Is it just me or is the adventure genre severely lacking in the late 90s? The beginning of the decade started off well with LucasArts producing some wonderful games like Day of the Tentacle, Sam & Max Hit the Road and the Monkey Island titles. Legend Entertainment would develop hilarious hit after hit; anyone remember Eric the Unready? With the exception of perhaps Grim Fandango, it's as if the genre has dried up.
And that saddens me -- your faithful reviewer grew up with and loved these kinds of games. So imagine my surprise and enthusiasm when Legend finally released a new point-and-click adventure title with John Saul's Blackstone Chronicles based on the novel of the same name. And for the most part, it's a very worthy adventure title.
Given the content of Saul's work, I figured this game would be lacking in humor. Boy, is that an understatement; this may very well be the company's darkest, spookiest game yet. Played from a first-person perspective ala Myst or Mission Critical, players assume the role of Oliver. Set in the old Blackstone Asylum-turned-museum, your father Malcolm has kidnapped your son -- you've got 24 hours to find him.
Anyone familiar with a Legend game will be right at home. By utilizing the mouse, you can move the cursor around the screen and interact with various hot-spotted items. Along the way, you'll be able to pick up some of these items and store them in your inventory for future use, mainly with puzzles. The interface is very simplistic, intuitive and stands the test of time.
Adding to the chill factor, character interaction comes in the form of conversing with ghosts that haunt the asylum. Many of the rooms found within (dining rooms, kitchen, a spooky basement, patient wards) each feature a certain character. The spirits fill you in about how they were treated at the asylum and how evil your father really was. Though interaction comes in the form of selecting pre-chosen responses, some of the conversations sent shivers up my spine.
Blackstone Chronicles is also a beautiful game using fabulously rendered 2D scenes to depict the asylum; it's like artwork rather than actual game graphics. Though there is minimal screen transitions, the game takes on a Myst-like feel in that you point-and-click from screen to screen. It would have been nice to see some fluidity, like the now classic The 7th Guest.
But where it really succeeds is in the sound department with incredible voice acting and an eerie soundtrack. Unlike many games, the actors voicing the spirits bring life into Saul's characters. Each actor seems to be perfectly cast for his or her role, Malcolm especially. Though the soundtrack merely consists of several loops, it blends into the atmosphere perfectly.
Perhaps the only downfall of Blackstone Chronicles is that it's over a little too early and not as challenging as I would have liked. Expect no more than 15 hours tops for the modest gamers that take their time going through games. A seasoned pro can finish it in far less time. Additionally, while some of the obstacles are fairly challenging, rarely would I get tripped-up by ingenious puzzles.
Despite this, John Saul's Blackstone Chronicles is an enjoyable point-and-click adventure game with plenty of chilling interaction. With all the first-person shooters and real-time strategy games out on the market, it's nice to see a successful adventure game slip through.
Graphics: The 2D rendered artwork is fantastic; the asylum is brought to life with careful attention to detail and clear visuals. It could have used better screen transitions, though.
Sound: With excellent voice acting and eerie effects and music, the aural experience is fantastic.
Enjoyment: Because of the great storyline and creepy conversations, Blackstone Chronicles is a highly enjoying and chilling game from start to finish.
Replay Value: Unfortunately, the game is a tad on the short side and as is the curse with all adventure titles, there isn't much reason to play it upon completion.
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