PopMatters is moving to WordPress. We will publish a few essays daily while we develop the new site. We hope the beta will be up sometime late next week.

The Blackwell Epiphany

Eric Swain

The Blackwell Epiphany suggests that death is rarely a satisfying or noble end. It just is.

The Blackwell Epiphany

Publisher: Wadjet Eye Games
Players: 1
Price: $14.99
Platforms: PC
ESRB Rating: N/A
Developer: Wadjet Eye Games
Release date: 2014-04-24

In preparation for this review, I went and played through the entire Blackwell series up to this point. While The Blackwell Epiphany does market itself as a standalone entry (and it does work as such), it's the closing chapter of a five-game saga, and it is so much better when played in conjunction with the rest of the series. Back in 2006, Dave Gilbert began releasing entries in his point-and-click adventure game series, and after all this time, the story of Rosangella Blackwell, her ghost partner Joey Malone, and their strange mission to help the dead reach the next world has come to a close.

The basic set up is that Rosangella Blackwell is a medium or Bestower, who has to go around and help lost spirits on to their final crossing. She is aided by her spirit guide, one Joey Malone, a wise cracker from the 1930s. They've had some adventures and crossed paths with dangerous forces in the past, and that's all you really need to know. Everything else necessary will be explained through the course of the narrative, though it does help to have the first hand experience of those previous adventures to flesh out certain details. The thing about the Blackwell series is that it never settled into an episodic groove. It's partially why each game works so well on its own. Each one has a slightly different feel while still recognizing the events of the previous games.

This time around Rosa and Joey have managed to turn their failed fledgling paranormal investigation business (thank you, internet) into a consulting firm for the police. Detective Durkin, who Rosa met in the previous entry, has taken to calling her up, off the record, to identify a group of unidentified bodies. The previous games have saw Rosa and Joey two stumbling around and hoping for a lead, but in the newest game, the experience that they've acquired is far more evident. They've learned how to use their powers and have grown as a result over the course of the previous four entries.

In fact, I'd go even further to say that the Blackwell series isn't five individual games, but five distinct chapters of a single work. One of the great pleasures I've had over the last week or so was playing through the whole series in preparation. I got to see the progress the series and the characters made without the long stretches of time in between releases. These were snippets of Rosa's and Joey's everyday (albeit very strange) lives that built off one another. The whole feels like a single fluid narrative, connected as if I were simply turning a page.

In addition to character development, each succeeding entry in the Blackwell series has improved over the last in other ways. Puzzles are better designed and better signposted. The user interface has also been tweaked to become more player friendly, leading up to The Blackwell Epiphany which finally allows you to switch between the two protagonists when they occupy different rooms. And, of course, there is noticeable evolution of the art style.

There is a craft necessary to pixel art. It is not as utilitarian as it is often made out to be or at least, not any longer. It takes a hell of a lot of skill to make a crumbling old house a thing of beauty. It is the details in the backgrounds and the use of a wide pallet of colors that create both the characters and locations as living entities in their own right. The pixels coalesce from their impressionistic core into a realization of a game based reality. The visuals may set the stage, but it is the animations that sell it. I was gob smacked at the opening scene's gorgeousness.

From there, the game sets up a fantastic mystery as a man comes up to you asking for your help as the Bestower, something no one should know about, and is then gunned down right in front of you. This is a perfect lead in to Rosa and Joey to do their thing, finding ghosts and researching their lives in order to be able to convince them of their present state and learn something new to progress to the next step in the mystery.

However, while the mystery concludes well, the ultimate end of The Blackwell Epiphany is an unsatisfying one to the series. We've gotten to know Rosa and Joey. We've heard them banter, muse, and complain about the mundane annoyances of the world. As I was watching the final scenes of the game play out, it didn't feel right. And yet, this is what the whole game, the whole series has been about: unsatisfying ends. You help ghosts that find themselves stuck in the wrong world realize that they are dead and act as a means of passage for them to the other side. Death in the real world is rarely a satisfying or noble end. It just is.

In some respects, this is the only way that the Blackwell series could end. Nothing lasts forever and as much as I may feel there was so much more to see and learn about these characters and as much as I would like to spend more time in their company and go on more adventures with them, I too must accept that it is over. The game's coda is about how the world keeps turning, and it speaks to the game as much as it does to life itself.

