The Black Mirror is something of a cruel joke. It starts out very atmospheric and intriguing, then quickly plummets in quality towards the incredibly predictable end.
The writing is so-so. The game starts out very interesting, but the dialogue is just awful. Voice acting lacks emotion and the lines themselves are awkward and stiff. Then the plot itself becomes retarded, with many convenient holes through which to fit the glaringly obvious twist. It’s ridiculous because as you play you have to wonder why nobody stops to ponder some things, then you realize it’s because otherwise they’d realize what was going on before the last climatic scene.
Gameplay also starts out decently with some interesting locations to explore, plenty of interactivity and some pleasant puzzling. However, roughly midway it becomes pixel hunt after pixel hunt, seasoned with some magically-appearing objects, reappearing hotspots and instances where your own character lies to you. “This is just a dustbin there’s nothing there”. Right click. “Oh look a necessary object!”.
At some points, it really seems like the game deliberately screws with you. There are several instances where you have to wait. Normally in adventure games, this means leave and re-enter the screen. Sometimes that works, but other times you need to go somewhere far and come back. Other times still, a completely unrelated hotspot suddenly lit up, and “waiting” is going to look at it. The most infuriating time, though, is when you have to wait for 10 real-world minutes to pass. Yes, the game makes you sit and wait. This isn’t a puzzle, because you can’t fail. No matter what you try, eventually ten minutes will pass. It serves no purpose, since by that point you’ve exhausted all hotspots in all locations, so there’s literally nothing to do but let the game idle while reading and book and wondering what the hell they were thinking when designing this idiocy.
The game also features some ridiculously cheap deaths, where you intend to look at an object only to have Samuel chop off his own head with it. Smart cursors have never been more punishing.
Of course there are dead ends, and not all are clearly signposted. There are plenty of save slots, but the interface isn’t well thought out, so you’ll find yourself only using eight, since any more require scrolling each and every time you want to save or load the game.
Puzzles are often illogical, and there’s no feedback why things won’t work. In one memorable instance, Samuel had to mix two liquids in a container, but insisted to put one of them first. When I tried the other, nothing happened, leading me to think the solution was something else. Also, if anyone knows what the game means by “the rope is too bendy”, drop me a line. Even after “solving” the puzzle I don’t understand what was wrong with my original idea.
To top off the annoyances, beyond dead ends, pixel hunts, illogical puzzles, cheap deaths and having to wait, there’s also hand-holding. Often you know what to do but Samuel refuses to do it until you talk to two people back and forth and they spell it out for you. There’s plenty of backtracking, at one point clearly deliberate since the game makes you travel between two locations repeatedly, and you have to take the long way around every time.
To summarize: the graphics are adequate, and the game starts out strong. However, it quickly degenerates into a series of frustrations, and what’s worse, it looks like malice, rather than incompetence. At least it’s a unique experience, so that’s the silver lining I guess.
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Time Played: 10-20 hours