Make sure you meet this game at the Crossing.
Blackwood Crossing is an adventure game developed by PaperSeven, and more an experience than a game. As far as I could tell, there’s no fail state, like many classic LucasArts adventure games. It plays like a standard-issue first-person adventure game, exploring and collecting items to solve puzzles and piece the story together. It seems fairly typical on the surface, but what follows is one of the best stories I’ve experienced in a game.
Sure, there are a few issues. Moving around and interacting with the world feels… awkward at first. The controls aren’t the smoothest, and in an attempt to move somewhat realistically, you feel like you’re plodding around, clumsily stumbling through your environs. The puzzles can be a bit obtuse, but those moments are few and far between.
The game is drop-dead gorgeous, with no stuttering or tearing, and a wonderful art direction. The characters are wonderfully stylized, with most of them wearing masks and giving you a clear indication of their personality. The ones that really shine, however, are the ones who bear no mask. Facial animations are fabulous, with tons of personality and life in every frame. The environments are dripping with personality, and tremendously atmospheric. In a few short minutes, you’ll go from an idyllic island scene, to a dark, ominous cave, and into a mysterious, lonely train car. Even the background objects are crafted with care, and you can really tell this is a labour of love. There’s a certain sense of nostalgia to everything in the game…
The sound design is no slouch either, with top-notch voice work, and immersive music. Each character has a distinct voice and personality, and conveys a tremendous amount of emotion. In a game like this, that’s a requisite, and one that PaperSeven clears with flying colours.
The standout, however, is the story. One word I can use to describe this game is ‘earnest’. Not often do I come across a game with such a heartfelt story, loaded with raw emotion. I don’t want to spoil anything, so I shall keep it vague. You play as Scarlett, waking up on a train and unsure of where she is headed. You have to try and keep up with your little brother Finn, and explore your environs for clues as things get stranger and more surreal. What follows is one of the most touching stories I’ve experienced in a game, dealing with the themes of love, loss, and growth. Very few games have ever moved me to tears, but this game certainly did in several moments.
I hate comparing it to another game, but my time with it reminded me strongly of one of my other favourite games, Gone Home. Whereas Gone Home has more of a creepy feel to it as you explore the abandoned house, this takes a very surreal fantasy twist.
I hate only gushing about games in reviews, but this game is certainly worth taking that bullet. There are flaws, but they are few and far between. It’s fairly short (I cleared it in only a couple of hours), but I feel the ride is certainly worth the price of admission. Pick it up, you won’t regret it.