Third time’s the charm…

August 2, 2009

The first review that I wrote for this blog was of a game called “the Blackwell Legacy,” a solid, independently-made adventure game. However, the content of the game was overshadowed by its novelty: with the game’s release, its designer, Dave Gilbert, boldly declared that he was going to make developing adventure games his job.  Now that Gilbert’s studio, Wadjet Eye Games, has become established in the independent gaming scene and released its fifth title, “the Blackwell Convergence,” the games’ novelty has been supplanted by their artistry.

In “the Blackwell Legacy,” players were introduced to Rosa Blackwell, a struggling young journalist who discovered that her family’s history was much more complicated than she thought. Most of the complication, however, stemmed from Joey, an easygoing and charmingly sarcastic spirit guide who haunted the Blackwell family. After a series of fainting-prone introductions, Joey exhorted Rosa to get out of her Lower East Side apartment and help the spirits of the recently departed find their way to the great beyond. Over the course of the game, Rosa succeeds in helping several ghosts, and solves a murder mystery, to boot.  Although being able to talk to the dead and solving a supernatural series of murders might not be anything out of the ordinary for a video game, “Legacy” distinguished itself by mining considerable humor out of Rosa’s awkward attempts to engage a spiritual world that only she can see, though talking to invisible people might not be anything out of the ordinary for New York City.

Where “Legacy” made much of Rosa’s difficult adjustment to her duties as a medium, “Convergence” has Rosa, with a little more experience, try fit her duties into a somewhat normal life. This results in just as many humorous situations, but the characters have become far more nuanced, and react to their circumstances in delightful, believable ways. Between the characters’ clever banter, Rosa and Joey have to solve a case that is adroitly weaved into both the Blackwell family’s travails and a classic mystery in New York City history.

Just as the writing has deepened and matured, every aspect of the game shows just a little more polish than the titles that preceded it.  The graphics pop off the screen, with colorful backgrounds that are sure to engage anyone who’s been to the Manhattan haunts that they depict.  Vivid sprites illustrate the action, and detailed, expressive portraits of the characters accompany the pitch-perfect voice acting. The whole experience plays out like an interactive novella, and it’s difficult to put the game down until you finish it.

Yet, because of all of the game’s great features, because the game is such a joy to play, when the end of the game comes, it’s hard to step away from it without wanting a little more. The story could be just a little longer, the puzzles a little more complex, and at the risk of offending adventure-gaming purists, the graphics could be just a little higher-resolution.  “Convergence” will NOT disappoint you; it’s a perfect way to spend an evening, and you may very well find yourself humming its score long after you’ve left your computer.  But thanks to Wadjet Eye’s impressive progress, it’s going to be even harder to wait for Rosa and Joey’s next great outing.

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