Blackwood crossing at its heart is a beautiful game, not only in its visuals but in its soul. To talk about a soul of a game is a difficult and often a strange thing to comprehend. It most often exists, in my eyes, in games that have been worked on with care and love. The attention to emotional humanistic detail shows in this game and shines through as its most prominent feature. I expected this game to be much like Life is Strange, but its much more than this. Its more a combination of Life is Strange, We Happy Few and a point and click adventure. The choices you make in conversation make less immediate impact than any ‘Tell Tale’ style of game, but are ones which you feel apart of and help immerse you further into the games story telling experience.
This story driven game is a tale of memories, love and loss. You play the part of a young teenage girl named Scarlett who mostly interacts with her younger brother Finn. The game is in first person, but lends itself well to this. Unlike a lot of games in first person, reflections are true (even when you are holding something) and looking down at your feet is possible for a completely immersive experience. This game would infact also lend itself well to a VR experience. The game’s first person works well for the majority of its location, a train. The tight carriages, low ceilings and seating quarters would most likely glitch out in 3rd person and the tunnel vision of first person in this scenario also helps you feel like you are only seeing what you are supposed to. There are certain magical elements to this game which also lend itself well to this but visually can be lost if you were so happened to be facing the wrong way only to get a glimpse. Often I wished I was forced to view something, rather than missing it on the basis that I was hunting for objects in the same scene and puzzle, so looking in the wrong direction. At times I had seen a glimpse of something only to realise I should have been looking straight at a character rather than at a poster or object I could possibly click on.
In your first person view, you are told a story. This story revolves around character memories. As you explore your environment, seemingly ordinary objects could be part of a puzzle so it is always worth hunting for later. A few objects are purely for story enhancement but can be missed, these are normally also tied to achievements one object at a time. As you explore your environment you are normally tasked with progressing along the train carriage to the other side. You do this by solving point and click memory problems or by interacting with environmental objects. This is sometimes where the game falls short and frustration can set in. You can be right in front of something and unable to select it, but then at a really awkward angle you can. This probably has something to do with the animation of picking something up or a character being able to look at you, but its margin for error is quite small in a lot of situations which can be frustrating. I have missed objects and collectables because of this and only noticed a quick flicker of an action that can take place once walking past it again.
The skill level for this game is interesting. Its a game which any skill level can play, and even in moments that seem like you are pressured to compete quickly, you can take your time over to figure out or explore. Because of this the game difficulty is definitely in the lower end of the scale but one which lends its self well to telling a story, rather than stumping you so much you fail to see it through.
The completion time for this game is around 2-4 hours. This also includes hunting for collectables. This game could definitely be completed in under 1:30 hours if you knew what you were searching for. From an achievement hunting point of view this is great as it means you can easily pop back to a point you missed second time around quite quickly, enjoying the story on the first without any worry of missing anything without a detrimental time consuming effect. From a gameplay point of view this could be better. The storyline is intriguing and inventive. This game would be named a page turner if it were to be a book. Unfortunately this book is very short, and although a great game, I longed for much more. Hopefully there will be more to come from this developer in this style.
There is one game mode, the story. Its a single player, offline experience which I would wish to be nothing else than this. Co-op would ruin this game’s feel and visuals. Taking your time to enjoy your surroundings is a major part of this game’s experience, and that what this game is, an experience.
Visually and auditory this game hits the mark. With great British believable voice acting and immersive visuals and character animations. The controls could be better which I shall come back to. Although probably somewhat sacrilege to say, the voice acting and vintage train ride is very reminiscent of Harry Potter. Theres are also magical powers which also lend themselves to my analogy.
The controls of this game can be quite tedious and sometimes unnecessary. Picking up an item and then putting it away is more for visual effect than gameplay, although holding an item can get in the way of you searching for something new to pick up. As earlier mentioned, things that are intractable can be irritating to click on, and getting from one part of a scene to the next can feel sluggish if you feel the need to hunt around. A running or quicker walking feature would have been a well welcomed addition to this game as it often feels like you are walking with bricks tied to your shoes. I would imagine this is in place to stop you running into characters as they are animating ahead of you, but could have just been enabled when a visual error cant be caused.
The visuals in this game are great. The simplistic art style lends itself well to the dreamy magical world of children and teenage reminisce of early child hood without feeling like it has been created this way for speed. For me this art style cant be faulted. Its exactly the way it should be for the story that is being told. In-fact it was the art style that originally drew me into this game, that and the premise of a story driven game in first person. It can be a risk for game developers to try something new, but this has been achieved greatly here. As earlier mentioned, this feels like a love project that has been thought about with great care. It has’t been over advertised, it hasn’t even been sold to me beyond the point of seeing a quick teaser online, but thats all it took. Its price tag can seem a little steep for the time it takes to complete, but I would urge you to contribute to this developer in hope that more games are to be made in a similar vain.
Load times feel like near to none once the game is loaded for the first time, and for its quality the game is quite small in size. This is ideal if you wish to keep it on your HDD for others to play without taking up space for other titles.
In summary, Blackwood Crossing is a game I will remember. Ultimately thats whats great about this game. So many AAA titles look great, sound great and have great gameplay, but often are forgotten purely because of their lack of innovation. This however is new and enjoyable. It will hit you at your core as you understand its soul. Play it undisturbed, take your time and enjoy it for what it is, a story unfolding that you are lucky to be playing a part of.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Microsoft Xbox One code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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