The Blackwell Epiphany is a solid point-and-click adventure game, far ahead of most of the pack in its execution. I didn't know the series before, but quickly fell in love with its characters and its particular style. Though take my advice: start from the beginning and take it from there.


Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology and hosting provider that we have less than a month, until November 6, to move PopMatters off their service or we will be shut down. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to save the site.





How 'Watchmen' and 'The Boys' Deconstruct American Fascism

Superhero media has a history of critiquing the dark side of power, hero worship, and vigilantism, but none have done so as radically as Watchmen and The Boys.


Floodlights' 'From a View' Is Classicist Antipodal Indie Guitar Pop

Aussie indie rockers, Floodlights' debut From a View is a very cleanly, crisply-produced and mixed collection of shambolic, do-it-yourself indie guitar music.


CF Watkins Embraces a Cool, Sophisticated Twang on 'Babygirl'

CF Watkins has pulled off the unique trick of creating an album that is imbued with the warmth of the American South as well as the urban sophistication of New York.


Helena Deland Suggests Imagination Is More Rewarding Than Reality on 'Something New'

Canadian singer-songwriter Helena Deland's first full-length release Someone New reveals her considerable creative talents.


While the Sun Shines: An Interview with Composer Joe Wong

Joe Wong, the composer behind Netflix's Russian Doll and Master of None, articulates personal grief and grappling with artistic fulfillment into a sweeping debut album.


Peter Frampton Asks "Do You Feel Like I Do?" in Rock-Solid Book on Storied Career

British rocker Peter Frampton grew up fast before reaching meteoric heights with Frampton Comes Alive! Now the 70-year-old Grammy-winning artist facing a degenerative muscle condition looks back on his life in his new memoir and this revealing interview.


Bishakh Som's 'Spellbound' Is an Innovative Take on the Graphic Memoir

Bishakh's Som's graphic memoir, Spellbound, serves as a reminder that trans memoirs need not hinge on transition narratives, or at least not on the ones we are used to seeing.


Gamblers' Michael McManus Discusses Religion, Addiction, and the Importance of Writing Open-Ended Songs

Seductively approachable, Gamblers' sunny sound masks the tragedy and despair that populate the band's debut album.


Peter Guralnick's 'Looking to Get Lost' Is an Ode to the Pleasures of Writing About Music

Peter Guralnick's homage to writing about music, 'Looking to Get Lost', shows how good music writing gets the music into the readers' head.


In Praise of the Artifice in George Cukor's 'Sylvia Scarlett'

George Cukor's gender-bending Sylvia Scarlett proposes a heroine who learns nothing from her cross-gendered ordeal.


The Cure: Ranking the Albums From 13 to 1

Just about every Cure album is worth picking up, and even those ranked lowest boast worthwhile moments. Here are their albums, spanning 29 years, presented from worst to best.


The 20 Best Episodes of 'Star Trek: The Original Series'

This is a timeless list of 20 thrilling Star Trek episodes that delight, excite, and entertain, all the while exploring the deepest aspects of the human condition and questioning our place in the universe.


The 20 Best Tom Petty Songs

With today's release of Tom Petty's Wildflowers & All the Rest (Deluxe Edition), we're revisiting Petty's 20 best songs.

Joshua M. Miller

The 11 Greatest Hits From "Greatest Hits" Compilations

It's one of the strangest pop microcosms in history: singles released exclusively from Greatest Hits compilations. We rounded 'em up and ranked 'em to find out what is truly the greatest Greatest Hit of all.


When Punk Got the Funk

As punks were looking for some potential pathways out of the cul-de-sacs of their limited soundscapes, they saw in funk a way to expand the punk palette without sacrificing either their ethos or idea(l)s.


20 Hits of the '80s You Might Not Have Known Are Covers

There were many hit cover versions in the '80s, some of well-known originals, and some that fans may be surprised are covers.


The Reign of Kindo Discuss Why We're Truly "Better Off Together"

The Reign of Kindo's Joseph Secchiaroli delves deep into their latest single and future plans, as well as how COVID-19 has affected not only the band but America as a whole.


Tommy Siegel's Comic 'I Hope This Helps' Pokes at Social Media Addiction

Jukebox the Ghost's Tommy Siegel discusses his "500 Comics in 500 Days" project, which is now a new book, I Hope This Helps.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.