A series of independent Adventure Games created by one Dave Gilbert of Wadjet Eye Games, which features supernatural mystery solving and a unconventional inventory system. The series is technically a Continuity Reboot of a planned series of freeware games called Bestowers of Eternity, of which only part one was released.The main characters are the introverted unwilling medium, Rosangela Blackwell, and her family's crotchety guide to the world beyond, Joey Mallone, a ghost with a Mysterious Past. Together they must help the restless and bodiless souls of New York City to move on to the next plane of existence, which is rarely an easy task, requiring interrogations, exploration, and not a small amount of breaking and entering. Meanwhile they uncover more about the Blackwell family's past, and the nature of mediums and spirit guides and other people like them who delve into the supernatural.Games in the series:
Acceptable Targets: invoked Being New Yorkers, Joey and Rosa are not huge fans of New Jersey.
Rosa: I'm wet, I'm filthy... and I'm in New Jersey.
An Aesop: Several of the ghosts' stories are about how things that may seem earth-shatteringly vital and important often don't matter as much as you believe they do, and that the consequences of giving into or not facing it are far greater than whatever you might fear. The lesson of Mavis' story for example is "don't shut yourself off from the world, otherwise you'll have nothing to show for your life."
Space Whale Aesop: Epiphany has the lesson "The journey is just as important as the destination, so don't skip the former to get to the latter more quickly, otherwise your soul will get ripped apart and eaten.
And I Must Scream: Ghosts that have left the earthly plane but are unable to enter the next world somehow, remain stuck in the space between planes for the rest of eternity. This is the fate of Madeline, the Countess' former spirit guide, and happens to Joey as well before they both manage to return to Earth.
Aborted Arc: Deception ended with Rosa declaring she were going to track down and fight the covert cabal of Emotion Eaters that Gavin was a part of. But that plotline is ignored in Epiphany and it only comes briefly into play again when Joey bumps into the ghost of Benjiro, a rogue member of Gavin's organization who played a factor in the game's underlying plot, and then it disappears completely again when Benjiro says Screw This, I'm Outta Here!, as he realizes what Madeline is up to.
Ambiguously Bi: In Epiphany, it seems that Joey may fit this, as he was intentionally vague as to why he'd saved his assistant, Danny's, life by talking to members of the mob in his place.
Artistic License - Geography: All shots of New York are accurate or at least mostly accurate to the era they're shown in, except one. In Unbound, the saxophone playing ghost is playing in a spot where the skyline of Manhattan is visible when it should not be. In the commentary, both the designer and the artist comment on it and claim artistic license that it looks nicer.
Art Shift: The graphic design changes quite a bit from game to game. Dave Gilbert has called it a Running Gag on the commentary track, and that told he especially likes the idea of giving the portal to the Realm of Infinity a new interpretation in every game.
Barred from the Afterlife: Joey and Madeline. The latter eventually manages to move on in Epiphany's ending, but the former remains this way, even when the power of the universe is sending ALL unsent spirits. He is eventually resurrected by Rosa in her dying breath, in the hopes that he can finally move on when he passes away a second time.
Being Good Sucks: Being a medium means spending all your time with the dead and basically never having a life of your own. Being a spirit guide forces you to remain in the mortal world indefinitely, unsure if you'll ever be able to move on. Joey admits he thought saving lost souls would be fulfilling initially but isn't sure he feels that way anymore, we see in Unbound Lauren was numb to the whole process, and Rosa seems to be going the same way in Deception where Gavin is able to exploit her resentment toward the role to put the mind-whammy on her and make her reject Joey and the role entirely.
Every game, as well as the individual stories of each ghost. In the commentary Gilbert mentions that he likes writing ghost stories for this reason, as while sad (they're dead, after all) there's also usually an element of hope.
The Blackwell Epiphany is this for the entire series: Madeline's plan to eradicate all spirits, both living and dead, has been stopped and all the restless spirits around the world have been saved simultaneously, except for Joey's for some reason. Just when it seems they're going to continue their ghost-saving job, the power of the universe becomes too much for Rosa, and she uses her last strength to bring Joey back to life before she dies.
Book Ends: The first game begins with Rosa spreading her aunt's ashes off the Brooklyn Bridge. The final game ends with the now living Joey spreading Rosa's ashes at the same exact location.
