Story-driven, cinematic games are something we’re quite fond of here at PTC, and with that in mind we approached Paper Seven’s Blackwood Crossing with some degree of excitement. Despite technical niggles and a you-didn’t-need-binoculars-to-see-that-coming ending, the game still managed to meet expectations by enchanting and yanking at our rusty old heart strings.
We can’t mention the characters and game world without also dissecting the holy trinity: art style, music and voice acting. The former paints Blackwood Crossing’s world in Pixar-esque hues - if they let David Lynch direct their next blockbuster! From the deep colour palette, to the fabulously designed paper masks that the supporting cast wear, to Finn’s red cape, freckles and mop o’ hair platter, it’s a true feast for the eyes.
The music backs up the art style beautifully, with subtle keys hiding underneath softly picked acoustic guitars - the added slide of a dobro here and there adds extra emotive power to a cracking soundtrack; it’s just a shame it doesn’t bridge over the overlong, bare loading screens. Play through to the end of the game to be rewarded with an original song from former Gomez man Ben Ottewell, too.
Blackwood Crossing will make even the most stoic tin-man have feelings again...
The voice acting is unfortunately a little bit hit-and-miss, mind. For the most part the performances are good, but in certain scenes (no spoilers, promise) the acting doesn’t quite match up with the beauty or emotion on screen. It doesn’t help that in an industry dominated with American accents, the cast’s crumpets-and-tea-old-chap accents take a bit of time to adjust to (not your fault Paper Seven, blame society!).
Blackwood Crossing is effectively an interactive movie, and though it excels in its storytelling, the gameplay will often leave you frustrated. As with any story-driven adventure you’ll find yourself interacting with a lot of things in the game: doors, windows, characters and paper butterflies (another truly spellbinding scene that made this cynical bugger’s eyes moist). The problem therein is Scarlett’s constant bobbing, often resulting in having to reposition yourself three or four times before being able to interact with objects as desired. The dropped frames that happen here and there certainly don’t help proceedings, either.
If Scarlett’s bobbing doesn’t get to you, then her lead-boots-at-the-bottom-of-Lake-Treacle movement surely will. Many of the puzzles require you to listen to each member of the supporting cast, matching their lines of dialogue with another cast member to create a conversation. Honestly, we loved this approach to puzzle solving, but often the characters are quite spread out (especially in the last Island scene) only highlighting how irritatingly slow Scarlett moves. All extremities crossed for a patch to sort these issues out ASAP.
Yet in spite of its limitations, Blackwood Crossing kept us glued to the screen. Even the predictable ending still left us deeply moved, and for that reason alone we thoroughly recommend you pick it up. The game can be finished in 2-3 hours, which at its current price of £12.79 may raise an eyebrow or two, especially given the lack of replay value. Don’t let that dissuade you though, penny-pinchers, as Blackwood Crossing will make even the most stoic tin-man have feelings again.