Developer: King Art Games Publisher: THQ Nordic Platform(s): PC, PS4, XB1
Six years after the third game in the series, Black Mirror is back. Developed by King Art Games, the studio behind The Book of Unwritten Tales series and Kronos, the Black Mirror reboot/re-imagining takes place 60 years before the first game and focusses on a new (or rather old) set of characters at Sgathan Dubh Castle, Gaelic for Black Mirror Castle.
David Gordon spent most of his life in India, but after his father commits suicide, ownership of Black Mirror Castle transfers to him and he has to go back to Scotland. This sets into motion a whole spiral of events, each more shocking than the last. As David tries to understand what is happening, he also has to piece together the story of the last two generations of his family to find the truth. Hallucinations that are too real to be just hallucinations plague him as he stumbles through the dark looking for answers.
The gameplay is mostly your typical point-‘n’-click gameplay, like the originals, however, in contrast to the originals, Black Mirror lets you interact with items in your inventory, turning them and observing them from different angles. What’s also new is that the game has QTEs. They’re fairly well-placed: not too often, but also not just a one-time thing. The game integrates the QTEs into cutscenes and there are only few that aren’t in a cutscene.
Black Mirror also has quite a few puzzles, some of which are the more classical “escape room” style of tactical puzzle, where you have to find clues and use them to find a combination of some kind, whereas there are also environmental puzzles, especially near the end of the game. This mix leads to a very interesting experience, although they could’ve put a few more puzzles of both types in.
Probably the most notable change from the original trilogy are the hallucinations/visions. Although the other games all had other types of horror elements, Black Mirror deals with the horrors of the mind and visions play a large part in this. These Poeish and Lovecraftian elements fit in well with the pre-established lore, even if they didn’t play as large a role in the original games. If you come into contact with the visions for too long, they can manifest. These horrific manifestations will kill you instantly, so make sure to get close, do what you have to, and get out.
One game design choice next that accompanied the visions was one I personally didn’t like, because I dislike its implementation in all media. The addition of a tinnitus QTE at certain points in the game made sense, it worked, it fit, but I didn’t like it because it triggered my own tinnitus.
Other than that, the game works. The puzzles are consistent in topic for the most part, they make sense inside of the game and they use symbols that fit the time and area. On top of that, there are wholly unlikable characters that don’t all like each other either, making for an incredibly interesting plot as you start to feel sorry for some of the characters you thought were awful when the game started, or vice versa.
The music and art direction work together quite well, creating an overall dark atmosphere as the game blurs the lines between fact and fiction, right and wrong, human and inhumane, all the while drawing lines of its own. Black Mirror makes you think about a completely dysfunctional family that is holding on for dear life as it tears itself apart, a cursed family struggling to look like they act the way their wealth dictates they should. It doesn’t take a microscope to see that the Gordons don’t have it easy, but at the same time, a question poses itself: Do they deserve it?
Instead of taking the easy path and just remastering the old games, King Art Games go their own route and creates a new story that fits inside the old lore. There are some noticeable differences in what both the Black Mirror itself and Black Mirror Castle look like, although the general idea has stayed roughly the same. Just like the original game, Black Mirror has six chapters, but unlike the original, which ended definitively, it has an ending which could possibly lend itself to a sequel if the developers so wish. It would definitely be interesting to see in what direction they would take a potential sequel.
One problem that Black Mirror had, however, is that there was a bug that forced a complete restart of the game, as well as another bug or two where choosing to examine something or talk to someone would freeze David Gordon in place, preparing for text that never came, requiring the last save to be reloaded. Thankfully, that didn’t happen often, so overall, it was a fairly smooth experience.
Despite THQ Nordic stealth-launching the teaser, Black Mirror is a very solid game, the only detriments being the fact that there’s not really enough puzzles, a few bugs and the annoying implementation of a tinnitus. It’s a generally fun, highly interesting and creepy experience where you’re glad that there are slower point-‘n’-click areas so that you can actually catch a breath. The game starts with a bang, calms, livens up again before repeating with increasing frequency, like a bag of popcorn in a microwave, until the grand climax, which is sadly ruined by slightly clumsy animation that would have otherwise been a highly emotional moment.
Review code provided
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Black Mirror is a great game that's a lot of fun and will keep you enthralled for hours, only held back by an accumulation of small flaws throughout the game, including an ending that was so close to being beautiful but just barely misses its mark.
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