Near the end of 2019, I was running dangerously close to not meeting my goals for backlog completions for the year, so I kind of kicked things into overdrive to try and complete a bunch of smaller games, so I would have something to show for my year. Because, you know, embarking on a new career path, getting a higher-paid job, and restarting my published writing stuff weren’t enough, I definitely needed to beat some games to really feel like I accomplished something.
Anyway, in that list of games I played very quickly, I ended up playing quite a few point-and-click adventure games, including The Blackwell Legacy and The Journey Down.
Now, these games actually have quite a bit in common when it comes to my backlog other than genre. First, I only have the first chapter of each one. The Blackwell Legacy has five total chapters, and The Journey Down has three. I believe I bought both of these chapters during a Steam sale years ago, when I had like a buck on my account, and I was looking for something that looked cool and would cost less than a dollar. But, that’s neither here nor there.
What I want to talk about today is something else these two games have in common, something a little deeper than an inexpensive price tag: these are two games almost entirely focused on non-blood family ties.
In The Blackwell Legacy, you follow the adventures of Rosa Blackwell, a young woman living in New York City. After her aunt, who raised her, dies, Rosa begins seeing a ghost named Joey Mallone, who tells her that as the last Blackwell, she has inherited the titular legacy. Specifically, she can see and talk to the spirits of the dead, and using Joey’s help, she can assist these spirits in completing whatever unfinished business is keeping them tied to the physical plane.
In The Journey Down, you play as a young pilot named Bwana, who has been contracted by a young woman to fly her to a specific location, which is believed to hold the secret of entry into the Underland. Bwana, and his brother, Kito, run a gas and oil company that is seriously behind on its electric bill. While they spend their lives in a carefree fashion, they are troubled by the mysterious disappearance of their adoptive father, who seems to be connected to the Underland in some fashion.
As far as gameplay goes, both games play in a similar fashion. You point and click to move your character and interact with your environment to solve puzzles and further your progress through your adventure. I enjoyed both games for entirely different reasons. Personally, I thought The Blackwell Legacy puzzles were a little weaker, but I felt like the story was more interesting, and the entire chapter felt like more of a complete piece.
Rosa’s journey leads to some really difficult places. Both her grandmother and her aunt had the legacy before her, and both of them met similar fates: a slow descent into madness and dementia, probably related to a constant stream of spirits into and out of their lives. Rosa spends time really wrestling with the idea that this is a fate that she may not escape, which is even made more troubling by the idea that she didn’t ask for it. Joey, for his part, is sympathetic to her plight, but there’s nothing he can do about it either, and as far as he’s concerned, he’s just a trapped as she is. There’s actual character drama here, and I really liked it.
The story in The Long Journey Down, at least chapter 1, doesn’t feel as strong. Aside from a few moments, when Bwana is exploring his father’s cabin, there’s not a lot of real human connection here, which actually makes a lot of sense, I guess. The Long Journey Down is a comedy. Still, both games were about the same length, but The Blackwell Legacy definitely crammed more story into a short amount of time. All of that said, I do feel like The Long Journey Down puzzles were better constructed.
With adventure games, there’s always the risk that the puzzles stretch themselves too thin. Like, sometimes, these games will require the player to make major leaps in logic to solve the puzzle, a system that usually devolves into trial and error. While I don’t think either game suffers too badly from this, I think The Long Journey Down does more to make its puzzles actually make sense. Sometimes with The Blackwell Legacy, I was just plain lost on how to proceed and I resorted to just randomly trying stuff until something clicked. While I was eventually successful, and the solution did make sense in the end, nothing pulls me out of one of these games as fast as feeling like I’m not smart enough to figure out what the game wants me to do.
Overall, I really enjoyed both games. I felt like they handled their subject matter very well, and definitely did enough to get me to want to play the following chapters. Perhaps someday I will. You know, once the ol’ backlog is broken.