Brainwashed and Crazy: Turns out that the person that kills Ostin in Epiphany is actually a possessed Father Michael, Madeline's "host" at the time.
Brought Down to Normal: Joey, after getting revived, notices that he can't see ghosts any more, and that he appears to be a normal person again.
But Now I Must Go: Getting a ghost to this point is the entire purpose of the Medium profession.
But Thou Must: A medium who is cut off from their spirit guide or refuses to perform the task laid before them, will eventually go mad. Refusal of the Call causing madness is an assumption corrected in Epiphany.
Can't Hold Her Liquor: In Convergence, when you try to leave the Park Gallery after visiting it for the first time, Nishanti urges Rosa to stay for the party. If she complies, a slightly different set of dialogue will play out throughout the game that implies Rosa got very drunk that night at the gallery. Attempting to interact with liquor bottles in Deception has Rosa refuse because it didn't work out well last time.
Picking a locked door with a paper clip in Convergence.
By the time of Epiphany Rosa's mental control allows her to keep her balance on moving to the gate to infinity rather than falling over as she and her aunt always did in the past. This later allows her to withstand the effects of being linked to infinity much longer than her aunt or grandmother, letting her remain lucid and functional long enough to take down Madeline.
Chivalrous Pervert: Joey is always willing to put on the charm, flirts with nearly every female ghost, constantly calls Rosangela "sweetheart", and is supremely annoyed that when he goes into a women's locker room it's currently empty. But he's always respectful when it really matters, and the one time he's propositioned he turns her down because she's unsure if she really wants to.
Clingy Jealous Girl: Tiffany Walters, who relentlessly pursued her boss into having an affair, and then when he ended it hounded him until he filed a restraining order against her. In her defense, she was psychically manipulated into it.
The Conspiracy: Gavin hints that there's a greater organization at work apart from him, and if The Stinger at the end of Deception is any indication, people in power may be involved.
Cruelty Is the Only Option: A puzzle in Legacy involves poisoning a dog. Joey calls Rosa out on it, Rosa defends it as only mild poisoning, and in the commentary Gilbert regrets he couldn't think of anything better. In Epiphany Joey claims the dog has never been the same since.
Unbound is distinctly bleaker than the other games, even without knowing Lauren's fate. Lauren and Joey can barely stand each other, Lauren herself is suicidally depressed, both the ghosts' backstories are horrible and were both strangled to death, and you actually have to kill someone. Even the soundtrack is morose.
Epiphany has a number of ghosts' souls torn apart, for the first time you see the ghost of a little girl, you see the inside of an insane asylum, and a rogue ghost nearly kills all of New York.
Dead to Begin With: The ghosts Rosangela encounters, obviously, most of which she has to make aware of that fact before they can move on.
Definitely Just a Cold: In Deception, Jeremy thinks he just came down with the flu when, in fact, he's dead and haunting his apartment.
Discontinuity Nod: One character in Epiphany says about a TV show that she is watching, "They changed the main character's voice after the first episode."
Doomed by Canon: When Joey says that it's a bad idea for Lauren to get back in touch with her brother, he means it. This shifts the ending from Bittersweet closer to Downer.
Dreaming of Things to Come: The dreams Lauren recorded on her dictophone in Unbound refer to events in the previous game (which takes place around thirty years later). One or two of these dreams foreshadow a few twists in Convergence.
Flight: Joey can levitate high off the ground if he wishes. He rarely exploits this ability, however, since he has to stay within thirty feet of his medium at all times.
Early-Installment Weirdness: The first game had you only controlling Rosa, even after Joey makes his appearance (the ability to switch between Rosa - Lauren in Unbound - and Joey wasn't introduced until the second game), is much shorter compared to the later games, and proportionately contains less investigation and more puzzles.
Electromagnetic Ghosts: All ghosts, including Joey, can interfere with radio-based devices simply by getting close to them. This is crucial to solving several puzzles throughout the games.
Emotion Eater: Gavin feeds on people's positive emotions, prolonging his own life and eventually causing his victims to die of aneurysms.
Episodic Game: The series are a borderline example. Each installment came about every year and a half and offers about 3-4 hours of gameplay. Epiphany is the odd one out, being 3 years in development and being substantially longer that the previous installments.
Everyone Has Standards: As abrasive as Joey can be, when faced with the ghost of a young girl, no older than 10 in Epiphany, he simply can't bring himself to tell her that she's dead.
