Sawbuck Gamer

Blackwood Prologue

Look Before You Sleep

Blackwood Prologue recalls Limbo and Agent Cooper’s end.

By Drew Toal • September 13, 2012

Sawbuck Gamer is our daily review of a free or cheap ($10 or less) game.

Dreams are a pretty lazy place to set stories. Oh, so you can manipulate time and space, killing and dismembering your protagonist and his whole family and…just kidding! You were sleeping the whole time! Narrative cop-out.

Blackwood Prologue is a Limbo-style dream adventure that puts you in control of a young fellow named Costis, who wanders the disorienting dreamscape doing favors for people, presumably trying to get home. Blackwood isn’t as overtly oppressive as Limbo, but it has its dark moments: Costis is stalked by a faceless assailant, one whose mere presence withers tulips and probably makes puppies cry. He is a master of something called “the inverse,” which Costis threatens when he breaks a dream mirror.

The short game gives a direct nod to Limbo when a friendly old man is consumed or transformed into a giant spider, but other, more subtle references abound. It’s in Costis’ house where a red room recalls Twin Peaks’ Black Lodge, another reality-bending prison. Blackwood Prologue is just that—a prologue to a larger, yet-to-come game—but it’s enough to satiate appetites for more than just cherry pie and coffee: a full-fledged game that won’t end with, “Thank God it was all a dream.”

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349 Responses to “Look Before You Sleep”

  1. WorldCivilizations says:

    So, it’s not the backstory of the Blackwood Company in Oblivion? 

    Good, Oblivion sucked.

    • Cloks says:

      Counter point: Oblivion didn’t suck.

      • Aurora Boreanaz says:

        Oblivion didn’t suck, but the broken level-scaling enemy system did.

        • Cloks says:

          I never had to deal with that because I got Oblivion from a friend who had played it for ~300 hours before I did. It was modded out the wazoo (bug fixes, design-flaw smoothing) so the Oblivion I’ve played is probably a different sort of beast entirely.

        • doyourealize says:

          Not just the level-scaling enemy system, but the level-scaling everything system.

          Also, I read this a while ago. And while I enjoyed Oblivion, his argument is well-presented and thought out. He spends some time talking about slighting PC users, which could sound whiny, but I had to agree with a lot of what he said even before I started gaming on PC. Especially when he compares user interfaces between Morrowind and Oblivion.

          The most interesting section, for me anyway, is the “Lore” section, in which he points out how obviously Oblivion breaks the rules of the Elder Scrolls world. Normally I would think this was minor, but in games as deep as these, you could lose the sense of place.

          I’ll tag @Cloks:disqus here, too in case he wants a look-see. Not trying to start any flame wars, just figured I’d share a reasonable argument.

        • Effigy_Power says:

          @doyourealize:disqus: I read through that and I can agree with the rare point here and there, but in general the writer of that article has a massive chip on his shoulder.
          I think the line between defending traditional roleplay mechanics and being downright hostile to any kind of innovation is very, very narrow.

        • doyourealize says:

          @Effigy_Power:disqus Yeah, he definitely has a chip on his shoulder, and I don’t agree with everything he says, and I still say I enjoyed Oblivion. However, I have also argued that while Oblivion‘s changes from Morrowind made it the inferior game, it may have been the right choice for Bethesda. I just think the argument made in that article is all-inclusive and persuasive. And a breath of fresh air from people who pick out one small change in a sequel and act like it ruins the entire game.

        • WorldCivilizations says:

          The scaling system really ruined the game for me. After I made a crap character who just got weaker and weaker as I leveled, I ended up making a character with all combat skills, then only every playing as a mage. The character became godlike, basically one-shotting anything in the game. Of course, half the game’s content (high level equipment and enemies) I never saw because I never leveled up enough to see it. That site @doyourealize:disqus posted really nails it. 

          Oh well, you can mod morrowind now to look twice as good as Oblivion anyway.

      • Merve says:

        Further counterpoint: Oblivion is so buggy that it not only made me ragequit the game, but the entire Elder Scrolls franchise.

  2. You guys gotta stop putting these out in the middle of the day. I want to play this, but I’m chained to my cubicle, much like Prometheus was bound to rocks, each of us having our liver pecked apart by an eagle, literal or metaphorical.

    Also, I’m always impressed by what an influence Limbo seems to have had on the indie games community (or the indie games press at least). I see it’s name bandied about all the time, and always in relation to its weird, unsettling theme.  

    Talking to the Penny-Arcade Report, the creator of indie-title “Closure” seemed really depressed that everyone thought his game was a Limbo knockoff just because it was dark and in black and white.

  3. dmikester says:

    I really, really enjoyed this.  Played through multiple times and found all the secret orbs and got the “extended” ending (well, all one basically static scene of it).  Short enough to not take up too much time, but engrossing the whole time it lasts.  Thanks for this, guys!

    • Aaron Riccio says:

      All the secret orbs? Hm. I found one. 

      But I didn’t enjoy this, concept for a game or not. It was just running back and forth, with one jump, and nothing to really do. I guess vague plots and creepy music don’t really do all that much for me, and I could swear I played a game like this on Kongregate already in which a boy leaves his friendly house to go looking for his missing sister and winds up being chased by spiders in an underground area. 

      • dmikester says:

        Yeah, I dunno, this hit my sweet spot for some reason.  I’m a sucker for vagueness in games, even if they’re HEAVILY inspired by other games like Limbo.  I think I just went into it with zero expectations, and it ended up being more than I was expecting, and short enough to where it wasn’t a big deal to play through twice.  Also, I was on the same wavelength as the creator as far as where the secret orbs were hidden, so that made it more pleasant than it could have been.  

  4. El Pollo Diablo says:

    Seeems nice, but my character keeps getting ‘stuck’ – he’ll run along, then get trapped in place, running constantly, unresponsive to controls. The only way out is to quit and restart. Very annoying, reminds me of Heimdall on the Amiga. I was playing in Opera – anyone else get this?

  5. Aaron Riccio says:

    I was also going to say, the design of these characters made me think a little bit of the Don Hertzfeldt characters from “Billy’s Balloon” and, yeah, I was sort of rooting for the inverse to kill him in interesting ways.