Blackwood Crossing is an unconventional story-driven experience, telling its emotional narrative through dreamlike sequences. Like other games of its nature, there is a weighted focus on storytelling over gameplay. Thankfully, a deep, emotional story is present throughout, bound to tug at your heartstrings. Though PaperSeven made a concerted effort to include puzzle elements, a weak execution distracts from its otherwise heartwarming tale.
The story revolves around Scarlet, whom you play as, and her little brother Finn. The game begins with a playful round of Simon Says on a train, but quickly escalates when a mysterious black goo engulfs Finn. From there, Blackwood Crossing takes you on a whirlwind tour to surreal environments interwoven through the train. Masked characters, magical powers, and illusory landscapes derail reality while the human conversations and feelings keep this train grounded. As you explore this enchanted world, you learn truths about the siblings’ relationships. There are also nightmarish portions, usually involving darkness and a creepy bunny that looks like it hopped out of Donnie Darko. It’s not a horror game, but these parts are unsettling, matching the tone the game attempts to convey. Even if you can tell where the story’s going, the journey has no shortage of endearing moments and meaningful introspection, all told within the context of this trancelike train ride.
Gameplay-wise, Blackwood Crossing is a first-person story-driven adventure with light puzzles scattered about to both drive the story and give the game some meat. I appreciated the symbolic nature of these brainteasers and how they developed the story through an interactive fashion. The puzzles are easy, but they craft their own unique rules, giving off an otherworldly feeling. One common task involves you talking to people in the right order to create a flowing conversation. In the more bizarre puzzles, you’ll harness fire and bring life to objects.
Unfortunately, controlling Scarlet isn’t optimal. For one, she moves very slowly, which by itself isn’t a huge problem. However, when you’re walking through long stretches of train corridors trying to solve a puzzle, the game feels unnecessarily drawn out. The bigger issues lie with the low framerate affecting your ability to inspect the environment. The game stutters whenever you move the camera, leading to a dizzying effect while playing. When the entire game is about exploring your surroundings, you can see why this might prove difficult. It doesn’t help that the camera constantly bobs up and down as you walk. Additionally, I had difficulty interacting with objects because I always had to position the reticle in an exact spot for a prompt to appear. Though these issues are somewhat minor, they distract from the story, much of which is told through these investigative sequences.
Though the frame rate stutters, the stunning environments look believable. The
Overall, Blackwood Crossing is a mesmerizing tale, with fantastical visuals telling a story grounded in deep, human emotions. The game lasts about three hours, depending how quickly you can solve the puzzles. There is little replay value, aside from trophy hunting, as the story never deviates from its linear path. Due to the shoddy framerate and very light puzzles, it’s best to go into this game expecting a well-told story, but not much more. If you can get past some awkwardness in controlling Scarlet, it’s worth boarding the train for this magical journey.
I am a lifelong gamer, having grown up with Nintendo since I was young. My passion for gaming led to one of the greatest moments of my life, my video game themed wedding!