa, Lauren was forced to a reclusive night owl lifestyle in New York City during her tenure as a medium, and coped with her problems via smoking, akin to Rosa's eventual coffee addiction. Lauren is rarely seen passionate about anything, for the most part being disdainful and sarcastic towards Joey, but can be fierce and resolute when she believes in doing something. However, unlike Rosa, Lauren can be very charming, and generally had an easier time getting information from people. After the sudden death of her younger brother, Lauren adopted Rosa and tried to retire from her work as a medium, but her parental role was cut short by Madeline, who tried and failed to possess her, leaving Lauren with a broken mind and institutionalized at Bellevue Mental Hospital. By the time Rosa becomes a medium, Lauren died of natural causes after spending 25 years bed-ridden. A comical conversation in the final game shows that Lauren had anticipated that Rosa would one day become a medium, going so far as to dress up Rosa's favorite teddy bear with a fedora and tie in hopes of easing her into Joey's future presence.

Sam Durkin - Rosa's sole ally at the NYPD. Durkin is a homicide detective, and sometimes employs Rosa to generate a lead on either cold cases or fresh cases where the victim is difficult to ID. This gives Rosa a second source of income without having to rely on her measly book sales. He is aware of her apparent supernatural abilities to know things others don't, but doesn't know any of the details at his own request. Because he has to play politics at the police station, he is forced to keep his distance and much of his information from Rosa, much to the latter's chagrin. Despite the tenuous working relationship, Durkin does try his best to support Rosa when he can, as he is actually the police officer who saved Rosa from her aunt's violence when Lauren originally went insane.

Jocelyn Contis - Better known by her later alias: "The Countess." Jocelyn was a NYC spirit medium in the 1920s. Little is known about her other than the fact that she exhibited traits common to the youth of her era and class: well-dressed, enjoys dancing, and very rebellious. Her spirit guide was Madeline. She absolutely hated her job as a spirit medium, as it had greatly detracted from her social lifestyle, and eventually banishes Madeline by trapping her inside her own portal to the universe in an attempt to rid herself of the responsibility of funneling restless ghosts to the afterlife. With Madeline gone, Jocelyn would eventually devolve into insanity and latch onto other humans to serve as a makeshift spirit guide. By the 1970s, Jocelyn had become a senile old lady who would murder anyone the news reporter, Joseph Mitchell, had written about, claiming that she was helping them. Her strength alone is supernatural, as even in her old age, she could choke anyone to death in a matter of seconds, and is surprisingly quick on her feet. Even in death decades later, her soul possessed the power to directly attack and kill other living beings through strangulation.

Madeline - Last name unknown. Madeline is Jocelyn's original spirit guide. Her origins are unknown, but her speech pattern and dress suggest she was of royal or noble descent during the Victorian England era. Madeline had spent centuries serving multiple hosts as a spirit guide. She is very disciplined, able to hide her emotions through a thick veil of composure and modesty. Though she was heavily implied to have been a kind and caring woman once upon a time, Madeline is now an apathetic being who wants nothing more than to pass on, as centuries of spirit work has proven to be thankless and unfulfilling. After Jocelyn banishes her, Madeline spent decades in limbo, where she would plot return to life again as it was impossible for her to pass on. Her selfish actions directly affected the Blackwell family for the worse, and is literally the sole reason why Rosa was unable to grow up with a proper family.

Nishanti Sharma - Rosa's next door neighbor, an Indian immigrant who lives alone with her dog. She is effectively Rosa's only real human friend for the entire series, and more or less her pipeline into the "normal" side of modern NYC. She is largely unaware of Rosa's supernatural abilities and job, but is borderline psychic in her own right, offering insights and observations that ultimately points Rosa towards other ghosts. Friendly and warm to everyone she meets, Nishanti is a textbook extrovert directly contrasting the introverted Rosa. Her influence allows Rosa to form vital connections with other people, generating additional leads for Rosa's work. She starts traveling a lot later in the series, interacting with Rosa only through email during that time.