The Ghost/No Name Given: Grandpa Blackwell. He is mentioned here and there, but he hasn't made an on-screen appearance or even been named in any of the games. Lauren is about to say his name at one point, but temporally interrupts herself for an unrelated reason, and the screen fades to black before the audience hears it.
Ghost Amnesia: Most ghosts don't realize they're dead, and have to be reminded before they can move on.
The Countess. Sealing away your spirit guide and then letting the Infinity fill into your own skull can do that to you.
Ignoring the spirit guide, or refusing to help the ghosts everywhere drives a medium insane. It suggested that this what doomed Patricia and Lauren Blackwell. Turns out, it isn't.
Gone Horribly Right: Benjiro's "Epiphany Experiment" was meant to see if an Emotion Eater, like himself, could feed off people without killing them in the process, by increasing the victim's positive energies and skimming of the top instead of the usual method of just sucking energy until the victim died. The energy output from this method turned out to be so strong that Benjiro's mind couldn't take it, and his mind become more and more addled and he was eventually committed to psychiatric care.
Mavis Wilcox in Unbound. She never left her apartment for anything, even when it was condemned, and even in death, she still refuses to leave her apartment, even though the building had already been demolished.
Rosa in Legacy, to the point when some of her neighbors don't recognise her. She seems to get better in Convergence, but she still is pretty antisocial.
Hope Spot: In Epiphany Rosa and Joey have defeated Madeline, saved the city and sent EVERY ghost in the world into the beyond. Joey starts talking about how they can have a vacation until more ghosts appear, maybe travel and Rosa seems to like the idea. Then it's suddenly revealed Rosa is still connected to the universe and unable to bear the strain of the link any longer and she dies, using her last moments to restore Joey to life and ensure he never ends up like Madeline.
Iconic Outfit: Joey's hat and tie. Becomes symbolic in the finale, when he loses both of them.
I Should Write a Book About This: In Convergence, Rosa receives a rejection from Rel Day Books for her manuscript "The Devil and the Deacon"—presumably an account of the events in Legacy. In Deception, Rosa has a published (but wildly unsuccessful) manuscript called "The Actor and the Artist"—presumably an account of the events in Convergence.
Info Dump: A massive one at the beginning of Legacy, involving extensive conversations with two characters and a bunch of letters. Gilbert laments this in the "Five Years Later" commentary, resolving after the game was made to never resort to this trope again.
Informed Flaw: Rosa is supposedly anti-social, or at least socially awkward, something which Joey constantly teases her about. Doesn't stop her from interrogating dozens of complete strangers on the most bizarre topics.
Intangible Man: Common to all ghosts and used for several puzzles involving Joey.
Interface Spoiler: Several achievements spoil events in the games, particularly the confrontation with the Countess at the end of Convergence.
Not limited to the clothes. If a ghost was specially attached to an object while s/he lived, s/he will carry around a ghostly version of it. Sometimes the objects are still somewhat functional, such as saxophones, guns, and phones.
The Deacon's bottle (which he keeps drinking from despite being empty) hits closer to this, as it literally contains his past sins according to the devil.
Justice Will Prevail: Rosa always expresses some degree of sympathy for every ghost she and Joey meet, due to the often quite sad circumstances of their deaths, and is driven to right or, seeing as she is dealing with the death after all, at least try to mend the wrongs they have suffered and bring them some sort of justice and comfort. Madeline notices that her attitude makes her quite different from Lauren, who approached the life as a medium as more of a reluctantPunch Clock Hero.
Justified Tutorial: Convergence, Deception, and Epiphanyopen with the player restricted to a small area until they help a ghost pass on, using most of the skills they'll need in the game.
It's possible to save Charles Meltzer in Convergence. None of the characters care if you don't, however.
In Epiphany the Big Bad, Madeline, achieves her wish to move on through the light, even though none of the souls that she tore apart get to.
Last Name Basis/First Name Basis: A funny back and forth takes place in Epiphany, where Rosa works together with the cop, Cory Palmer. Rosa insists on keeping addressing him as just "Cory", while he, rather annoyed, corrects her to "Officer Palmer" every single time.
Left Hanging: Because of the aforementioned Aborted Arc, The Stinger of Deception, which strongly implies that New York's police chief, Alex Silva, is a leading figure in Gavin's covert cabal of Emotion Eaters, is never resolved or even elaborated upon.
