The Blackwell Legacy is the first in what is currently a 4 episode series. The games sees the protagonist discover and come to terms with her family's legacy whilst trying to help spirits accept their deaths and cross over.
You play as Rosangela Blackwell, Rosa for short, a woman who's just had to scatter her aunt's ashes, a social recluse who doesn't even know her next door neighbour and the next in a line of mediums who have to put up with a 20's Gumshoe spirit guide named Joey Mallone. Their purpose is to convince spirits that they're dead and help them cross over, although Joey claims he personally can't despite having tried.
In Blackwell Legacy you are instructed by your boss at the local small time newspaper to cover a teenage suicide, and in the process meet two spirits to help cross over, one willing and the other... not so willing. Along the way you discover some of Joey's more useful tricks and learn more about Rosa's Grandmother and Aunt's relationship with the ghosts.
The Blackwell Legacy is a fairly typical point and click adventure which relies on your being a bit clever and observant to solves sections. Gameplay like this used to stump me, and in a longer game trying to combine all your objects and go through all your dialogue options with every single NPC to see if you missed something can get extremely tiresome. Honestly, if Episode 1 of this series hadn't have been as short as it is the note book clues combined with the locations and NPCs would certainly have become overwhelming.
As it is, however, The Blackwell Legacy neatly packages the introduction to the world into a game only a couple of hours long. The walkthrough wouldn't even stretch to 2 pages and yet it's a satisfying bite-sized game to entice you into the next one.
I had a few niggles with the way the game handles; the main one being the difference between interacting with and using objects, which isn't immediately apparent. You might be attempting to view a picture, and meanwhile Rosa is telling you she can't steal a billboard, which isn't really necessary. The second minor irritation was that the next thing to do isn't just not immediately obvious, but sometimes overly cryptic that relies on you making a pretty good guess. Perhaps I'm just a bit out of practise with this genre. I did find myself wandering around aimlessly for a little bit near the beginning attempting to gain entry to Rosa's apartment, and so early in the game this felt more frustrating than it would near the end.
The final bone of contention was actually a pretty big one for me, and that was the resolution, which can't be changed in the options. While I understand that the game is designed to mimic the old style, I think the pixel art could have benefited from a better resolution and there were some inventory items that involved reading 25 various typed and handwritten notes. On such a low resolution the handwritten notes were a bit of a pain to read and I found myself getting a little cross eyed. Pixelated handwriting.. it doesn't work, sorry!
Despite this the pixel art is nicely done, it won an award in the 2006 AGS Awards for best Character Art, and it certainly improves as the series continues. The people look like people, you can make out small objects well (which is important in these games) and everyone is animated reasonably well. The movements don't seem overly jerky or forced, which can plague many pixelated games, it's pretty clear on the gestures.
The voice acting could be improved upon - Rosa sometimes sounds a bit bored with conversations and seems like she's trying to force emotions. She is portrayed as a socially awkward woman, so a little forced emotion is expected, but when Joey appears to her the first time the attempts at "oh my god a ghost!" terror just completely fall flat. It's a shame and detracts a little from the game's charm but it's nothing major. Like most things in a series, it's something that improves in later games.
Overall it's a pleasant little game and a nice episode to ease you into the style of the series and the story concepts behind the other episodes.