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Blackwood Crossing review

Blackwater Crossing is a story-driven adventure game, developed by Paper Seven Studios. You play as Scarlet and you lost your brother Finn. Will you be able to find him in this beautiful and weird dream-like world?

Blackwood Crossing review

INTRODUCTION

Blackwood Crossing is a beautifully looking, large story-driven adventure game with puzzle elements.You play the game as Scarlet, an orphan girl looking for her lost little brother named Finn, and the story takes place in a dream world of sorts that Finn has created as a way to show Scarlett how he feels.

You have always been close with Finn, but as you mature and developed new interests like any teen does when he or she grows up. The two of you grow apart and that scares Finn, as you are the only one in this world who really knows him.You wake up suddenly on a train ride with Finn, and the two of you embark on a magical journey as you explore love, life, and loss. The train you wake up in is not a normal train: it's full of fragments of the past, fire that doesn't really burn, and many other magical, ominous things. There is definitely a mystery to be solved there -summoning trains and fire out of thin air are unusual abilities, to say the least- but that's not the part of the story that ended up being the most interesting to me.

Blackwood Crossing is available on the Playstation 4, Xbox One and Steam for $15.99 (€ 15.99, £ 12.99). The game takes about two to three hours to finish, but a lot longer to process the feelings it gives you. The game has been developed by Paper Seven Studios and published by Vision Games Publishing LTD.

Blackwood Crossing review: You used to be very close with Finn

story

Blackwood Crossing is a beautiful game. But most of the times it feels more like an interactive story with puzzle elements, and a great story it is. Finn has created a dangerous and volatile world and it's obvious that he is very angry with his sister. It is up to you to figure out what is wrong with Finn, and why he has these feelings. It is obvious to the player what Finn is feeling, but Scarlet has no clue what she did wrong and why Finn is playing this game with her. There is a tone of exasperation in Scarlett’s voice, a feeling of someone who has grown too old for childish pranks now and one who is tired of having to constantly watch over her younger brother. She isn’t selfish, she has just grown up, and that is part of the problem. This is the best example of how good the writing is. You see, Finn starts out hostile and even a little cruel, and the situation he has placed his sister in feels very dangerous. You are almost inclined to see Finn as the antagonist of this game, if you didn't know what was going through him. He just feels lonely and he misses the only thing that made him feel safe in this world; his big sister. He simply doesn't know how to deal with what he's been through in a more constructive manner.

The two of you lost both your parents when Finn was just a small boy. He is angry and confused by his attempts to reconcile this terrible loss, of a love he has no recollection of experiencing. He copes with this loss and the pain he feels how any other kid would, he plays games. Only the games he plays in the dream world he made are extremely dangerous. Grief is a big part of the story you are trying to unravel.

Blackwood Crossing review: Step into Finn's dream world

gameplay

Like I said before; Blackwood Crossing is a story- driven, first person adventure game. It is made up of various types of light puzzles. Most of them are very easy to figure out, and they don't pose much of a challenge. They are used in clever ways to drive the plot forward and give you an idea of what happened with Scarlet and Finn, and what drove them apart. Much of the first section of the game is focused on listening to short spoken lines and piecing them together into coherent conversations. These do a great job of explaining how Finn and Scarlett became orphans, and how they ended up growing apart.

Most puzzles are easy to figure out, but some of them offer more of a challenge. At one point, part of the train was on fire, and I had to put it out. But the fire extinguisher was locked away behind a case locked with a paper lock (I know, right?). I had a rolled up newspaper that I had to light on fire, to burn up the lock. But every time I walked over to the lock with my burning newspaper, it would burn up with no indication why. Turns out I had to close the windows I was passing because it was blowing out the burning newspaper. It all sounds very logical when you think about it, but logic is the last thing you think about when you need to break open a paper lock that won't tear.

Most of the puzzles are essentially childhood games like go hide and seek, guess the password, coloring and putting pictures in the right order. It feels a bit repetitive at times, but the game solves this by giving us some dialogue about the back story while solving the puzzles. Some will see you using magical abilities to influence your environment, while others will see you piecing together memories. 

While solving puzzles in this magic train made by Finn's wild imagination, Scarlet finds nostalgic things that bring her back to her childhood. Like and old stuffed bunny, or her grandfather greenhouse at the end of the train. I wasn't exaggerating when I said that this train was special!

There are a few technical issues with the game, loading screens between scenes seem to take longer than you would expect for a game that isn’t particularly asset heavy, and at times the prompt window for interacting with objects is very narrow meaning it is easy to miss solutions to problems.

Another downside I noticed while playing the game is the movement speed of the mouse cursor. I have set mouse sensibility to almost 80% but it still feels like I'm moving my mouse around over a wet blanket. You better make room around your mouse pad when you are playing this game. But these are some of the very few drawbacks I found about the game, and I had to look very hard for them! 

Blackwood Crossing review: Interact with your past-self

presentation

This game looks, sounds and feels amazing! The art style is beautiful, the sound is awesome and the story kicks you right in the feels. The scenes this game takes place in are full of atmosphere and look like they've come right out of an indie mystery movie. The entire game feels like a movie, and that's what makes it work! You can't run, sneak past objects or jump, you just have to play along with the story and see every stunning scene it takes place in.

In my preview, I mentioned that the inner dialogues can get a bit repetitive, but I didn't notice this in the final version of the game. Background noises and the music help you pull you into the story. It's hard to find a downside to this game!

The cartoon-like graphics and the strange scenes you find in the game are in complete contrast with the heartbreaking story these two orphans had to deal with in their lives. The mood is set with a stunning musical score, which will get you in the perfect mindset for the tear-jerking story you are about to unravel. Great job Paper Seven, you have made a new cult classic game!

Blackwood Crossing review: Meet characters from your past

conclusion

It’s true that a good story is more about the journey than the destination, and that is something Blackwood Crossing shows us very clearly. This is a game that, most of the time, feels more like an interactive story. Thankfully, that story is a good one. It's intriguing, emotional, and very relatable. The main theme here is a loss, and it was portrayed very realistically. It was made clear very early on that Finn and Scarlett dealt with their grief in very different ways, which, ultimately, led to them growing apart a great deal.

If you like story-driven, narrative adventures about people and relationships such as Gone Home, Dear Esther, and Firewatch, that make you rethink everything in life, I highly recommend giving Blackwood Crossing a try. The graphics look stunning, the story is amazing and the style just fits the theme. But like any of these games; replayability is slim to none.

For a first release, I have to say, amazing job Paper seven! Keep it up with games like this one and you have a fan for life in me!

PROSCONS
+ Beautiful graphics– Rather an interactive story instead of an adventure
+ Great story– Puzzles are not engaging
+ Fun to play, not too hard– Not too hard
+ Amazing sound

9
Amazing

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