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Crossing Over: The Blackwell Series
September 3, 2012 | Justin Ancheta
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This ghost is suicidal. Hey, no one said being undead meant being logical.

Getting the "O" out of "GOG"

Six years may be a long time in the technology world, but compared to the other classics in GOG's catalog, like the original Ultima series, or the original text-based Zork, 2006 almost seems like yesterday. In a rather surprising move following a survey done in the early part of 2012, GoodOldGames announced on March 27th that it was going to branch out from its original role as a specialized store for classic PC games. It was a move taking GOG to a more proactive stance, selling more recent games, "new" AAA-level games, and indie games, leading to considerable consternation among many of GOG's loyal fans. Nevertheless, GOG pressed ahead, still professing to adhere to its original mission of providing DRM-free games free from unfair regional pricing. The Blackwell Series GOG's bundle of The Blackwell Legacy, Blackwell Unbound, The Blackwell Convergence, and The Blackwell Deception was one of the first indie releases to hit the newly rebranded "Bigger Fresher Newer" GOG, and out of a flood of indie-level and recent games to come, it was one of the few releases that truly harkened back to the classic aesthetics of GOG's hallowed classics.

No Woman is an Island

The Blackwell Legacy was released in 2006, and due to apparent technical issues with AGS, it has remained a Windows-only title (like all other games created using AGS), even though the underlying runtime engine itself has been ported to Linux and Mac OS X. The basic mechanics of the game are superficially simple, as they are with other point-and-click adventure games; an inventory screen at the top stores collected items and plot-relevant elements of the world, and a conext-sensitive cursor helps the player distinguish between important parts of the world and simple background noise. It does what it needs to do, and gets out of your way when you don't need it to do anything at all. Simple. Dialogue trees are handled using your reporter's notebook, with a rudimentary system that expands dialogue options by combining collected clues. Again, simple.

This brings us to the meat of the game itself, which isn't necessarily in how the game plays mechanically, but in how the game relates the story. You really get a strong sense of Rosangela (Rosa) Blackwell's character and the major thrust of her struggle in the first fifteen minutes of gameplay, that critical period where a good first impression is always key. She's isolated and alone, an island unto herself not out of circumstance, but remarkably, by choice. She's in a place where many of us in the audience can relate to on some level in our current day and age drifing through life, detached and alone from others, attempting to make her way in the world but at the same time not possessing a strong sense of direction or agency. The world is changing and passing her by, and apart from the few manuscript rejection letters and job requests from her editor, she's doesn't mind or care about it at all. The fact that that they arrive in detached, impersonal ways as phone calls with people we never see, and letters under her door left by people we never glimpse adds to our impression of Rosa's disconnectedness from the world. Then comes the call to action - a death in her family, and the unresolved questions that were left behind from the death of her aunt. All of that leads to a chain of events which serve to bring her out of her shell and into the world, further outward than she ever could have imagined.

Rosangela's timid aloofness is a stark contrast against Lauren's utter jadedness in Blackwell Unbound, a "prequel" set thirty or so years prior to Legacy. Rosa speaks in timid, uncertain tones that communicate her continuing struggle to both make sense of, and find herself in the situations she confronts. Lauren on the other hand not only has seemingly made sense of it all, but has come to regard it with a mixture of boredom and disdain. She's tired of the role she has to play, and of the stage show that she's had to perform countless times, over and over again, with her partner, for an audience that doesn't even know why they're there to see it in the first place. Working a thankless job on a seemingly volunteer basis, which consumes almost all of your time and energy, putting you in almost constant danger on a daily basis, in secret, can wear a person out. You could easily understand how it can do a lot of funny and damaging things to the mind, and by the time Lauren and her partner have overcome the game's principal villain, we see the true extent of the damage that can ensue.



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