Life has often been categorized as a series of physical, mental, spiritual and emotional experiences that encompass an individual’s entire existence from birth to death. Over the last several decades, movies, television shows, video games, and cartoons have all succeeded in highlighting these encounters with varying levels of quality, direction, and emotion.
In the case of Blackwood Crossing, UK-based independent game developer PaperSeven decided to tackle these themes head-on and have essentially created one of the most emotionally charged adventure games so far this year. Here are a few more reasons why this title may or may not be worth both your time and money.
Blackwood Crossing is a narrative-driven first-person adventure game that explores the ever-changing relationships of two orphaned siblings aboard a train headed for an undisclosed location. Players take on the role of Scarlett, an older sister going through adolescence and slowly growing apart from her younger brother Finn. As you progress through the storyline, you gradually learn more about the characters by solving various puzzles located throughout all four acts. This game follows a linear path, can take up to three hours or less to complete and is priced reasonably at $15.99 on PS4, Xbox One, and PC.
The single most intriguing aspect about Blackwood Crossing lies solely within the narrative structure that it follows. While the majority of the story takes place on a train ride, the writers cleverly inject a strong sense of magic and surrealism into the overall plot. These decisions lead to transformed environments, odd encounters and fantasy-filled elements that leave the viewer questioning what is really going on. As you start to learn more about the siblings’ past and the conflict before them, you grow attached to these characters and may end up forming your own opinion as to how the story actual ended. This unique storytelling method might not intrigue those who are seeking finality but it definitely will keep the discussion going long after you’ve completed the game.
Graphically, the beautiful art style seen throughout this game is very similar to something akin to a Pixar or DreamWorks animated film. This isn’t surprising given that the team is composed of former Disney Black Rock Studio developers. Their primary goal was to create a game that carries the innocence and wonderment associated with a cartoon but with deeper themes of love, growth, and loss to convey a much stronger message. This dynamic shines brightly from start to finish and is all the more reason why some may be attracted to this title.
As I mentioned above, the core gameplay mechanics revolve around the player solving puzzles to advance the narrative. Most of these puzzles could be as simple as entering an environment where several prominent family members and friends are gathered and going up to each person individually to listen to their dialogue before connecting it with similar words spoken by another person in the same vicinity. Other puzzles could include hide-and-seek sessions with Finn, collecting toy rabbits hidden throughout each act, examining unique objects within each setting, and discovering alternative ways to navigate through obstacles. In addition to all this, there are brief instances where Finn can ask you a question and you can choose one of three ways to respond. This particular feature comes across as an idea that I feel still isn’t fully fleshed out but manages to work to a certain degree.
The musical score and voice acting performances are fantastic and perfectly complement the entire experience. Blackwood Crossing is very much an in-depth character study piece that pulls a wide range of emotions out of whoever is watching or playing it. For this very reason, the soundtrack and dialogue have to be top-notch and I’m happy to say that it is for the most part.
If there’s one criticism that I have about this title it would be that the length of the game was too short for me. Scarlett and Finn are great characters that I wanted to learn even more about and by the time we really start to dive further into their personalities and motives, the story ends. Furthermore, some of the other family and friends that play a role in their lives are only seen through a very limited scope. This is something that may not be a problem for some but if you’re expecting to get a lot of questions answered that relate to the context of the narrative then you might be slightly disappointed.
Overall, Blackwood Crossing is a great adventure game with a story that will pull on your heartstrings. As PaperSeven’s first major release, the development team should be commended for creating such a memorable experience and I personally can’t wait to see what they have planned for future titles down the road.
This review was based on a digital review copy of Blackwood Crossing for the Xbox One provided by PaperSeven.