To anyone who is familiar with the original trilogy – forget what you know. To those who only know about the Black Mirror TV show – don’t associate the show with this game. To those who don’t know anything about the old series or the TV show – don’t worry as this is a completely new story with very loose ties to the original game. There are similar gameplay mechanics with a few new ones thrown in, updated graphics and a darker, more condensed story. Black Mirror takes the theme of the original game and creates a new experience for you to play and enjoy.
Back in the late 90’s/early 2000’s there were a few game genres I used to love playing on my PC when I would get home from school/college, games you could boot up and instantly become lost within their world and lore. I was obsessed with mindless carnage games such as Carmageddon II, beautiful open world adventure games like Outcast and pretty much any Lucas Arts/Sierra Point-and-click adventure game. They say imitation is the most sincere form of flattery and I’m glad companies started to imitate and expand on these genres, especially the point-and-click games as Lucas Arts focused on the family-friendly style, but this genre could work for anything, including more mature themes.
In 2003, I was introduced to a new style of point-and-click game. I was introduced to The Black Mirror, a dark horror/thriller point-and-click game which was very different from the comedic cartoony games which were dominating the genre at the time. The game had an amazing story, deep character interaction and some very dark themes (I wasn’t going to learn about games such as Dark Seed and Harvester for many years) which really stuck with me over the years. The game developed a following and spawned two sequels in 2009 and 2011. Jump to 2017 and THQ Nordic and King Art Games (The Book of Unwritten Tales and The Dwarves) announced they have acquired the rights to the IP and are rebooting the series!
The story begins with a vague interactive opening cutscene which does an amazing job of introducing us to our first mystery. An unknown person is running away from something we can’t see, but can certainly hear, through dense fog with screams and voices echoing in their head. The climax of the cutscene is very sudden and unexpected. Who is this person? What were they holding? What drove them to this fatal conclusion? We will uncover the truth behind all these questions and our family history as we play through the dark, atmospheric story of Black Mirror.
We receive a brief introduction to our protagonist, David Gordon. You are on your way to Scotland, to your father’s family home, in the wake of his death as you are soon to be the beneficiary to his estate and must meet up with the family lawyer to go through all of the necessary paperwork. Your only possessions are a letter from your mother telling you to not trust anyone within the Gordon household, a note from your father which contains some random words and symbols, and what appears to be a part of a broken toy in the shape of a tower.
You arrive at Sgathan Dubh, the ‘Black Mirror House’ and are quickly introduced to the current owner; Lady Margaret Gordon, who was your grandfather’s wife; Andrew Harrison, the Lawyer and Angus McKinnon, the butler. You don’t receive the warmest of welcomes which creates a feeling that something is terribly wrong here. You are the only person who believes something drove your father to his death and you must investigate to find out what that was. You set out, in the middle of the night, to explore the mansion and uncover the dark secrets which lie within in order to discover the truth, although you may find yourself with more questions than answers!
If you have played any modern point-and-click games on consoles; such as The Book of Unwritten Tales, The Inner world or Silence then the gameplay style should be very familiar. You move around in 3rd person and if you are within proximity of something you can interact with, a prompt will appear for you to select. I didn’t have any issues with this; however, there is no ‘highlight all interaction points’ present within this game which did lead to me missing a few things until I explored thoroughly. You also have an inventory but there isn’t any ‘inventory puzzles’, outside of the key puzzle which I’ll explain below, as the puzzles within the game are solved by reading what you pick up or see whilst exploring the house.
The Skeleton key puzzle is the only recurring puzzle and I thought it was done really well. You have a key, which you find parts of, and around the house are various locks. You must rotate the various parts of the key to line up with the lock you are trying to open. I thought this was very interesting as rather than finding various keys or having one key that fits all, you had to practically make the key for each lock you wish to use it on.
A new mechanic which has been added is the ability to manifest memories/ghosts in front of you so you can see what happened in the past. These visions are limited but are more welcomed than a generic cutscene as you have to find the important parts of the vision and examine them without the ghostly figures realising what you are doing and stop your meddling. These reminded me a little of ‘Murdered: Soul Suspect’, only these are moving and not static visions. However, are these visions real or are they being shown to you in order to distract you from the truth?
The character models and various items look great up close. I wouldn’t say the graphics are anything groundbreaking but they all look high quality for a point-and-click adventure game. I have placed a picture above of the groundsman, who you meet in chapter one, just to show you how detailed the models can get. All the light sources, such as the candles, generate real-time shadows and effects which really add to the immersion.
The sound design and voices are perfect. The music is subtle when it plays, but the main sounds you will hear are the ambient sounds of the wind whooshing by or the fire crackling in an otherwise silent room. This really helps to build suspense and makes you a little uneasy at times. The voice acting is great – everyone sounded how they looked and all the performances were delivered perfectly. The only issue I had was the majority of characters spoke in the Queens English. The house is based in Scotland yet only one person spoke with a thick Scottish accent, the groundsman. I can see why this would be the case as some people may not understand the Scottish accent, but it would have been nice to have more of them in the game.
One thing I didn’t like about this reboot is the location. The house is great and really detailed but in the original 2003 game, you could visit a sanatorium, a local town, a chapel and a second mansion as well as move around the Black Mirror House and its gardens. However, in the reboot, you only have access to the Black Mirror House, its grounds and one other location. I would have liked the game to allow us more freedom to explore other locations with more variety. Hopefully, this is something we will see if a sequel is created as Black Mirror 2 and 3 both moved from the mansion to a local town with much bigger environments.
In terms of technical issues, Black Mirror has a few; however, the good news is that all of them have been reported and I have been assured they should be resolved soon, so my final score will not reflect them. First of all, the game sufferers from long loading times. It takes about 20-40 seconds to load up each room, even if it’s just a hallway. This may not seem like much but when you have to go through four loading screens just to go from one side of the house to the other it can start to add up. This is worse in the later part of the game when you are encouraged to explore in order to solve puzzles as it makes this process less enjoyable and more of a drag. Secondly the lip-syncing isn’t the greatest as the characters look like dogs eating toffees as they talk – don’t get me wrong, the voice acting is great but the actual speaking mechanic needs to be adjusted a little bit.
Finally, bugs and glitches. I had four occasions where my character got stuck when interacting with something, causing me to re-load my save file. The game auto-saves so it isn’t a big issue but it is something they are aware of and are looking into. Regarding glitches, if you re-load at certain times then items may be missing, light sources turned off, puzzles appear upside down and other strange occurrences – I was also advised these are being fixed in the next patch and they never seemed to block off progression or trophies when they occurred in my gameplay.
First 10 minutes of gameplay:
Official Game trailer:
Black Mirror is a great reboot, it took what made the original series great and expanded on it without having to reuse the same story. It’s atmospheric and dark with a few twists and turns which you uncover as you go along, sometimes by giving you more questions than answers. Don’t expect gore and bloodshed but expect a psychological horror with thriller and supernatural themes both thrown into the mix. I can’t praise this game enough and anyone with an interest in narrative-based adventure games should definitely add this game to their library.
- Very atmospheric and engaging story
- Interesting puzzles that make you think about the solution
- Great Voice acting and ambient sounds
- Highly detailed character models and world items
- A really good reboot of the series which didn’t just copy it 1:1
- The launch edition has a fair few bugs and glitches (although none trophy or game breaking)
- Would have been nice if you had more locations to visit
- The puzzles were great, but I would have liked more of them