Blackwood Crossing Review

Richard Walker

It all starts innocently enough with a simple game of Simon Says aboard a lovely train, and then it all goes a little bit mental. Blackwood Crossing is one of those games where you're never quite sure of what's real and what isn't, as you assume the role of teenage girl Scarlett, in a strange and compelling odyssey that's intriguing, engaging and emotionally affecting.

A first-person adventure, Blackwood Crossing has you chasing your younger brother Finn, with whom you share a tragic past. It soon becomes abundantly clear that as Scarlett comes of age, she's growing increasingly distant from her younger brother, and it's this drifting apart that serves as the game's central narrative theme. Granted, Finn can often be unbelievably irritating, but still...

As such, the relationship between the siblings is explored throughout Blackwood Crossing, and as you progress through the story, you'll soon bring to light certain truths, while acquiring strange, supernatural powers like the ability to manipulate fire or pull away dark umbral energy. Is Blackwood Crossing some sort of unusual dreamscape or something deeper and more intangible?

These questions are but the tip of the iceberg, with the completion of simplistic puzzles that involve matching dialogues exchanged between characters to gradually piece together the narrative, one sequence at a time. The connection shared by Scarlett and Finn is tender and nostalgic as you slowly uncover events, delivered with a deft touch that might transport you back to your own childhood, to a simpler time.

Blackwood Crossing will especially resonate if you have siblings, its tale of love, loss and coming of age a remarkably moving one. PaperSeven's game is a wonderfully moving and memorable experience, even if its interactions are a bit woolly. Scarlett's movement speed is incredibly slow too, so if you get something wrong, it's a long slog back and forth to find the correct solution.

Still, if you liked the slow burn of Dear Esther, Blackwood Crossing's unhurried walking pace is unlikely to bother you all that much; and indeed the game's thoughtful storyline and themes lend itself to a more considered pace. It wouldn't seem right if you were running all over the place. Besides, what's important is the narrative itself, so while the game's few puzzles don't really tax the grey matter at all, the story hits all of the right notes, right up until its gut punch of an ending.

The game's achievements tap into the numerous hidden secrets you can uncover in Blackwood Crossing, from the clever film posters to the threadbare stuffed white rabbit toys peppered throughout the story. It's a straightforward and simple set of tasks to complete, most of which reward progression and interacting with certain objects. Easy.

Often surreal and inventive, Blackwood Crossing deals with some delicate themes alongside its light puzzling and exploration, while referencing popular movies and reflecting on family relationships. Affecting and memorable, it's something that will stay with you long after the credits have rolled, with its striking imagery and bold, beautiful art style painting a strange, eerie and incredibly pretty dreamlike world that will stoke up warm halcyon memories in your brain.

Blackwood Crossing

Blackwood Crossing might be short but sweet, yet it's clearly an experience that's been made as a labour of love, and as such, it has a magical, almost ethereal quality that's impossible to forget.

Form widget
75%
Audio
80%

Lovely music and decent voice acting support Blackwood Crossing's fuzzy, nostalgic atmosphere. Finn's an annoying, whiny little git, though.

Visuals
80%

Bold, lovingly rendered and colourful, Blackwood Crossing is a remarkably attractive indie game.

Playability
80%

Walk around, explore, solve some simplistic puzzles, interact with mysterious masked characters. Ostensibly, there's not much to do here, but it's presented impeccably. Interactions are a bit woolly though; you have to be precise for prompts to appear.

Delivery
70%

All too brief but impactful nevertheless, Blackwood Crossing has evidently had a lot of care and attention lavished upon it. It's lovely.

Achievements
70%

A lot of secrets to interact with and collectibles to find, you might need to two playthroughs to get the full 1000G. This is a decent, though very easy, list.

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