Black Mirror Review

Richard Walker

I'm of the opinion that more adventure games would be a very good thing indeed, so it was with open arms that I welcomed King Art Games' Black Mirror reboot, the first in a new series following the original The Black Mirror trilogy that began in 2003 and ended with Black Mirror III: Final Fear in 2011. Sadly, Black Mirror is a huge disappointment, a shoddily cobbled together adventure title that plods along at an uneven pace towards a predictable and anti-climactic end.

As the spiritual offspring of the point-and-click series, Black Mirror (which incidentally has absolutely nothing to do with the Charlie Brooker penned TV series of the same name) eschews exploration using a cursor for huge on-screen button prompts that you can't possibly miss. The real challenge in Black Mirror comes from having to feel your way through the game's labyrinthine Scottish castle, where protagonist David Gordon returns when his father dies a gruesome death under mysterious circumstances.

Black Mirror does a decent job early on in generating an eerie, macabre atmosphere as David arrives at the cavernous manor situated in a deep and remote region in Scotland, where his decrepit grandmother acts as custodian. From the off, it's clear that all is not as it seems, and as you poke into the dark corners of the castle, you'll discover all sorts of occult weirdness that sends David down a bizarre rabbit hole. And it seems that someone hasn't been paying the electricity bill at Casa el Gordon, as even the manor's social areas are poorly lit, meaning you have to find your way around with only the flickering light from a candlestick. No wonder nobody ever visits.

It's during the game's opening chapter that you'll find some of the game's best puzzles, before it seemingly gives up on the whole puzzling aspect of the game to settle into a dull, linear rut. For much of Black Mirror's 4-6 hours, you'll be meandering through the house figuring out where the hell to go, the questlog offering only the most rudimentary guidance. Then there's the protracted load times when you transition from room to room, leaving you twiddling your thumbs waiting, only to discover more often than not that you've wandered into the wrong place. Back out you go, another loading screen your reward for not paying attention.

And so it goes for much of Black Mirror, which is something of a shame, especially when its environments manage to evoke the gothic ambience of an Edgar Allan Poe or HP Lovecraft novel that serves as the game's inspiration. What breaks the illusion is the ham-fisted attempt at jump-scares, the juddering frame rate, the pixellated shadows, and the waxen faces lacking in expression. Oh, and those damn loading screens too. Ugh.

As you progress through Black Mirror's slow-moving narrative, you'll encounter various members of the dysfunctional Gordon family, before mystery and intrigue ensues, eventually giving way to supernatural weirdness. You'll interact with visions from the Gordon family's murky past, revealing insights into events that happened decades ago, and there are certain moments - rare as they are - that can be genuinely quite unexpected.

But it's short shrift for a game that's so frustrating overall, from the character movement to the wayward swinging camera and the disappointing dearth of head-scratching conundrums, Black Mirror doesn't feel like a $40 game and it's certainly not worth the price tag. A choppily-paced and fairly uninspiring horror adventure that's not particularly scary, Black Mirror falls desperately short in providing a compelling narrative or gratifying puzzles. Sorry, but I cannae recommend it, laddy.

Black Mirror

Despite creating a macabre atmosphere and delivering some decent puzzles early on, Black Mirror is a somewhat insipid and uninspired adventure game exacerbated by frequent loading screens and shoddy presentation throughout. It belongs at the bottom of a deep loch.

Form widget
50%
Audio
60%

Alright music, alright voice acting. It's alright. Fine. Nothing more.

Visuals
50%

Beautiful environments hampered by draw-in issues - especially in the exterior regions - poorly animated characters and pixellated shadows don't do much for Black Mirror.

Playability
50%

Character movement feels floaty and some fiendish, smart puzzles early on are dispensed with in favour of a mostly linear story that requires very little effort. As such, it's not particularly rewarding or exciting.

Delivery
50%

A short game with zero replay value. Load times between every single environment become a real pain and there's not a whole lot to do. The entire package is rather shoddily presented and lacking in polish.

Achievements
60%

A list that's seemingly been thrown together as an afterthought, the good news is, Black Mirror is a remarkably easy 1000G. Every cloud and all that.

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