It is just a few days before the town of Blackstone’s landmark mental hospital is to be opened as a museum of psychiatric history. Unfortunately, the restoration efforts of the Blackstone Historical Society have reawakened the evil that dwells within the old building. As Oliver Metcalf, the son of the hospital’s last superintendent, you have been trapped inside the walls of the Blackstone Asylum. You are compelled to explore the haunted halls, discovering its secrets and solving its mysteries. Yet your only clues to the Asylum’s past are locked in the minds of its ghostly inhabitants. The hospital witnessed many deaths in its short, but bloody history. Now you must find your son before the madness claims another victim...
Gameplay, Controls, Interface
The learning curve for Blackstone Chronicles is a short one. If you have ever played Myst or Riven you will get the hang of the game in no time at all. You basically click on anything and everything which looks like it might do something. A little advice from someone who has finished the game: try to use everything in your inventory on anything on the screen. You never know what might happen, and sometimes the solution to a puzzle isn’t obvious. You can also manipulate items in your inventory; for example, you can break things and you can take things apart (hint, hint).
There are a couple of puzzles that have a time limit on them. If you don’t finish them in time, do not panic. You will be given another chance to try the puzzle, get a hint, or you can have the game solve the puzzle for you. I didn’t find any of the puzzles so hard that I needed any help from the computer, but I have to admit that I did die a couple of times and had to do the puzzle again. The time limit gave the game a little intensity when it really needed it and kept me on my toes. I just wish there‘d been more puzzles to solve in this manner. It would have made the game more enjoyable if I had to think more often than just randomly clicking on the screen and hoping that I was using the correct inventory item at that time.
The backgrounds for the asylum were drawn quite delicately. They were lifelike and made me feel as if I was actually looking at a stone wall or a genuine electric chair. I almost wanted to touch my video screen to see if the walls were bumpy or smooth.
I was disappointed in the fact that the cut-scenes were basically nothing but a few snapshot pictures. I think the game would have been a lot better if there had been a few motion cut-scenes with people’s mouths moving and maybe a little bit of action. Another thing that struck me as odd was the fact that I would be talking to somebody, but I could not see him or her. I know that they are supposed to be ghosts or that they are in your mind, but it still would have been nice to interact with something tangible, even if it was just a mist or an apparition. The only people you do see in the game are your son and your wife, at the end, and they are just photographs. Heck, I don’t even know what the main character looked like!
Audio for Blackstone Chronicles is crisp and clear. The music fit the surroundings and the voices were easily understood. Seeing as how there really wasn’t any action in the game at all, you had to rely on the audio and the storyline to get through the game. Make sure that you listen to everything that your father says. It will help you in the long run. Trust me. He might have been a crazy old codger, but he will aid you in your journey.
Pentium 166 Mhz, 32 MB RAM, Windows 95 or 98, 200 MB hard drive space, 8X CD-ROM drive, 24-bit video card, and DirectX 6.0 or higher
There is enough documentation to get you started and a really good background for the game. It gives you a little history behind the author of the books, John Saul’s Blackstone Chronicles, and some tidbits about mental asylums. Not your typical reading, but it was interesting nonetheless.
If you have been playing Myst or Riven for about the last year and you are stuck, go to the store and buy Blackstone Chronicles. It will boost your self-esteem by about 100 points because you will have no problem getting through it and it will make you feel like you are smarter than the average cookie. If you are new to these types of puzzle games, I would highly recommend that you start with a game like this one and slowly move up to harder titles. Be forewarned; the ending was kind of cheesy. I found myself going through the game wondering how I could alter the code to make it a better game (I guess that is the programmer in me). It seemed like Red Orb could have done a better job, but they wanted to push it out the door. Don't get me wrong; the game was enjoyable, but I don't think it was anything special. I feel that the average person would like to play it, but they would have the same empty feeling I had when the game was finished. It just seemed like something was missing at the end. It will make you use your mind, but it won’t challenge you like a few others on the market right now.