Living Memory: The Countess has the memories of a homeless philosopher and a writer for the New Yorker dwelling with her own memory in a diner somewhere beyond Infinity. It Makes Sense in Context.
Literal Split Personality: Heather Goffstein was so insisting on ridding herself of her former life as a prostitute and starting a new life under the name Tanya Corsey, that when she died, her soul split up into two separate ghosts, Heather Goffstein, the young prostitute, and Tanya Corsey, the middle-aged talkshow host. In order to trigger her awareness of her death, Rosa and Joey must convince her to undergo a Split Personality Merge.
Mysterious Past: A major part of Joey's character, and he keeps a tight reign on it. Rosa only learns how he died by accident, and she never learns why he became a spirit guide. The player learns about the latter in the last act of Epiphany, where it turns out to have been purely coincidence. The Anti-Climax is very much intentional on Gilbert's part.
Mythology Gag: Gavin and his superiors refers to Rosa as a "Bestower of eternity", a reference to the original freeware game the series is based on.
Narrative Filigree: Each game is littered with things that aren't relevant to the plot or a puzzle, but examining them can provoke a funny comment or some interesting but superfluous information.
Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: In Epiphany, we find out that Madeline, the ghost that Joey had freed, was behind the whole thing, and the spirits they'd brought to her were quickly made as sacrifices to boost her own power. And that she did so in order to successfully possess Rosa, after failing to do so with his previous two hosts. To say the least, this revelation does not sit well.
No Social Skills: Rosa, especially in the first game. She refuses to approach Nashanti while she's playing her flute in public, and her dialogue choices throughout often end up as a choice between "mean", "passive-aggressive", or "awkward/tell an awkward joke."
NPC Amnesia: The dialogue puzzles usually involve choosing a right answer amongst several false ones, sometimes with a dialogue tree that requires a right answer at each step, and the player is given unlimited retries no matter how many times they get it wrong. It's at least justified with the ghosts, who aren't all there, but the security guard in Legacy and the artist in Convergence have no such excuse.
Oddball in the Series: Unbound is the only game without Rosa, is much bleaker than the others, the most advanced electronic gizmo available is a tape recorder (it's the seventies, after all), and it doesn't even have character portraits and dialogue boxes.
Offscreen Teleportation: In the commentary of Unbound, the designer and the artist joke that this is probably the only way Lauren could get around New York so fast in one night. That, or a jetpack.
In every conversation with a ghost Joey has the option of bluntly telling them they're dead. However in Epiphany at one point Joey absolutely refuses to do so when dealing with the ghost of a 10-year-old child.
At the end of EpiphanyJoey actually refers to Rosa by name, rather than "Red" or "Sweetheart".
Oral Fixation: Lauren Blackwell is a hardcore chain smoker to the point where she does not only have an ashtray in every room, but also for all of her everyday activities that require two hands. She's also often in denial about her habit, claiming that the cigarette she's currently on is her "last one of the night". There's an achievement for smoking less than twenty cigarettes in a playthrough, which is much harder than it sounds, and conversely an achievement for smoking 100 cigarettes.
"During this game, Lauren smoked 38 cigarettes."
Ouija Board: They actually work. According to Joey, the results are always bad.
Parental Abandonment: Rosa's parents died in a car crash when she was only 5 years old. Her aunt Lauren took custody of her for a few years before she was driven insane and sent to a mental ward.
Please Wake Up: Heartbreakingly done in Epiphany, when Joey tries to hand his tie to Rosa after she'd restored him to life.
Police Are Useless: Naturally, when deaths start involving ghosts. It gets lampshaded a bit by Joey in Convergence when Rosa isn't charged with the murder of an artist despite the fact that she and the murdered were the only ones visibly present at the time. Also, Lauren apparently gets off scot-free for killing the Countess. Finally averted in Epiphany, where the NYPD finally realize that Rosa just happens to be nearby whenever someone dies, and react accordingly.
Posthumous Character: The ghosts, obviously. More traditionally, Lauren "Auntie" Blackwell, though she's the main character in Unboundand shows up as a ghost at the end of Epiphany.
Power Perversion Potential: Joked about by Abe Goldfarb, Joey's voice actor, in one of the commentary nodes in Epiphany, noting that because Joey can only blow on things, fellating the living is his power. He thus declares as canon that "Joey sucks a mean dick".
