Sunday, January 22, 2012

The Blackwell Legacy and City Folk

The Blackwell Legacy
Platform: PC (experienced through Steam)
Developer: Wadjet Eye Games
N.A. Release: December 2006

Here's a riddle for you: How is New York City like an old-fashioned point-and-click adventure? They both exist under a set of rules that feel almost entirely outside the rest of known reality.

So if you're going to recreate all the for-better-or-worse traits of such games, why not set The Big Apple as your backdrop? Developer Dave Gilbert has made the city somewhat of his signature, creating games such as The Shivah, in which you play as a New York rabbi, and the Blackwell series, where a reclusive woman inherits a ghost.

She probably would've just been happy to get the dining set.
Playing through the first Blackwell title, The Blackwell Legacy, I find myself both fascinated by the main character, Rosangela “Rosa” Blackwell, and wondering if she's too stereotypically “urban.” See, playing as Rosa is setting yourself in the shoes of a neurotic and socially cringe-worthy character. This is not just to flavor the dialogue, although it certainly does; her anxieties also work into some of the puzzles.

One of Rosa's first tasks is to get into her own apartment building, as the substitute doorman does not recognize her (and in fact believed her apartment to have always been empty). She must find her next-door neighbor, to whom she's never introduced herself, to vouch for her. As per point-and-clicks, it's of course no simple matter, but the reasoning does feel somewhat more “real” than you'd find in other titles. Rosa's neighbor is performing for a group of people, and repeated attempts to simply walk up to her will reveal a long, labored monologue in which Rosa tries to psyche herself up to make a scene in public and... just can't. It's a bit sad, really, and you have to find alternate means to make the neighbor come to you.

That's what she--no. Not doing that here.

As you might remember from my Blaze the Cat post, I adore the art of inner monologue and enjoy the depth it adds in The Blackwell Legacy, too. Put it in New York City, though, and something just feels a bit overdone about it.

Maybe I'm just a country boy who never got it, but it seems almost every “urban” female in media—and especially ones in New York City—are either skanky and manipulative socialite/professionals (hi, Sex and the City!) or the female incarnations of Woody Allen. You're either an insanely beautiful queen of the concrete or an adorkable hipster. There are few in-betweens.

Is that really how it is in the big city, though? How can a place with so many people, that is prided on being a mix of the world's cultures and ways, be portrayed in ways that always feel so similar?

Oh, well. This is just nitpicking, really. I doubt this will affect my enjoyment of the game as I continue. I especially love the old-timey use of Video Graphics Array (VGA). Not only is it classic, but its restrictive animation style melds very well with Rosa's awkwardness in socializing and showing emotion. 

But I'm keeping my eye out. If this game even shows me the word “appletini,” I will puke.

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