Game: The Blackwell Bundle
Release Date (Windows): December 23, 2006 (The Blackwell Legacy)
Release Date (Mac OS): n/a
CrossOver Profile: n/a
WineHQ AppDB entry: The Blackwell Legacy
IMG Review: n/a
Test Platform: MacBook (Late-2006; GMA 950, 10.6.8, CX 11.2), MacBook Air (11.6", 2010; GeForce 320M, 10.7.4, CX 11.2)
Marjorie couldn't believe her eyes. She'd made known far and wide, to many others, her interest in the unusual, the extraordinary. After all, it was her duty, being the curator of the recently opened museum in London, a position which carried with it the responsibility of cataloguing all sorts of new and interesting wonders. Sure, she'd inevitably correct people with the truth that no, it wasn't really London, but New London, and it wasn't really in England, but South Africa, but it didn't really matter if she was the curator of a museum in London or Timbuktu. If it was unusual, and if it was interesting, she had to know about it. What Marjorie saw now, right in front of her, on a dock in South Africa, drenched in the scent of brine and fish, certainly qualified as interesting. As a matter of fact, it ended up being the last thing she'd ever imagine seeing.
Thus was the (admittedly embellished) story of Marjorie Courtenay-Lattimer's (re)discovery of *Lattimeria chalumnae*, better known to the world as the Coelacanth, on December 22, 1938. Thought to be extinct for 65 million years, it was thought to be a species of ancient fish that existed only in the faded memories of obscure amateur South African biologists and archaic fossils. Fourteen years would pass until the next specimen would be caught, and much to the surprise of many, the Coelacanth population, while small, actually ranged around the Eastern African coast (even including a second subspecies in Indonesia, with a relatively youthful age of 30-40 million years). Its rarity and biological significance have not been lost to both scientists and politicians, with a significant investment made by the South African government towards Coelacanth research and conservation. To biologists, the Coelacanth was back, and it was here to stay.
What once was lost, now am found
The Blackwell Series – specifically it's pilot episode, The Blackwell Legacy – represents to me gaming's own version of the Coelacanth. It is a relic from a bygone age where now-vanished giants roamed the earth; for the Coelacanth, it was the Dinosaurs; for The Blackwell Legacy, it was the classic point-and-click adventure game, embodied in games which sold in the tens of millions but are either forgotten or regarded with sneers at their lack of explosions, terrorists, car chases and assault rifles.
It wouldn't be fair of course to say that The Blackwell Legacy entirely did for point-and-click gaming what the Coelacanth did for its particular group of ancestral fishes. Telltale Games' Season One of its deservedly popular revival of LucasArts' Sam and Max franchise was released a few months before Legacy, and Legacy itself wasn't the first game made by developer Wadjet Eye Games. That honor goes to The Shivah, designer Dave Gilbert's surprisingly dark, mature – and Jewish – take on the "Clergy-Turned-Gumshoe" story popularized by the Father Dowling and Cadfael TV series. Even then, Gilbert's games certainly weren't the first to be made using the popular Adventure Game Studio (AGS) environment, which can trace its history all the way back to 1997. I would however argue that The Blackwell Legacy, and The Blackwell Series as a whole, are still worthy of note. They, in addition to their other fellow Devonian relics like the new Sam and Max series, went a long way to thrust the point-and-click adventure genre back into the consciousness of the gaming mainstream. Riding the tidal wavecrest of the burgeoning indie scene, The Blackwell Series, in addition to Wadjet Eye's other critically-lauded releases, have helped to ensure that plot-driven, literary adventure gaming still has a place in a gaming market seemingly dominated more by bombast and spectacle than narrative and writing.
And in a nice, romantic way, it all kind of ties together, because the heroine of the rediscovery of the Coelacanth in many ways resembles the heroine of The Blackwell Series – a woman thrust into extraordnary circumstances through an incredible discovery she could never have foreseen.