Publisher: Red Orb
The last adventure game developed by Legend Entertainment was their first attempt at horror, done so with help from one of the best suspense writers in the business, John Saul. The Blackstone Chronicles is a paperback series of six stories, detailing the hell that Oliver Metcalf endures trying to piece together the mysteries of the Blackstone Asylum, last run by Oliver’s father. The game begins where the series ends, the asylum turned into a museum. Naturally, spirits of those who lived and worked in the asylum haunt Oliver. His father, Malcom, pissed that the asylum is being desecrated, and further pissed that Oliver hasn’t done anything to protect his father’s legacy, kidnaps Oliver’s son and threatens terror unless he learns his lesson and obeys orders.
Gameplay is in the first-person and mainly consists of exploring the asylum, unlocking spirits (some benign, actually), learning the horrors that befell them, and trying to locate your son. The mansion itself is given an appropriately deserved spooky atmosphere, and the spirits are given in-depth histories and personalities. Movement is done simply by clicking a direction and watching a pre-rendered scene until you arrive at your destination (which, blissfully, can be skipped to save time).
Most of the puzzles entail finding ways to unlock more doors, though there are five that are impressive for their ingenuity. At various points, Oliver becomes trapped, usually in a machine designed for therapy (or torture, depending on your point of view). You are given a finite time to escape, and the solution is generally creative and logical. Even if you fail, you can replay the event, and eventually receive hints if you’re really stuck. For a game predicated on atmosphere, allowing for a steady pace is key lest the player becomes bored. Unfortunately, some of the lock & key puzzles do exactly this, and I had little qualms referring to a walkthrough to discover what tool I missed acquiring from that tucked away cabinet.
As the true terrors of the asylum’s history come into play, I found myself more intrigued rather than scared. Even with the aforementioned death traps, there was never a feeling of dread. However, as much of the asylum’s history is based on psychiatric history, I had fun taking notes and later researching in further detail the good and bad that resulted from early experimentation with the mentally ill.
The voice acting itself is only average, and Oliver’s son suffers from Danny Torrance syndrome. Thankfully, Malcom, who speaks often, is played very well. While the story is predictable, it is entertaining enough for the short time it takes to complete. And the ending is satisfying, helping make Blackstone Chronicles a worthy play for those of the author or of suspense thrillers in general. Just don’t expect to be gripped in fear.