“Blackwell Unbound” Review

Introduction. Dave Gilbert, the first full-time AGS game developer, has recently released the long-awaited prequel to “The Blackwell Legacy”, “Blackwell Unbound”. But as the standards are set high by his previous games, does his latest creation meet them?
Plot. You play Lauren Blackwell, a bitter medium in New York in her quest to relieve lost souls in the city, and her sidekick, Joey. The ghosts the duo has to set free in this game are two and seemingly disconnected – a lonely saxophone player and a middle-aged social outcast. During the game you get to meet a wide variety of characters – from a journalist to a Jamaican music producer, all of which have their own agenda, as well as secrets. Characterisation has always been a trait of Dave’s games, and he follows his principles again this time. The story is wonderfully told, and at the end you really feel like you’ve experienced something special. Thumbs up, Dave.
Graphics. This time, Erin “The Ivy” Robinson (creator of “Spooks”) is fully responsible for the graphics, and her work is truly remarkable. All the backgrounds are immensely detailed, as are the characters. The animations seem smooth and fluent. On the whole, the visuals of the game not only help to convey the story to the player, but add a great deal of atmosphere themselves.
Music and sound. The aspect of the game which absolutely made my day though was the music, created by Thomas Regin. The slow saxophone which prevails over the title theme just IS the game itself, and each and every track on the game’s soundtrack just screams atmosphere. The style of the music is mostly late night jazz, although it occasionally varies. I don’t know if the composer responsible for the soundtrack has any releases, but I’m sure I’ll look for his name in the future. The sound effects in the game are also on par. The cast voicing the game is also good, with the two leads being particularly on form. There were some slight volume problems with some characters, although these are few and far between.
Gameplay. Dave sticks to his tendency not to emphasise on inventory-based puzzles, and it is once again all for the better. Instead of thinking how to use the chewing gum with the dog leash, you make logical connections between clues and facts, and spend time interrogating characters. As you control two characters in this game, a considerable amount of the puzzles involve co-operation between them. Also, each of them has their own methods and traits, and this is well-integrated into the gameplay. You can also solve the two cases separately, which Dave claims is non-linearity, although your actions don’t actually affect the story. The playing time varies, although a good guess would be about four hours. “Blackwell unbound” is a game which is both challenging and fun to play.
Although the version I played was the first released to the public, there were no major bugs and just a few very minor technical flaws of no importance. Once you finish the game, there is a ton of bonus features. DVD-style commentary, additional music, interview with Erin Robinson and bloopers, to name a few. For the inexperienced players, there is also an in-game tutorial. The game is available either as a download for ten dollars, or on CD for twice as much. The CD version also includes a separate cd with the soundtrack. I personally consider the price to be more than fair, for what Dave’s offering.
Conclusion. Dave Gilbert loves what he’s doing, and this is quite obvious in his latest game. A masterfully woven story, pretty graphics and a soundtrack which could have been composed by Angelo Badalamenti make it a must have for all fans of the adventure genre. One can only eagerly anticipate what Dave is going to do next.

Overall score:
95%

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