To be honest I hadn’t heard much for this before I played it. It labelled itself as an adventure game with intrigue and mystery and I thought to myself “I’ll be having me some of that cake!”. The reality was that the cake was not a cake at all but more of a Mr Kipling finger and the finger was actually only half a finger dressed as a full one. It’s hard to word this one because I genuinely enjoyed this game but its shorter than my last attempt to pick up a girl at a bar and that only lasted for three minutes ..
The story for this game is that you play a young teenage girl named Scarlet who is travelling along with her younger brother Finn on a Train journey through the countryside. Finn is a rowdy young boy who seems to be enjoying himself by adventuring up and down the train with care free abandon. Well, right up until things start to get weird and the train is now inhabited by people Scarlet and Finn either hold dear or dislike and that one kid with a rabbit for a head (I wish that was a reference to something but its literally just a kid with a rabbit for a head. Very Donnie Darko if you ask me), thus ensues scarlets Journey through the train and other locations as she chases after Finn who has decided he’s a little less carefree now and would rather be a little tool. To say tool is harsh, you do discover through your journey why Finn suddenly takes a negative view to Scarlet and why everything happens in most part.
The gameplay for Blackwater crossing is fairly minimal. Nothing really adventurous is tried here but at the same time it doesn’t lack anything important mechanically. The best way to put It is that the game has all it needs but it doesn’t really do much with it. You can move and look around, pick up objects and later even get some cool magical powers that help you with certain puzzles! But none of this is really used in a way that makes me thing, “Damn.. that was cool“ outside of the first time you use the magic for each power. Outside of movement you can as state pick up and interact with objects but this itself is pretty pointless for the most part. There are a few objects that are required to solve certain puzzles but outside of that the objects that you can pick up do nothing. They are just there to look at it seems and that just made me wonder why. The game has a very good art style but it’s not the kind that results in a finely detailed texture that would be gorgeous to have a real close look at. Interactions with objects are limited to single interactions or to examine them and get a small piece of dialogue. The game is billed as relaxing and it is. You don’t feel too strained playing this game as you go through the levels and try to solve the various puzzles. Puzzles are important to this game because frankly they are all it has in terms of gameplay outside of just walking around. In almost everything you do it will be to solve a puzzle. For example, the first puzzle of the game is to talk to various people who are aboard the train and match their dialogue to someone else. I felt this was rather impressive to be honest. The puzzle both acted as a fun little game and drove the plot and backstory a little all in one neat little package but gets a tad old quickly as the same puzzle is essentially how you solve the rest of this train journey. In at least three instances minimum you’ll be asked to do this adding new people and changing who they are talking to (don’t worry if you don’t follow some of the conversations though as they don’t really mean much and the game only fleeting glances at who these people even are in some cases). The most adventurous aspect of gameplay for me was the powers. Now you get two and trying not to spoil much they are pretty cool and required for the puzzles that will follow them. The issue I have with these though isn’t the powers but again that they are minimal. Their usage both in scale and in frequency of use is very weak outside of one puzzle where the first power see’s some fairly heavy usage.
the games weak usage of mechanics is at least supported by a gorgeous art style and soundtrack. The games Graphics are a fairly modest style closer to games such as we happy few but with less of a fine touch. The character models and environment are very well done and make you feel at home in some areas like FinnLand where the style gives a gorgeous vista look across the water, (which might I say is very nicely done. The waters reflections work well and it feels natural in movement when you look at it) and in areas like beneath the FinnLand in the darkened train you get the feeling of being in a dingy and confined space that I think the dev team was going for. As you progress through the games plot you understand why these places exist and you feel more connected to them. The soundtrack too also supports these environments with a good and relaxing score to help you through your journey. I felt myself stop to listen to it on occasion when the serene music plays in the nicer areas and it did make some of the puzzles have a little bit of a tense nature. Such as the firs puzzle in the first train section. It made me a little tense and in trying to think I got as little stuck which I feel added to the whole thing and was a nice touch. In other areas where the game needs a more sombre tone it works too, such as the section where you’re under Finnland in the dingy train or the section just after that.
The games story is this games primary selling point for me and it does have some really great moments. For instance, If you view the film posters in the train you get a little bit of dialogue and a nice laugh and almost all the conversations between Scarlet and Finn are enjoyable and you find yourself feeling personally involved with their words and their struggle. The dialogue is very well worded and the voice acting for about 95% is done very well. Especially for Finn. The VA work for Finn is very natural sounding and at times filled with the emotion the situation calls for. The only really poor primary voice acting comes from Scarlet and that’s fleeting. There are a few lines I feel she needed more emotion in her words r just sounded very dry and uninterested in the lines but overall some really good work.
Just like everything else though. It’s lacking. You do follow the story and it’s easy enough to sit at the end and understand it for the most part BUT … and that’s a big but for me. The thing that’s missing most is why. If you play through to the end you’ll understand that glaring reasons for why you (as scarlet) did all that are totally left out. To spoil it a little. Finn is dead. This is not something that’s expressly revealed but more a realisation that you come to through your journey and in the end, you (Scarlet) wake on the train you started the game on from what appears to be a long sleep. Now that, I hate. Dream sequences are the worst thing ever for me because it’s a total cop-out. I just can’t stand them. But it’s not stated whether or not that whole two hour experience was just some kind of made up dream or if you were being haunted in a more literal sense by your dead sibling? Im inclined to believe that it’s a more metaphorical haunting that she feels guilty for the distance she must have had between herself and her brother in his last years but again these are personal conclusions. I’m being a little harsh, the games story is good. And it did make me feel rather emotional at parts. Family is a big thing to me so the family focused tale of two siblings pulled one or two of my strings and even a tear at one point so don’t mistake my words to mean that the story has no worth as you should give it a good go it’s just that it feels again with everything else that it was meant to be something larger, something more. The characters need to be fleshed out more especially Scarlet. We don’t really get a sense of who she is or why we should really care for her at all, unlike Finn who you get a fair coverage of and understanding of the kind of character he is. The end touched a place in my heart and I felt was a good way to end the game. I mean the actually end. Not the dream sequence part. Still salty over that… it weaves a tale about the bonds of siblings, loss and redemption for those who in a lot of cases do feel guilty about what they could have done while a person was here.
In summary to this the game overall is good and enjoyable. For the asking price, I could hardly have expected a Shakespearian length tale but even then, the core fault with this game is length. It’s too short. It’s obvious that there was room for more here. More powers, more development, more puzzles, more EVERYTHING. But for what it has its got strong. The story and mechanics are engaging and enjoyable. The artwork and soundtrack are well done and fitting and as a whole the package is a good little game that you should pick up if you like a little relaxing period one afternoon.