This post is about the recently released fifth and final installment of the Blackwell series of adventure games, Blackwell Epiphany by Wadjet Eye Games. Being the fifth and again, FINAL installment and considering that I’ve already written about the first four games, I’m not going to avoid spoilers in this post. If you haven’t already, go play the entire series. They’re great and inexpensive.
Joey Mallone is dead.
Heh, just in case you hadn’t left yet. That’s not a spoiler. Get out of here.
With the release of Epiphany, which without the miracle of cut-and-paste I’m guaranteed to misspell ten different ways, I sped my way through the first four Blackwell games again to reacquaint myself with the story (though with a 9-month-old baby at home, “sped” is a relative term).
It’s funny, I re-read my old posts on the series (ugh, I hate reading my old stuff) and while I still agree with most of my sentiments about the games there was one paragraph that stood out to me:
“My only major criticism of the series is that the third game got too deep into the meaning of the legacy that Blackwell women pass down. I understand that people perhaps want to know why Joey Mallone is bound to the family and what his greater purpose is, but I’m content in not knowing – or at least getting that information in pieces rather than it being the focus of the game. My attraction to the series is solving murders and helping the restless spirits of the victims move on. I guess I’m not ready for the Blackwell series to end just yet and knowing the how and the why of the story brings me unwillingly closer to its finish.”
It’s still true, figuring out how to help ghosts move on to the afterlife is still my favorite part of these games. I love that series-long sound effect of blowing wind that plays whenever a ghost finally realizes that they’re dead; it gets me every time.
However, replaying the Blackwell games all over again, back-to-back, let me experience the story in one giant arc and I felt like I was seeing them with new eyes. I thought for sure I’d burn out before I finally got to the new, fifth game, but that wasn’t the case and I wanted to keep going. Particularly at the end of the fourth game, Deception, when Rosa swore vengeance against the shadowy organization of happy-thought vampires, I was soooo on board. I was ready to knock down doors (or glide through them angrily as this particular case may be).
Speaking of, how fun is it that locked doors don’t mean a thing in the Blackwell series? Locked door? No problem. Send in the ghost sidekick!
Back to my new love affair with the story, at the start of Epiphany I was ready to roll and that beginning scene at the cold, dark, and abandoned drug house set the tone nicely. Anyone standing in Rosa and Joey’s way better take cover. From there things moved briskly and I was right back in it. I wanted to know what the heck was going on, I wanted to know why the women of the Blackwell family had to bear this burden, and I wanted to know who was behind it all.
Some random questions/thoughts:
Whatever happened the leader of the aforementioned happy-thought vampires who was on the phone with Gavin at the end of Deception? When I saw her portrait hanging in the police station in Epiphany I got all riled up. I thought for sure we’d be going after her in this game; nope, no appearance whatsoever.
Contis –> Countess? Nice. I actually wouldn’t have minded a few more playable scenes with that character since her attitude reminded me of Rosa’s Aunt Lauren, who I really liked as the main character of Unbound. Though I get why the Countess’ scenes were limited as they might have been too distracting from Rosa’s main mission and perhaps removed a little too much of the mystery surrounding Joey’s death.
Another of my favorite recurring parts of the series is when you walk into a room for the first time and it’s empty. Then, appearing from thin air is a dead person, floating and trapped in the mortal world. That feeling of “uh-oh, now we have a case!” was always exhilarating. But, the little girl… Ugggggghhhh. It was unexpected and just a punch to the gut. The set up for it was perfect; heading into this seemingly abandoned suburban home, the piano playing… Ugggghhhhhh.
The ending of Epiphany didn’t quite pack the punch that I hoped it would and that’s pretty much my fault. The game had been released and out for weeks before I could finally start playing it and following Wadjet Eye Games on Twitter meant seeing a lot of retweets from players exclaiming over the game’s ending and how it made them cry. Seeing those retweets over and over again made me unwillingly ready myself for a dramatic finish to the series—I should have just temporarily muted their Twitter feed until I could finish the game. Further, when I saw that I nearing the very end of the game I should have saved it for a time when I had some quiet at home (which is pretty much never, but still); these days I’m lucky to snatch even 15 minutes of uninterrupted game-playing time. When I reached the end of Epiphany I chose a poor moment to try to finish it up and the game didn’t get to throw the emotional punch it wanted to. Bummer.
If you’re still here reading this, sorry that the last few paragraphs were so rambling and thanks for sticking around. Like I said, I’ve already written about these games before so this post was a chance to release a few disconnected thoughts. The Blackwell series of games deserve a bust on the Mount Rushmore of adventure games—put Joey’s head right up there. They’re smart and accomplish that rare feat of combining storytelling that you actually want to hear with subtle puzzle design that make you feel like a participant rather than just a viewer.
Blackwell Epiphany is the final masterpiece of the series with gorgeous art, crisp dialog and voice acting, immaculate attention to detail, and a well-plotted structure. Go play all five games, each one is worth the time.