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Blackwood Crossing

Game review by
David Wolinsky, Common Sense Media
Blackwood Crossing Game Poster Image
Story with clumsy controls explores loss, letting go.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this game.

Positive Messages

Sympathy, empathy are foundation of this game.

Positive Role Models & Representations

People speak honestly about loss, change. No characters are absolute role models, but characters try to focus on understanding where people are coming from, why, how that affects others. 

Ease of Play

Clunky controls will most certainly annoy.

Violence
Sex
Language
Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Blackwood Crossing is a downloadable first-person adventure about grief, growing up, and letting go of the past. There are no enemies to fight, high scores to beat, or inappropriate content; just an environment to explore and observe and characters to listen to. The game has its share of clunky controls, which can frustrate players.

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What's it about?

Although much of BLACKWOOD CROSSING is intended to be open to interpretation, the story in its most straightforward moments seems to be about a pair of orphans being separated by the inevitable dawn of adolescence. You play as Scarlett, a teenager, who's riding a train with her younger brother, Finn. It comes to pass that Finn feels deep anguish and resentfulness about Scarlett "abandoning" him, which is explored through a number of surreal shifts in the environment and listening to masked figures talking to themselves. Players will decide what these shifts mean and how Scarlett will resolve the issues with Finn.

Is it any good?

While this empathy-based title is well intentioned, it's held back by lots of clumsily implemented game mechanics. Clearly intended to make concessions for people new or less experienced with video games, what emerges instead is a confusing approach to puzzle-solving -- which is saying a lot, since the puzzles are fairly minimal here. You're asked to navigate around a train or other environments such as a cave and tree house, and frequently you know exactly where to go and what you have to do. But the game is fussy and very particular about how you can do that: You must focus your crosshairs on the exact area of an object you must pick up or else it won't register as being grab-able; sometimes you won't even be able to do that if characters don't prompt you to go and fetch, say, a pair of scissors. The game's drifting and muddy controls make this more frustrating, which is decidedly out of step with a game meant to touch on and explore more ethereal subject matter.

None of that should discount too heavily how refreshingly different this game is. Although it certainly has its problems, it deserves a nod and some appreciation for attempting to take on weightier stuff from some fairly different perspectives. It would be difficult to name many other games that touch on what it means to be alone and left alone as a child -- especially when it isn't necessarily anyone's fault. All in all, it's worth checking this game out, but definitely do so with open eyes and some patience for some of its more awkward mechanical aspects. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about grudges. Have you ever been so mad at someone you would never want to talk to them or let them make it up to you? Do you think that would be healthy? Why?

  • When a piece of art attempts to convey a certain perspective but stumbles in doing so, is it still successful if you understand what it's going for but doesn't actually achieve it? Why, or why not? 

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