Blackwood Crossing is a little game – literally just about three hours long – that manages to pack an incredible emotional punch. Told through the eyes of a child, players are taken on a wondrous, sometimes technically frustrating, journey through love and loss and one child’s attempt to reconcile the two.
You take on the persona of Scarlett, the young teenaged sister of Finn. Orphaned at a young age and raised by grandparents, the story begins on a train rushing through a countryside, the hub location that leads to several others along the way.
Beginning the story, you really won’t know much about what’s going on, though as a somewhat distracted older sister who’s more interested in makeup and boys, that’s hardly unexpected. Things take a strange turn, however, when Finn decides to run off. As Scarlett works to find him, she meets people she knows, though their faces are obscured by animal masks.
It is here that the game begins in earnest. Each character offers a snippet of a conversation. Find the person to whom they were speaking and bit larger memory surfaces. Put enough together and the story progresses. Move to a new location, solve a puzzle or sit down to make art with Finn, and more of his memories and worries are revealed.
What is clear is that this story, like the train on which it takes place, is hurtling to a pre-determined end. What is happening is important. Finn’s memories are important, if jumbled. He is trying to understand their devastating loss and Scarlett’s growing detachment from him. It is heartbreaking and it is uplifting and it is all revealed through play and Finn’s genuine desire to stay connected to the only person he has left: Scarlett.
The story’s interactions are simple: Talk to people, pick things up, and solve puzzles. It sounds pretty straightforward, right? In practical terms, yes. In technical terms, no. Blackwood Crossing’s PC controls are simply terrible. Clearly the port from console didn’t come off very well and the game probably should have been left in the oven a bit longer for PC players. Finding the “sweet spot” to talk to NPCs or to toggle a window handle or pick up an object are tooth-grindingly frustrating.
But even understanding these control issues, you’ll find you forget about them as the game moves on. As Scarlett plays with Finn, she revisits memories that have perhaps lain dormant for a time. She finds things to remind her of better, more loving days: Long-forgotten toys in their old treehouse, a photo of the family, a greenhouse from her earlier childhood. All of these things serve as narrative elements that add one piece of the puzzle at a time, ultimately leading to a most satisfying conclusion. Add in a gorgeous soundtrack and A+ voice acting and there’s little to not like about Blackwood Crossing.
Ultimately, if you are a console player, Blackwood Crossing is a nice little game with a decent set of controls. For PC players, while I dearly love the game (and I DO), I would recommend waiting for a patch that will hopefully address some of the woefully bad controls. Once that’s done, it’s a game you won’t want to miss.
This review was conducted on PC thanks to a review code provided by the publisher.