Review: Blackwell Epiphany

“I can’t believe it’s all over.”  That was the only thought my mind could produce after I finished Blackwell Epiphany from developer Wadjet Eye Games.  I was left confused, sad, happy, and a host of other things, but I knew one thing for sure: Epiphany is the intense, beautiful, and refined ending that Blackwell deserves.

 

 

Blackwell Epiphany (currently available on Steam, GOG, and Wadjet Eye) is the fifth and final episode in the Blackwell series, and this long awaited ending caps off a story that has been 8 years in the making.  The iterations made to the gameplay over the last four games all come together here to make a super slick and fun game to play.  Nothing feels clumsy, overtly confusing, or unrealistically contrived (in short, you won’t need a rubber chicken with a pulley in the middle).  You won’t find yourself randomly combining unrelated items in your inventory or clicking on every pixel to find something that you may have missed.  What you will find is rock-solid puzzles that require you to be practical and clever.   Because of this, the game has excellent pacing.  It will nudge you in the right direction by having the characters be very vocal about whether or not something looks usefuI, and if you do find yourself stuck there is a cleverly disguised “hint” system in the dialogue options between Joey and Rosa.  Needless to say, Wadjet Eye has become very good at their craft.  Everything just works and works well.

Epiphany is no slouch in the looks department, either.  Blackwell has gone through several graphical iterations throughout it’s history, but all the games have shared a style.  Here we see that style perfected with gorgeous backgrounds, characters, character portraits, and animations.  This game is littered with graphical treatments that really help to bring the world to life.  Leaving footprints in the snow, the soft yellow glow from a window on a dark night, and snowflakes gently falling to the ground give the game a real sense of polish and craftsmanship that cannot go unnoticed.  Blackwell Epiphany also benefits from having some amazing voice work that really brings the characters to life.  In particular, the work of Abe Goldfarb (voice of Joey Mallone) and Rebecca Whittaker (voice of Rosangela Blackwell) should be noted.  Rosa and Joey would be nothing without them.

Now for my dirty little secret.  When I first started playing The Blackwell Legacy (the first game in the series) I did it out of necessity.  I was hungry for a point-and-click adventure game and I decided to give it a try.  And to be honest, I wasn’t necessarily blown away, but I was certainly intrigued.  So I played another.  And then another, and with each game in the series that I played, I unknowingly fell victim to it’s love-able characters, goofy humor, and captivating story.  The game, along with great pixel art and fun, challenging puzzles, had a quirky sensibility about it that, unbeknownst to me, wormed it’s way into my heart.   Needless to say, I was more than ready to dive into Blackwell Epiphany.  I expected it to be good, but I was shocked at just how good it was.  Epiphany really shines as the final chapter of a five game series.  It is the culmination of years of hard work, mistakes, successes, and iterations.  There is a reverence paid to this game by it’s creators, with fit and finish, hard work, dedication, and love oozing out of every nook and cranny.

Astute readers may have noticed that my review is entirely bereft of anything plot related.  In an attempt to eliminate spoilers, I decided it was best to speak purely of the game’s merits and leave the joy of discovery to the players.  In short, just know that the story is very, very good.  Just like dark chocolate, a hoppy beer, or a fond farewell, Blackwell Epiphany is amazing, bittersweet, and satisfying.  As a fan, I could not ask for more.

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