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Blackwood Crossing

Score: 78%
ESRB: Early Childhood
Publisher: PaperSeven
Developer: PaperSeven
Media: Download/1
Players: 1
Genre: Adventure

Graphics & Sound:

I have extremely mixed feelings when it comes to Blackwood Crossing. On the one hand, the story it tells is a compelling one that will pluck at your heartstrings even though you can figure out where it is going pretty much out the gate, but on the other hand, some low-level technical issues makes it a hard experience to slog through, a term I feel very appropriate in this case.

None of Blackwood Crossing's problems are related to the visual and audible experience it presents. The game finds a way to make a relatively small collection of locations feel like drastically different sets through a variety of decoration and lighting changes. While the game's journey shuffles you between a moving train, a tree house and a secluded island, each time you visit these locations, you will find that they feel very different. In one pass, you might find lush green grasses everywhere, while a later visit is surrounded by gloomy cave walls.

The game's reuse of its few environments isn't the only visually stunning aspect; it also portrays the few characters found within it excellently. With the exception of Scarlett and Finn, the eight other characters come off both intriguing and creepy. Their strange forms have a flickering effect like they come from an old and worn VHS tape, while their faces are covered by bright papercraft masks that pop against grayscale heads wearing them. Meanwhile, Finn is surprisingly expressive, a feature that only helps to make the player care about him more. Oddly enough, the stiffest person in the whole game is Scarlett, whom you control. The few times you glimpse her in reflections show her to be rigid. Thankfully, the rarer times you see her elsewhere are a lot more convincing.

Complementing these visuals is a strong musical score that fits the mood of the story as it shifts from the early playful feel, to darker and darker sounds as Scarlett and Finn explore their memories and their relationship. The game's soundtrack does as much to set the feel of Blackwood Crossing as the visuals and the two work flawlessly together.


Blackwood Crossing feels a lot like an indie movie made into an interactive story. It's a dialogue-heavy experience that often keeps you from actually advancing until everyone has spoken their mind, but given that this game's story is what it is trying to convey more than anything else, that can be understandable. You see, while Blackwood Crossing is technically a point-and-click adventure, the puzzle-solving part is a relatively minor aspect of the overall experience. Most of the game has you following Finn as he and Scarlett work through some rather strong emotional issues surrounding recent events. While the game does throw the occasional puzzle in the player's path, this is either an attempt to extend gameplay time just a little or tell the game's story in an interesting new way.

A recurring puzzle involves those other characters I mentioned above. These flickering people consist of Finn and Scarlett's parents, who died many years ago, the siblings' grandparents that raised them, a kid from Finn's class, his teacher, Scarlett's boyfriend, and a strange figure none of them know whose motives aren't very clear early in the game. When you encounter these people, each one of them will speak a piece of dialogue. Finding the character they are talking to, and getting them to speak that dialogue in order, grants you a bit of insight concerning the game's overall mystery and how those two characters relate to each other. I found this to be a really novel way to not only explore these side characters, but also advance the story as well.

While everything from the game's story to its audio/visual experience is great, there is a big issue in Blackwood Crossing that makes it almost too painful to play. It's slow, oh so slow. Between choppy framerates and your character's sluggish walk, getting through the story is too painful to really express. The experience of navigating in the world was so bad that there were several times when I tried adjusting the graphics settings, thinking maybe the game was just overtaxing my system, but I never saw any relief. With Task Manager and other monitoring programs up on my second monitor, I kept an eye on my system's performance while playing Blackwood Crossing, and I never saw it do anything that made me think my machine was under-powered for this game. I can only attribute it to some really bad low-level problems. While I eventually got used to the slower speed, given that the game is only a couple of hours long, I found that I had only really reached that point mere minutes before the story concluded.


Outside of that sluggishness making Blackwood Crossing a hard game to trudge through, there isn't really any aspect of the game that I would classify as difficult. The most prominent puzzles are the ones involving the dialogue between the secondary characters. Outside of those, there are a few inventory puzzles thrown into the mix, and even some involving a basic magic system found in the game that lets you absorb or eject some energies. While a lot could have been done with the magic system to create some intriguing obstacles, pretty much every occurrence of using the magic is spelled out for you, so it's kind of hard to refer to them as puzzles.

The only times I ever found myself stumble even a little bit in Blackwood Crossing was when I simply didn't keep examining an object over and over again so that the game could explicitly tell me what I needed to do, even though I already had it figured out. Unfortunately, it wasn't until I had exhausted that series of observations that the object I needed to pick up became available for me to grab. While I appreciate that Blackwood Crossing isn't supposed to be a difficult adventure experience, the couple of times events like this came up became rather annoying.

Game Mechanics:

Blackwood Crossing handles the basic point-and-click mechanics fairly well. If you are interacting with an object, you have one or maybe two options, and you choose it by either right-clicking or left-clicking. Occasionally, the game will prompt you to say something by displaying a W-S-A-D pattern on the screen and you can choose the comment you want by tapping the corresponding key. Outside of these few commands though, you will pretty much be walking around the world and taking in the environment and story as it unfolds. Like I said above, the game feels more like an interactive movie than a full fledged point-and-click adventure, but since the story is the main driving force of the entire game, that isn't really a mark against it.

Unfortunately, Blackwood Crossing's technical issues damage what could otherwise be a compelling and beautiful experience. Given that the game clocks in somewhere between two and three hours, depending on how quickly you process those few puzzles, it's a good thing the game only costs $15.99. That being said though, I don't know that I can recommend getting Blackwood Crossing until some patch comes out resolving the problems prevalent under the hood. Maybe if it shows up on a Steam Sale, but only maybe.

-J.R. Nip, GameVortex Communications
AKA Chris Meyer

Minimum System Requirements:

Windows 7 or later, Core i3-550 2.5ghz Processor, 4 GB RAM, NVIDIA GeForce 460 or higher with 1GB of Memory graphics card, DirectX Version 11, Broadband Internet connection, 5 GB available hard drive space

Test System:

Intel Core i7-3820 CPU @ 3.60GHz, 16 GB dual-channel DDR3,Windows 10 Home 64 bit, Graphics: NVIDIA GeForce GTX 680 (4GB)

Related Links:

Microsoft Xbox One The Disney Afternoon Collection Microsoft Xbox One Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy: The Telltale Series: Episode 1 - Tangled Up in Blue

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