Posted: April 27, 2014
The biggest and best game of the Blackwell series. If you've played other games in the series you'll know what you're getting into, but to put it simply this is Wadjet Eye's finest work to date - a point and click game that I can easily recommend alongside classics in the genre.
Once again, players take on the roles of both Rosa Blackwell and Joey Mallone, their job is, as always to help lost souls move on, and as before there are a large number of ghosts that need saving, each with a different story to tell. Unlike previous games, all the ghosts in this game tie directly into the primary overarching narrative, adding considerable gravitas to proceedings and helping to shake things up. There is some assumption of prior knowledge of the series, the game doesn't waste time retreading how Rosa and Joey do their jobs but instead dives right into the main course. In terms of gameplay. The dual characters mechanic returns once again and players must make use of both Rosa's and Joey's different abilities to solve puzzles and overcome dialogue based obstacles throughout the game. Puzzles are for the most part fairly simple, there's no hair tearing moments and bizarre solutions to impede your progress - for the most part everything is pretty logical. The clue system from previous games returns, requiring players to combine topics/clues from their in game notes page to determine links and hypothesise potential solutions to problems. This works well for the most part, with Joey again serving as an in-game hints system that the player can utilise as much or as little as they desire. The focus here is very much on the story, there are also plenty of references to previous games for fans yet the game is also strong enough to stand on its own.
In terms of game length, the game feels longer than previous entries, I think Wadjet has finally hit upon the optimal length for its games with Epiphany after previous entries were criticised for their short length. The narrative and writing quality are consistent throughout, Wadjet Eye have been going from strength to strength with this series and Epiphany is no exception. I did notice a new mechanic in play early in the game, where the two leads would spontaneously begin short, unprompted banters discussing their current location, etc, not unlike the party banter systems employed in several rpgs. Sadly this fizzled out quite quickly and is only seen in the first third of the game.
The artwork in Epiphany is fantastic throughout, it's building on a similar aesthetic to Blackwell Deception but everything is more detailed and beautifully rendered in pixel art. They've found a really great style to use (and artist to bring it to life) and they neatly sidestep the animation issues that many other modern point and clicks exhibit because of it. Hoping to see future games maintain the same style and level of quality.
The music is nice and fits well with the tone of the game for the most part, it did seem to be a little on the quiet side this time around and is very much in the background for most of game. In terms of other audio - Wadjet's voice acting on the technical side of things has come a long way now, there's none of the issues the plagued earlier entries to be found here which is great. All series regulars reprise their roles in Epiphany and they all give solid performances.
In terms of story, this being the final game in the series, Epiphany wraps up the Blackwell series and answers most of the questions you might have had. I won't lie though, I wish we'd have seen some more entries to the series before the finale.
Sadly there is one significant dropped plot arc which occurs (or rather should have occurred) between Deception and Epiphany that I felt hurt the continuity between those two games somewhat. Based on the ending of Deception and where Epiphany picks up it felt that we'd skipped a step in the story of Rosa and Joey and just leapt from there to the series finale, which is an unusual and unfortunate misstep. Aside from this one issue the series as a whole flows nicely from one game to the next. I won't talk about the ending here as I think that's something best experienced and I don't want to colour anyone's view on it, suffice it to say I felt it was a fitting ending but it's not the one I would have gone with.
There's always been a certain sense of familiarity with the Blackwell series and the protagonists thankless task of helping the dead move on all the while the hustle and bustle of New York. There's something that's quite grounded in reality about the series that makes it quite endearing and relaxing to play, this is underlined through Dave Gilbert's commentaries that are embedded within each game you really get a sense that you're experiencing these locations through his memories and the series as a whole just really has a sort of personal touch that's difficult to describe and I don't often see/feel in most games. That, married with the real world setting really heightened the experience for me across the Blackwell series.
Ultimately, Blackwell Epiphany is highly recommended, as a fan of the series this was a deeply satisfying game to play. If you've never played the Blackwell series before, or if it's sat in your Steam backlog, start with Legacy and work forwards from there - if you're a fan of the genre, you won't regret it.