After checking out the trailer for Vision Games Publishing LTD’s Blackwood Crossing, I was expecting another typical mystery puzzle game, but it’s much more than that.
You start your journey staring out of the window of what appears to be a traditional English train… Your younger brother is being typically annoying, so you go to investigate the trouble he’s causing… Gradually, you realise that this is no ordinary train journey, as things start to become more and more surreal.
As time went on, I grew more and more frustrated with little elements of Blackwood Crossing. The design of the train carriages didn’t quite seem right; a classic Victorian carriage, with sockets? Finn, the younger brother, was becoming increasingly irritating (as I can imagine younger siblings can be). I also found the movement speed too slow, especially during a particular sections which involved puzzles which require you to go back and forth between elements. Without any option to increase the movement speed, only the look sensitivity, I had to just persevere.
Another frustration with Blackwood Crossing is that sometimes it feels like the story loses its way. Scarlett, the young lady you play as, gains these special powers, but you’re not entirely sure how or why. You soon realise that they’re to solve particular puzzles, but even now I have no idea what the relevance of these abilities are.
Then, it suddenly clicked. Without spoiling anything, the purpose of the story suddenly became clear. It was at this point, about half an hour before the end, that the emotional aspect of Blackwood Crossing hit. And it hit, hard.
Blackwood Crossing calls itself a “story-driven adventure game”, which I’m not disagreeing with. However, the “adventure” plays much like a puzzle-adventure game of the point-and-click variety. A particular scenario, which I felt worked really well, had you matching up different sides of a piece of dialog between two NPCs. It made you concentrate on what they were discussing, and really take in the story. This is a mechanic used throughout the entire game, and really drives the story forward.
Graphically, Blackwood Crossing is a good looking game, employing the “stylised-reality” theme seen in games such as We Happy Few and Bioshock Infinite. This style plays well with the surreal-fantasy elements of the game, and allows the story to take precedence. The styling of additional characters instantly grab your interest, and portrays each personality perfectly. For example, because each additional character wears a mask (I won’t tell you why, you have to wait to find out), each are instantly recognisable, and allow you to easily identify who are members of your family.
One slight let down was the voice recording. There appears to be times when the actor playing Finn loses his accent, pulling you out of the immersion. Other lines, for other characters, sometimes came across as slightly disjointed from the conversation, and didn’t portray the emotion fully that you were expecting. However, the soundtrack which accompanies the adventure stays true to the overall feel of the game. Giving an excellent base to the emotion of specific scenes, and allowing you to roll through the adventure beautifully.
In summary, I felt Blackwood Crossing lost its way at points, but never fully lost me. The constant pull of finding out what the hell was going on, was too strong. The story, itself, is an emotional rollercoaster, one minute leaving you cursing the antics of Finn, the next finding yourself chuckling at his endearing stupidity. This is a game that you must play to truly understand just why it is such an emotional rollercoaster. I can honestly say, that Blackwood Crossing is the first game to ever make me shed a tear, it was that powerful.
Blackwood Crossing isn’t a long game, taking around two and a half hours to complete, but it’s one you can certainly go back to. Sure, the story won’t have its original twists and turns, but there are items strewn throughout for you to collect, and dialogues to revisit to really understand your first experience. If you enjoyed the story-driven wonder that is Firewatch, you won’t go far wrong with this.
Blackwood Crossing is now available on Xbox One for £12.29.