Black Mirror Review

By Megan Walton, 12 days ago
Back in 2003, a point and click adventure game was released on the PC. This game was Black Mirror and it spawned two sequels before eventually coming to an end. Now, 14 years later, the game has reappeared in the form of Black Mirror. This is not a remake but a modern reimagining, although similarities in the story and the location are obvious from the off.

Be prepared to hear quite the taleBe prepared to hear quite the tale

In the original 2003 version, the game followed the story of Samuel Gordon coming back to Black Mirror castle after the death of his grandfather. This time around we are in the same family tree, just quite a few generations later — a nice nod to the original game. This version begins with a flashback of John Gordon running in sheer panic to a stone formation, plagued by screams and crying voices. After marking a symbol in blood, he sets himself on fire and the story jumps to the present. We are now David Gordon, who has been called by a lawyer to his old family residence, Sgathan dubh (or Black Mirror), to sign over the house deeds and allow it to be passed to him.

Continuing down the same family line is an appropriate way to reimagine the game. The theme of the story has also continued: the Gordon family had a curse set upon them many years ago and this curse is still ever present with the current male family members. As David arrives at the Black Mirror house, he is met by his Grandmother (of whom he knows very little, as his father moved his wife and David away to India in order to escape the family and the house). He has with him a couple of letters and a piece of the house from a model amongst his suitcase, and after he is settled into his room, it's time to explore the place properly.

Due to the obvious creepy nature of the game and the story, a lot of the gameplay happens at night. Whilst this adds to the uneasy feel you have at the beginning of the game, it also means the whole thing is extremely dark. Pretty early on, David can be equipped with a candle to help you see, which makes things a little better, but ultimately the game could have done with being brighter, even if it meant sacrificing a bit of ambience. The house itself is interesting to explore, or at least it would be if David walked at a normal pace without every single object getting in his way. The game could be finished in half the time if you could pick up the pace a little (although you run when outside, which is odd) and if every potted plant and chair wasn't seen as an unpassable obstacle.

Don't think I'll be booking a stay here any time soonDon't think I'll be booking a stay here any time soon

This awkward movement is matched by the controls, which see you always having to take the long way around things and be in exact positions in order to interact with objects. Items that you can pick up can be looked at closer in your inventory, but awkward camera controls, again, means it can be hard to tell which way up the item should be (a master key, for example). Getting the item in the right position to see what you need to see is harder than it needs to be. This awkward camera is also present when moving about in the house and seems to have a mind of its own in deciding when to move and when to change between following you and leading you. One huge annoyance is the game forcing you to walk certain ways by locking off certain areas and saying "Maybe I should go here instead...". Then, suddenly, later in the game the area that was previously physically locked now isn't.

As you explore the house, the story develops and is split into quite short chapters. The game feels like it has quite a high price for something that can essentially be completed in about seven hours, and that's even with a bit of exploring and quite a lot of going the wrong way. The story does progress at a steady pace despite this, as you get introduced to different characters whilst more than a couple of them lose their life. Once this happens, the game becomes more of a murder mystery and you have multiple things to investigate, even though there is only one set outcome. The game sometimes gives you the illusion of being able to change things, with conversation options to lie or tell the truth, for example, but ultimately what's going to happen will happen. The story is interesting, though, and even if you guess who might be responsible for the goings on, it's unlikely you'll guess the full plot, so it is well worth playing through to the end.

The gameplay is a mixture of finding objects, talking to people, completing puzzles and experiencing visions. The puzzles are of a nice variety, including both number and shape puzzles, as well as putting both your memory and out of the box thinking to the test. Don't be surprised if you have to write down some things and draw out some shapes to help you out, but it's nice to have this more interactive side to the puzzles rather than just simply clicking buttons. The visions are a really interesting part of the game, allowing David to see things that have happened in the house before he was there, but their full potential wasn't quite reached. You can examine certain things to pick out important clues and getting too close to a memory results in your death, but that is pretty much that. You will encounter a few of these to help progress the story, and you aren't really told how to react to them; you are just thrown straight into it with no explanation.

The visions are pretty realistic for the charactersThe visions are pretty realistic for the characters

As well as the too-dark overall look to the house, the look of the characters is pretty underwhelming too. We are more interested in the story than impressive graphics, but even bearing that in mind things are only sub par. Characters' reactions are hugely underwhelming and annoying little things like huge gaps between interrupting sentences and mouths simply moving up and down without shaping for words will annoy you by the end. If that doesn't have you fed up then the long loading screens definitely will, as they completely break the scary atmosphere the game tries to create with a creepy Scotland based setting and an appropriately eerie soundtrack. They are far too frequent, occuring with almost every room change, and sometimes you get a sequence of room change, loading screen, spoken sentence, and loading screen, which is rage inducing.

Most of the 21 achievements will unlock with natural story progression, leaving you free to enjoy the game rather than achievement chasing. Finishing the game will obviously unlock one achievement, as will completing each of the chapters and experiencing each of the visions. Aside from this, you'll want to make sure to unlock a certain cabinet with care and have a closer look at a certain character playing with his toys. Aside from that, simply play the game and enjoy it as it is not a hard or long completion.

Summary

Black Mirror will leave you feeling a bit torn. It's a good story told in a good location, accompanied by an ideal soundtrack. The fact that it is carrying on with the same family from the original games is the icing on the cake. Sadly, it is let down by too many problems, including annoying movement and camera tracking, poor facial character designs and other issues that mount up to make the game more of a struggle than it should be. It's hard to recommend the game at its current price point, but a discount might warrant a purchase for those who like a good supernatural tale told via point and click gameplay.
3 / 5
Positives
  • Genuinely interesting story with a plot that keeps you guessing
  • Creepy setting and soundtrack
  • Story and bloodline continued from original game
Negatives
  • Too many issues with control and camera
  • Amateur lip movement and sub par design
  • Some areas locked off and game forces you certain ways
  • Game is too dark to see at times
  • Too many loading screens that last too long
Ethics Statement
The reviewer spent approximately 7 hours exploring Sgathan dubh, trying to find out what mysteries hid there and unlocking all of the game's 21 achievements along the way. An Xbox One download code for the game was provided for the purpose of this review.
Megan Walton
Written by Megan Walton
Megan is a TA newshound and reviewer who has been writing for the site since early 2014. Currently working in catering, she enjoys cooking extravagant dishes, baking birthday cakes for friends and family in peculiar shapes, writing depressing poetry about life and death, and unlocking every achievement possible.