Psychic Powers: Mediums don't get any of the flashy abilities associated with some psychics, but they can interact with ghosts in ways that are impossible for most people. And some have other kinds of powers.
Really 700 Years Old: Gavin, and possibly Benjiro. Madeline has been around for centuries, but being a ghost might disqualify her.
Running Gag: Simply telling a confused lost soul they are dead is always possible (with one exception), but never, ever works. Lampshaded in Epiphany where a positively ancient spirit guide is asked if it has ever worked, pauses, then concedes it hasn't.
Sanity Has Advantages: This being an adventure game series, out-thinking the neurotic spiritual (or spiritually neurotic) villains is what earns the Blackwell mediums their victories in every game thus far.
Self-Deprecation: An entire Easter Egg in Epiphany is devoted to Abe Goldfarb, via Joey, mocking other characters that he's voiced.
Joey: Some hack actor. Nice tie, though.
Screw This, I'm Outta Here!: Once the ghost of Benjiro realizes what Madeline is up to, he decides that he'd better get the get the hell out of dodge before she manages to finish what she started.
Sequel Hook: Every game except Unbound (being a prequel) and Epiphany.
Serial Escalation: With every new episode, the games get progressively longer, with The Blackwell Epiphany being the longest game in the entire series.
Charles Meltzer uses his computer much like a Death Note would you say? He writes someone's name down and they die a short time afterwards. Frank Lyons is even claimed to die of a heart attack, the default mode of killing for the death note
Still Got It: After Joey gets Jamie to return to her dorm room, during which she passionately kisses him twice, the achievement description reads "Not bad, for a dead guy."
Take Your Time: Standard in all the games, with one exception. At the end of Convergence, if you don't save Meltzer in time The Countess will kill him.
Taught by Experience: Joey, Lauren, and Rosa. Dialogue with another spirit guide (the only one besides Joey you ever encounter) suggests that, normally, mediums and spirit guides get a formal education from more experienced people, living and dead. Without a teacher and with nothing but instinct to go on, Joey has apparently developed some... unconventional talents as a spirit guide.
The Verse: This series and The Shivah share some elements. Rosangela contacted Rabbi Zelig, presumably for an obituary. Sam Durkin makes appearances in Unbound when he's at college and Convergence and Epiphany as a hard-boiled detective. Sharming Fashion is mentioned in Convergence. All the present-day games have spam e-mails by Tomo. In Deception it turns out that Rajshree Lauder contacted Rosa to see if her husband's ghost was still around. Rosangela's neighbor Nishanthi and Rajshree share the same maiden name, Sharma. And in The Shivah, in the pub there's a certain redhead talking to someone who "isn't there".
Joey: Think of me as the Blackwell legacy, darling.
Unfinished Business: Ghosts who died in the middle of some activity may need to have that activity wrapped up before they'll notice how dead they are.
Unwitting Instigator of Doom: A woman named Jocelyn Contis performed a single act of unthinking selfishness which not only destroyed her own life (and death, for that matter), but the lives of around a dozen other people, the main characters included.
Unwitting Pawn: Joey, Rosa and Father Michael in Blackwell Epiphany, as they help Madeline furthering her scheme.
Updated Re-release: Deception had an update in 2013 where the character portraits was changed to a more realistic style over the original comic-style portraits to fit more with the other games in the series.
Vitriolic Best Buds: Rosa and Joey. Lauren and Joey try for this at times, but it's far more resentful.
Who You Gonna Call?: Rosangela decides to set up this sort of business at the end of Convergence and continues it in Deception, complete with business cards.
Who Wants to Live Forever?: Turns out that Madeline doesn't. Epiphany shows that after a few centuries or more of thankless, ceaseless duty helping other spirits cross over, she's pretty much fed up with the whole affair and is willing to take drastic measures to end it all.
Why We Can't Have Nice Things: A real-life example. On Halloween 2013, Wadjet Eye Games did a special free giveaway of one of the Blackwell games to encourage people to buy their games. Even though several goofs on behalf of their download fulfillment partner BMT Micro were rectified for the most part, a large amount of the freely-distributed Steam keys were still found to be hoarded (through spambots and IP blockers) for resale, forcing WEG to abort the giveaway and have Valve delete all still-unused keys, possibly including several that were gained legitimately.
World Building: Each game reveals something important about mediums and the supernatural, and hints at much more.