The Black Mirror 2 archived preview
We’ve been following the upcoming sequel to the 2003 adventure game The Black Mirror for quite some time now, and even posted a first-look preview following the Games Convention in September of last year. For fans who’ve been on pins and needles since then, you only need to hold on a little bit longer for The Black Mirror 2, though after hearing more about what’s in store, you may feel its release probably can’t come soon enough. With the purported fall 2009 completion date looming ever closer (at least for the German version), I sat down with publisher dtp entertainment at this year’s E3 conference to look at some new scenes and scrounge up a few more details on this highly anticipated release.
For the people of Willow Creek, England, it’s been twelve years since the horrific events at Black Mirror Castle, and for a while, things couldn’t have been better. The tourism to Willow Creek skyrocketed as news of the incident spread around the world. A museum dedicated to the murders was opened, the sanitarium was converted to a hotel, and they even added a funfair. Recently, however, business has dried up, and darkness is once again looming over the town. Meanwhile, across the pond in Biddeford, Maine, a physics student named Darren is searching for the mysterious woman who stormed out of the photolab where he works after a confrontation with Darren’s piggish boss. How these seemingly disparate events are related is one of the early mysteries of Black Mirror 2, and dtp’s PR Manager Claas Wolter wasn’t willing to spoil too many details. Ostensibly Darren travels to Willow Creek in pursuit of his mystery gal, but Claas did let slip that Darren finds a strange picture of his mother taken in front of Black Mirror Castle, which implies his connection to the area may be deeper than he knows.
With many of the basic details of the game already revealed in the preview last year, the primary focus of this most recent meeting was showing off how the game is actually played. We walked Darren through some of the early puzzles, including a “tutorial” puzzle where Darren must find and install a fuse in the photolab’s basement. Basic play is rather simple: you click on items you find to add them to your inventory, then select them from there to apply to other items—but it’s not all as easy as fixing fuse boxes. Another very early puzzle led Darren to a shop where he needed to get the clerk’s attention, though she continually ignored him to chat with her friend. Here the player needs to eavesdrop on the conversation long enough to learn the friend is bragging about her new car, at which point you can go outside to figure out how to best use this newfound knowledge in your favor.
In addition to typical point-and-click, inventory-style adventure puzzles, dtp said there would be other types that they’re loosely calling “minigames”, and showed one example from a little later in the game. Darren is being interviewed at the police station about an assault on his boss, and has to use a computerized face-assembly program to recreate the look of the man he saw running out of the photolab. If you’re unable to finish these tasks—in this case, you really do have to remember what the man looked like on your own—or simply don’t wish to bother, I was assured they could be skipped without penalty. In further attempts to alleviate player frustration, a “diary” has been added that automatically keeps track of what needs to be done next, as well as an autosave that triggers before you enter dangerous (possibly lethal) situations.
I’m not exaggerating or bending the truth when I say this is probably one of the most visually arresting 2.5D adventure titles I’ve ever seen on the PC. This will come as welcome news to fans of the graphically impressive original who may have been concerned about the series’ switch to a totally new developer. I don’t know what the specifications of the demo computer were, but throughout the presentation I couldn’t get over how sharp the graphics were. The screenshots don’t nearly do it justice, as each image is detailed down to the most minute element. The sense of foreboding is palpable even in the earliest scenes, and when Darren gets to Willow Creek, things really start to feel ominous. Another impressive aspect is how several scenes look completely different depending on weather or time of day. The same shop exterior where Darren solved his unhelpful clerk problem earlier looks even more captivating in the rain. One of the neatest little details is how Darren’s character model is affected: even after entering the dry shop, his clothes and hair are still soaking wet.
There’s a lot we still don’t know about this game, and I’m not just talking about the mysteries of the story. The voice acting hadn’t been added yet to the build I saw (a crucial element, as this was one of the strongest complaints of its predecessor), nor the final music. In fact, all the text was still in German, which had to be translated for me as we went. In any case, whether you’re a fan of the first game or horror titles in general, you should consider saving a spot for The Black Mirror 2 somewhere on your personal Hype-o-Meter, because this latest sneak peek ensured that it would certainly make ours.