From Sierra’s “King’s Quest” series to Tim Schafer’s “Full Throttle,” there is a certain charm associated with the “eureka” moment-inducing magic that only an adventure game can provide. However, since graphics and stylized action have become main sticking points for modern games, the popularity of the point-and-click adventure game has waned over the years.
That’s where Dave and Janet Gilbert (and their “Chief Dog Officer,” Cooper), of Wadjet Eye Games, flips the bird at the gaming status quo, yet again, with their new release in the “Blackwell” saga, “The Blackwell Deception.”
TBD follows the life of “Supernatural Consultant” Rosangela Blackwell (Rosa), a spirit medium and socially awkward writer/journalist. She is chaperoned by her ghost pal, Joey Mallone (Joey), a detective from the 1930s with all of the vintage swagger a spirit of his ilk could have—with no legs. The two gallivant across recognizable New York City locales solving mysteries and sending spirits on their way to the great beyond with Joey’s tie.
Yes, his tie.
Upon starting the game, one can immediately notice the “noir” feel “TBD” oozes out in a steady flow. The smooth jazz soundtrack, sometimes a bit more contemporary to suit the modern setting, sets the tone for the game. You’re a spirit detective getting to the bottom of a case and this game lets you know it in every second of gameplay.
The voice acting and dialogue, although admittedly cheesy in some parts, does wonders to carry the fantastic narrative at the core of the game. Every character has a voice actor, and a good one at that (With few exceptions). Both Rebecca Whittaker (Rosa) and Abe Goldfarb (Joey) complement each other nigh to perfection. Between the two, you see a certain witty banter and clever playfulness that denotes a realistic connection. At least, as real of a connection a timid medium and a depression-era specter can have.
Although the graphics are purposefully pixilated and dated (hearkening back to the golden age of adventure gaming), the sheer chic and power of the plot, and its character development, makes the player forget about the lack of DirectX 11 support, explosions or ultra-violence. Even the static, high-quality character portraits within dialogues, stylistically juxtaposed against the classic adventure game pixilation, denote various emotions ranging from joy and mirth to shame and guilt. It brings the characters to life in a way that doesn’t require the costly facial mechanics of recent blockbusters like “Dragon Age II” or “L.A. Noire.”
“TBD” drops the player into a world of intrigue and attitude, where the next move is as nebulous as your own intuition. In the beginning, where Rosa and Joey are tasked with stopping a runaway ghost-yacht, there is some necessary hand-holding, but once the player gets beyond the quintessential tutorial level, they have the reigns.
There are many different little gadgets and do-dads to aid in the duo’s mission as well. However, their main tool is the use of Joey’s incorporeal powers, which include passing through walls/doors, conjuring up gusts of wind and, as aforementioned, ferrying wayward spirits through Rosa by use of his magical tie.
Rosa, being a New Yorker in the 21st century, has an iPhone (Sorry, “My”Phone) which she uses to peruse her emails, notes, contacts and to utilize the “Oogle” search engine app. Cute.
The ways the player can solve the various puzzles build upon each other in a very organic and logical way. You know a phone is nearby, and you have the phone number, but can’t seem to find it? Call it and see if it rings. There’s a certain clue you can’t seem to make heads or tails of? Search it on “Oogle” and see if anything comes up. Maybe you’ll even get some contact info or a location you can add to your travel list.
The game is linear, with very few detractions from the main plot line. Be that as it may, it always keeps the player on the edge of their seat. Unless the player gets stumped, which they will, the game is rather fast-paced and makes one feel that they’re making real headway into the investigation, answering questions, uncovering clues and getting deeper and deeper into a dark web of iniquity with each new lead.
“TBD” is a roller-coaster of suspense, mystery and conspiracy all the way to the bittersweet end. It’s definitely worth a buy for any adventure game fan, or anyone with a PC for that matter.