This review stands as a full review of the entire Blackwell series. I was introduced to this series a meager four days ago. I was intrigued by the old-school point and click "talkies" I had grown up with on old CD-ROMs from Fate of Atlantis through the Monkey Island series all the way to the newer Telltale Games products. I hardly knew what I was getting myself into.
The Blackwell series stars the Blackwell family, mainly Rosa and introducing her Aunt, Lauren, in Unbound. At some point in the past, their Grandmother suddenly became saddled with a ghost, Joey, who was her spirit guide. Unable to take the pressure (limiting plot spoilers), she died and Joey passed onto the aunt. It turned out he is a spirit guide, destined to guide Mediums like the series protaganist Rose to lead lost spirits to the final destination.
This is where the puzzle element comes into play. Like most adventure games, you interact with the environment through investigation, item manipulation and conversing with other characters. The first game in the series, Legacy, is fairly light on puzzles and is easily completed, but the series quickly grows into a satisfying old-school adventure title as the series progresses. Epiphany is the masterstroke of the series in this regard, with multi-threaded and complex puzzle threads that still fit well within the realm of logic.
However, where the series truly shines is in the storytelling. The writing, character development and accompanying voice acting is near perfection. The series easily hooks you into the characters and makes you care about them. The slow reveal of the history, feelings, pain and emotion of each character over each of the five games easily drew me into the Blackwell world. With Epiphany, the entire series wrapped up in a way few games, movies or even television shows could ever hope - satisfying, even if bittersweet.
There are a couple of hiccups in the game, primarily in code bugs in Unbound that cause voice tracks to trigger improperly, one being an ugly spoiler mid-way through that gave away part of a conversation from the game's finale, but otherwise is solidly coded and well designed. The graphics may also be a bit of a put-off to more modern gamers since it is intentionally created in a low resolution, non-widescreen format to mimic the old CRT monitors some of us older gamers were stuck with nearly two decades ago. But the artwork presented in close-ups, photos, desktop backrounts, and other areas is fantastic and feels alive.
I whole heartedly recommend the entire five game series. Go back to the Blackwell Legacy and pick it up from there and don't stop until you finish up Epiphany. The game is a well build emotional ride with solid puzzle mechanics fit for a good old school adventure game. From someone used to adventure games being the high-energy comedy like Day of the Tentacle, The Blackwell series was a huge surprise. Though the surprise was pleasant and I believe it will be so for everyone else who gives this a try.