Character Game
The Blackwell Legacy Blackwell Unbound Blackwell Convergence Blackwell Deception Blackwell Epiphany
Rosangela Blackwell Sande Chen (original)
Rebecca Whittaker (re-release)
  Rebecca Whittaker
Joey Mallone Abe Goldfarb
Kelly Hawthorne Chen-yung Hsu  
Adrian Tucker Thomas Tucker  
Nishanthi Sharma Ruth Weber   Nonie Craige  
Jim Burdo Matt Garnder  
Dr. Quentin Joe Rodriguez   Joe Rodriguez
Hospital Guard Francisco Gonzalez  
Alli Montego Chen-yung Hsu  
Bob Dave Dodson  
Susan Lee Jennifer Estaris  
The Deacon John Swist  
Demon Dave Gilbert  
Moti Cooper Kaplan  
Lauren Blackwell   Dani Marco   Dani Marco
Isaac Brown   Daryl Lathon  
Mavis Wilcox   Chen-Young Hsu  
The Countess   Stephanie Cox-Williams Ronica Reddick   Sarah Elmaleh
Cecil Sharpe   Daryl Lathon  
Dwayne   Francisco Gonzalez  
Joseph Mitchell   Dave Gilbert  
Harriet Sherman   Shelly Smith  
Sam Durkin   Francisco Gonzalez   Francisco Gonzalez
Jack Blackwell   Dave Gilbert  
Columbia Operator   Julia Detar  
New York Receptionist   Brandon Van Slyke  
Allen Reiken   Brian Silliman  
Josie Park   Shelly Smith-Shenoy  
Claude Urdin   Daryl Lathon  
Monique Stahlman   Ronica Reddick  
Minetta Bartender   Dave Gilbert  
Paul Meltzer   Marcus Weems  
Frank Lyons   Francisco Gonzalez  
Charlie Meltzer   Dave Gilbert  
Madeline   Nonie Craige Jennifer Holmes Miranda Gauvin
Joe Gould   Marcus Weems  
Martin Goldwater   Marcus Weems  
Ryan Jacobs   Michael Gambino  
Jeremy Sams   Edward Bauer  
Madison Haines   Shelly Shenoy  
Penelope Haines   Jennifer Holmes  
Nurse   Mercedes Rose  
Receptionist   Julia Doolittle  
Danny Marconi   Dave Gilbert  
Lisa Tenzin   Rachel Rydzewski  
Tiffany Walters   Miranda Gauvin  
Rachel Abu   Jennifer Holmes  
Sterling   Dave Gilbert  
Kenneth Sharpe   Daryl Lathon  
Elaine Appleton   Mercedes Rose  
Jamie Graham   Sara Elmaleh  
Seb Frederick   Dave Gilbert  
Gavin   Brian Silliman  
Mary Meehan   Erin Winebark
George Ostin   Jim Mullins
Ostin's Doorman   Eli Green
Gabriel Ullman   Jim Mullins
Abacus Clerk   Corbett Villarrial
Emil Haskins   Andy Chmelko
Michael Cooper   Phillip Callen
Lia Pierro   Drea Lorriane
Kendra Haskins   Samantha Rosen
Cory Palmer   Andy Chmelko
Peter Fielding   Dave Gilbert
Tanya Corsey   Manini Gputa
Heather Goffstein   Shelly Shenoy
Maggie Fielding   Anna Berry
Jim Peebles   Jim Mullins
Ray   Kenwyn Dapo
Valantini Bartender   April-Ann Tass
Benjiro Hatori   Dave Gilbert

Reception[edit]

Adventure Gamers gave 3.5/5 to the first four games,[11][12][13][14] and 4.5/5 to Epiphany.[15] GameZebo gave 3.5/5 stars to Legacy and Unbound, 4/5 stars to Convergence and Epiphany, and 4.5/5 stars to Deception.[16][17][18][19][20]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Wadjet Eye Games (23 December 2006). The Blackwell Legacy. PC. 
  2. ^ [1] Archived February 23, 2007, at the Wayback Machine.
  3. ^ Gilbert, Dave. "Another question for the fans: Blackwell upgraded!". Retrieved 25 November 2012. 
  4. ^ Wadjet Eye Games (4 September 2007). Blackwell Unbound. PC. 
  5. ^ [2] Archived February 27, 2008, at the Wayback Machine.
  6. ^ Wadjet Eye Games (22 July 2009). Blackwell Convergence. PC. 
  7. ^ Wadjet Eye Games (12 October 2011). Blackwell Deception. PC. 
  8. ^ Schulenberg, Thomas (March 15, 2014). "Pre-order Blackwell Epiphany for April 24, become a medium". Joystiq. Retrieved April 6, 2014. 
  9. ^ http://www.adventuregamestudio.co.uk/site/games/game/1870/
  10. ^ http://www.adventuregamers.com/articles/view/28100/page2
  11. ^ "Review of Blackwell Legacy". Adventure Gamers. Retrieved April 23, 2014. 
  12. ^ "Review of Blackwell Unbound". Adventure Gamers. Retrieved April 23, 2014. 
  13. ^ "Review of Blackwell Convergence". Adventure Gamers. Retrieved April 23, 2014. 
  14. ^ "Review of Blackwell Deception". Adventure Gamers. Retrieved April 23, 2014. 
  15. ^ "Review of Blackwell Epiphany". Adventure Gamers. Retrieved August 22, 2015. 
  16. ^ "Review of Blackwell Legacy". GameZebo. Retrieved April 23, 2014. 
  17. ^ "Review of Blackwell Unbound". GameZebo. Retrieved April 23, 2014. 
  18. ^ "Review of Blackwell Convergence". GameZebo. Retrieved April 23, 2014. 
  19. ^ "Review of Blackwell Deception". GameZebo. Retrieved April 23, 2014. 
  20. ^ "Review of Blackwell Epiphany". GameZebo. Retrieved August 22, 2015. 

External links[edit]