There’s something special about the ending of a series. Be it one of books, movies, or games, there’s an excitement that builds in fans as they anticipate the resolution to come. Unfortunately, as I’ve commented in at least one previous review, endings are hard. And in a way, that’s part of the anticipation of a series finale too — wondering if they’ll “get it right.” Well, I’m happy to say that in the case of the Blackwell series, Wadjet Eye gets it right. The only bad news is that The Blackwell Epiphany is not very accessible to gamers who haven’t played the previous entries in the series. But since the previous games are well worth playing, even that news isn’t really that bad.
In The Blackwell Epiphany, you play as Rosangela Blackwell, the latest member of her family to be tasked by the universe with helping ghosts move on to their eternal rest. She’s not alone, though — she has a helper named Joey who is well-acquainted with spiritual matters, having been a ghost for about a hundred years. In previous games, we’ve learned that Rosangela’s aunt and grandmother have both worked with Joey, and both women ended up insane despite his best efforts to keep them in good health. But we haven’t learned why they lost their minds or why Joey is stuck helping the family, and these are the kind of mysteries fans hope are resolved in this final chapter of the series. I won’t give anything away here, but I will say that I am very satisfied with the resolutions to the series’ overarching questions as well as this game’s mysteries. Quite a few things in the story won’t make sense to anyone who hasn’t played the rest of the series, and although it won’t be completely incomprehensible to them, I’d certainly recommend playing the rest of the games before jumping into this one.
Like the games that came before it, The Blackwell Epiphany is a point & click adventure. You travel between locations, talking to people, picking up objects, and taking notes. You can combine notes that you think are related to each other, and you can use Rosangela’s smart phone to search the web for more information. The results are simple text, and you can’t surf the web blindly, so the search feature is useful without becoming overwhelming.
You can switch between playing as Rosangela and Joey at any time, and while they have to stay in fairly close proximity, both characters bring unique abilities to the table, so using them appropriately is crucial to your success. The developers are to be commended for their implementation of this feature — switching between the two characters requires only one button press or click, they move together or stay where you put them in logical ways, and you never have to make them talk to each other just to pass along information gained when they were separated. Instead, Joey and Rosangela’s chats are the way you gain (very broad) hints when you’re not sure what to do next. I have just one control complaint, and it relates to clicking on objects as Joey. He is a ghost, so he can’t touch things, a fact he will remind you of every time you try to “use” something instead of trying to look at it. I would have preferred that the game simply understand the context and treat “use” as “look” for Joey, but I’ll admit that this is a small complaint, and it does not significantly detract from the fun.
Visually, this game follows the example of its immediate predecessor, and it’s a look I’m happy with. The pixelated visuals hearken back to the heyday of the genre without losing a lot of detail or making things difficult to see. The character portraits are drawn well, the environments are detailed and varied, and there are some nice snow effects. There’s even a speed slider in the options menu that will let you turn the characters into speed walkers or slow them to a crawl if you aren’t happy with the pace of the animation. I was forced to go pixel hunting once or twice, but when I did, at least I knew what I was looking for and which room contained my prey.
The Blackwell Epiphany’s script is fully voiced, and its cast does a great job as usual. The main characters’ voices have been high-quality since the first game, and I feel like the NPCs have stepped up their work this game (I specifically noticed the nice job done by a young girl about whom I will say no more to avoid spoilers). Regarding the music, I complained in my reviews of the previous games that “I [felt] like the developers were searching for something that they never really found until maybe [the fourth episode],” and I’m happy to say that this fifth and final game sounds as great as its predecessor. In fact, I think this game’s music may be the best in the series. It fits the setting, creates the proper mood, and the tunes that are supposed to tie together do so well.
The Blackwell series has been good all along, with a great overarching storyline that kept me interested even in those moments when a puzzle was frustrating. I’m delighted that the final game in the series capitalizes on all that came before and delivers a solid, satisfying ending. It’s unfortunate (but unavoidable) that doing so makes The Blackwell Epiphany a challenge to play and understand for anyone who hasn’t played the rest of the series, but it’s the kind of ending that makes it easy for me to recommend the entire Blackwell series to anyone who likes the point & click genre.