Video games as an entertainment medium have a unique ability to put a person at the centre of an experience in a way that no other medium can. All manner of subject matters and topics can be explored in unique and engaging fashions that simply won’t have the same impact if they were delivered any other way. There is an art to it though, and achieving it requires an intricate understanding of how to let a player discover and experience a story rather than just tell it, and this certainly seems to be something that developer PaperSeven took to heart.
Blackwood Crossing is the story of the relationship between 2 orphaned siblings, Scarlet and Finn, that sees you explore a specific turbulent portion of their childhood. It’s a first person story driven adventure game with a heavy focus on narrative with some limited exploration and puzzles to solve along the way. You play the role of Scarlet, the oldest of the pair and the game starts with you and your younger brother taking a ride on a train. From here, the story progresses in an abstract fashion, unraveling steadily towards a conclusion that will test your emotional resolve. The setting is an Alice in Wonderland inspired world shaped by the emotions of your brother, and as such you’ll press forwards through many past moments as you try to piece together a perspective of a childhood void of parental influence.
Not wanting to spoil the experience there isn’t much more that I wan’t to say about the game, instead it’s best left for you to discover for yourself. As such I think this very well might be one of the shortest reviews that I will write. The game is very well polished with beautiful styling and excellent audio which really harmonise with the story, characters and emotions that the game is trying to invoke. The game itself is short, coming in around the 2 hour mark which ensures that things conclude before the gameplay passes it’s sell by date. The game ultimately lacks the polish of a AAA title, for example movement can feel a little restrictive, not quite capturing the urgency that the story infers. But minor issues aside, I found the who experience very profound and It’s certainly something that serves to cement the ability of a video game to deliver purely on narrative over gameplay.
This game ultimately won’t be for everybody, and if you didn’t enjoy games such as Dear Esther or The Vanishing of Ethan Carter then you best give this a miss. But for me I found Blackwood Crossing an engrossing, touching and emotional experience. There were several moments in the game that really tugged on my heart strings hard, even causing a tear or 2 to appear at some specific points. For a pure narrative game it can stand up on it’s own 2 feet against the best out there, and it’s one of the strongest emotional experiences I think that I have had from a video game.
Blackwood Crossing was provided to us by Xbox via a digital code for Xbox One.