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Black Mirror

Score: 80%
ESRB: Mature
Publisher: THQ Nordic
Developer: King Art Games
Media: Download/1
Players: 1
Genre: Adventure

Graphics & Sound:

Black Mirror is a reboot of the adventure game series from the early 2000's that focuses on a family curse. Like the first installment, this game puts you in control of an estranged scion returning to his ancestral home where he will not only explore the large castle, but also uncover the secrets that haunt his family.

Black Mirror has enough settings in its menus to let it take advantage of your graphics card to a level that you feel comfortable with. While maxing out these values caused my system to severely under-perform, what it produced was detailed characters in a beautiful world filled with deep shadows and bright lighting. While I had to tone down some of that in order to actually play the game, the only major change that seemed to significantly throttle my system was the shadow settings, and there was noticeable difference between its highest value and the next one down.

The voice acting for Black Mirror felt right. While I can't say I have a good enough ear to speak to the accuracy of the Gordon family's accents, they did sound right to me. As an additional plus, the dialogue wasn't overacted and the conversations felt fairly smooth. As for the game's background music, while it fit the overall mood of the game, it felt very generic and ultimately came across as nothing special.


Gameplay:

Black Mirror follows David Gordon who, after learning about his father's death, is asked to visit his family's castle in Scotland. David's father left the castle when he was young and only returned in recent years. As David explores the estates for the first time, he also starts to realize that his family has more than a couple secrets, and those secrets start to make themselves known as David starts to experience visions. David learns that there is apparently a curse on the Gordon family, but is this just a story told to scare him or could it be the cause for his father's untimely death?

While digging into his family's past, David will have to deal with his grandmother, the butler, the grounds keeper, the family attorney, a cousin, a doctor at the local asylum, and the maid. Each character will have a pivotal part in the story and will give David the bits of insight he needs, not only in the history of the Gordon clan, but also the events leading up to his father's death. But not all of David's interactions will be with the living and as his visions get stronger, he starts to realize they must be messages from beyond the grave, either that, or he is also suffering from the same mental illness that apparently tormented his father.


Difficulty:

Black Mirror's difficulty level is a mixed bag. While there were some puzzles that required me to actually pull out a pen and paper to take notes and work through (something that I haven't had to do in a few years), these were very rare, and most of the puzzles that the game presented offered very little challenge. In fact, most of the time, when confronted with an obstacle, getting through it meant having the right item in your inventory, not even really needing to know what that item was or figuring out if it is the right item to use. If you had it, the game would suggest using it. If you didn't, well, you simply didn't get that prompt and needed to continue exploring and talking to everyone.

There were even a few puzzles that could be solved by some basic brute-force attempts and one, in particular, had such a low number of combinations to try, that it was very tempting to solve the puzzle and see what was beyond without hunting for the actual clues. If that had happened, some story elements would have been missed, and that would have been a shame.

There was one recurring puzzle that I found interesting and was glad to see it used often. You get a key early on that can be made to fit many different locks. While some of the rune-based puzzles the game threw at me were complicated enough for me to write things down, the key-based ones provided an interesting visual puzzle that was far more compelling from a problem-solving perspective.


Game Mechanics:

For the most part, Black Mirror behaves like a tried and true point-and-click adventure, though there are a few times when it tries to shake things up by adding Telltale-like action sequences that, more times than not, feel awkward.

While there are a couple of times when the need for timely action makes sense, most of the places where the game requires you to do more than just click the mouse don't feel any more dramatic or eventful than the others. Where Telltale will put you in a quicktime sequence in order to get through some fight, in Black Mirror, you are often forced to hold down the mouse button just a little longer and doing so only results in an action that a basic mouse click would seem perfectly fine for. There are a couple of events where timing is more important, especially during some of David's visions, but it still feels odd and out of place to make these interactions more than the basic click that the rest of the game uses. Outside of the times when you simply hold down the mouse button just a little longer, there are some other sequences where you have to keep the cursor centered in a moving target, and these at least feel a little more appropriate for what is going on, but it still feels more out of place than not when looking at the game as a whole.

The other place Black Mirror deviates from standard adventure mechanics is the insistence that you interact with the world using number keys, and since you typically only have one item you can work with at a time, most of the time you are tapping the [1] key in order to perform an action. Sometimes, though not every time, you can click the number that is hovering on the screen, but since this isn't always the case, you might as well keep a finger on the numpad because you will be tapping that [1] often. I'm not really sure why the developers went with this design choice, because it strays away from accepted and intuitive methods, but not in a way that seems to offer anything better, just different.

Storywise, Black Mirror weaves an interesting tale and while it is somewhat predictable, it is still a good story. The fact that it has a few truly challenging puzzles means that it isn't a cake walk, but on the flip side, since most of the obstacles it throws in front of the player require little real effort to get past, a lot of the problem-solving aspects of the game leave something to be desired. Black Mirror isn't the best example of a point-and-click adventure, but if you are looking for something other than the episodic releases that Telltale produces, then this game might be worth looking into.


-J.R. Nip, GameVortex Communications
AKA Chris Meyer

Minimum System Requirements:



Window 7, 8, 8.1, 10 (64bit), Intel Q9650 / AMD Phenom II X4 940 Processor, 8 GB RAM, GeForce GTX660 / Radeon 7870 - 2GB VRAM Graphics Card, DirectX 11, 11 GB available hard drive space
 

Test System:



Intel Core i7-3820 CPU @ 3.60GHz, 16 GB dual-channel DDR3,Windows 10 Home 64 bit, Graphics: NVIDIA GeForce GTX 680 (4GB)

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