Written by sPINDRAFT 3/14/2014
It seems that with many games, as you play them, you begin to notice some distinction between what comes at you right out of the box and what it could have been with a little more fore thought, creativity or developmental skill. Sometimes you wonder if any level design or story development skill exists at all and its just a wonton ramble through a bunch of jumbled ideas.
In ‘The Curse of Blackwater’, developed by Marc Steene the creator of ‘Slenderman’s Shadow’ (which I have not played), we are presented with a sleugh of possibilites as we wonder around the Blackwater Maternity Hospital and the first thing that begs to be considered is the setting. First let me say that I was not surprised that this game was designed by a ‘Slender Man’ fan as the opening gameplay scene was defintely a flashback to ‘Slender: The Arrival’ (which I have played).
In terms of pulling random locations out of the hat, pairing them with random ideas and then trying to force them together somehow ‘Blackwater’ has done a fairly good job. I can understand the initial concept of a haunted maternity ward and at first this works pretty well but then you start reading the notes and you start getting flashbacks of the Stephen King movie ‘Dreamcatchers’ where it goes from a cool story about Indian lore to the US Air Force fighting aliens, I mean really.
In ‘The Curse of Blackwater’ the note about teleportation should give it away but you will see soon enough that everything changes from what you start with. The transition is far from smooth either, it just happens, with little or no continuity between the two parts save for the note in the ward. Honestly what kept me coming back was not the story but rather I just wanted to see if I could unlock the next door without dying at the hands of the spooky little girl in the hospital or the whatever the hell that things is in the secret labs (the jump scares are pretty cool too).
In all fairness the game is quite fun to play and it is scary, unsetteling and spooky; especially when you’re out of battery, running around in the dark and you know without a doubt that the creepy little girl is in the hall with you. The big issue is that there is an overall feeling of lack of depth. The story is fairly flat, gameplay consists mostly of searching every nook and cranny for the next key which also involves triggering the appearance of the evil one but that is just about the extent of the mechanics. There is a lot of drawer opening ala ‘Amnesia’ but other than that you simply run like hell through the building trying to stay one step ahead of the ghoul.
The audio is well done and this is probably the shining spot of the entire experience. That creepy girl whispering ‘Help!’ in a hurting voice is enough to give you goosebumps by itself and there is never any doubt that wandering in the facility has became dangerous to your continued survival because the audio vibes amp up every nerve in your body and you can hear that thing breathing or moaning or whatever the hell it is doing. For all I know the damn thing is walking around aimlessly talking to itself but if it sees you things will get crucial rather quickly.
I gave the game another go as I wrote this just to see if I was being a little too critical of it overall. What I found was that there was a tad more depth to the general gameplay than I had at first witnessed but only a tad. For those who may have played ‘Erie’ you may remember that it was key to learn exactly where the duct work was at because it was the only way you could survive. The secret lab in the maternity hospital (never quite figured out if it was upstairs, downstairs or just another whole dimension reached via teleport) has some sweet spots that are crucial to identify and utilize if you wish to survive long enough to find the 6 keycards you need to win this level.
Problem is it became quite monotonous and boring to wait on the thing to pass one way on its endless path so you could run and search quickly then run back for hiding and wait some more for the thing to return the other way and repeat. After opening every cabinet, drawer, file, etc. in existence I gave up at four cards; there was just not enough fire left in the effort to keep me interested any longer.
It seems that ‘The Curse of Blackwater’ has attempted to put all the right pieces into the game but it comes off feeling a bit disconnected. It is worth a go just to see how far you can get but without any cohesive depth it will only find short lifespans within most gamers libraries (unless your just collecting everything with any ties at all to ‘Slender Man’). I had high hopes for this idea and maybe one day we will see a proper rendering of this story.
HAG Score - 7.8