Black Mirror – Review
Follow Genre: Horror puzzle adventure
Developer: KING Art games
Publisher: THQ Nordic
Platform: PC/Mac/Linux, PS4, Xbox One
Tested on: PC

Black Mirror – Review

Site Score
7.4
Good: Intriguing story and interesting characters
Bad: Keyboard controls
User Score
7.0
(1 votes)
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Rating: 7.0/10 (1 vote cast)

Black Mirror is a new installment of the series of Black Mirror point ‘n click adventure games published in the early 2000’s (and not related to the TV series). This is a standalone story in the same setting, exploring the lore of the Gordon family, with some small changes compared to the original storyline. Black Mirror has been developed by King Art games, and is published by THQ Nordic.

Black Mirror

Story

This game is all about the story. The story is intriguing from the very beginning. In the intro you’ll witness the death of a man who clearly is trying to protect his son against… something. He flees through the dark countryside, encountering ghostly visions which seem less scary than whatever is following him. Eventually he performs a strange ritual and sets himself on fire, dying a horrible death. After this enticing intro you’ll get introduced to a man, David Gordon, sitting in a car cruising through the Scottish countryside, somewhere around the 1920’s or 1930’s. He is visiting the house of his ancestors after he got news of the death of his father. He meets the current residents in the ‘Black Mirror’ house, but he does not feel very welcome there, and practically all the residents seem to have something to hide and are constantly avoiding his questions about his father’s death and the family’s history.

As you play you’ll discover more and more secrets of the house, and gradually uncover the mysterious past of your family. You’ll learn that many of your ancestors seem to have died a violent death. All characters you meet have unique personalities, and it’s an interesting process to try to get information from everyone, while they try to keep all their secrets. However, you do get some help in uncovering the secrets of your family, by witnessing several disturbing visions from the past…

Black Mirror screen 1

The story is being told by frequent cutscenes as you play, which are integrated seamlessly into the gameplay. The story seems mostly linear; occasionally you get a choice between several conversation options, but these don’t seem to have much of an effect. The story does seem to take some shortcuts every now and then: sometimes the main character is jumping to conclusions without clues or story elements logically leading up to it. There are also several actions of some characters which seem to lack a logical motivation. But despite these minor plot holes, the story is still interesting, enticing, and fun to uncover.

Graphics

The game has a dark and grim atmosphere, full of details. The house and the surrounding grounds look gorgeous, fitting to the setting and the story, and convey a chilling and ancient feel. The visuals are in fact very dark, and raising the gamma a bit is rather useful to actually see what you are doing, especially at in-game nighttime. All the characters have a unique look, and are detailed down to skin textures. The characters’ emotions are usually made clear by context and animations, but the movement of the characters look a bit stiff sometimes. Sadly, the main character doesn’t show much emotion, despite what he is going through.

Black Mirror screen 2

Black Mirror makes use of semi-fixed camera positions instead of an ‘over the shoulder’ camera. It’s an interesting design choice since you don’t see this very often in modern games, but it was common in games made in the 90’s and early 2000’s. While this adds to the atmosphere and often results in much better framing, it’s sometimes annoying because you feel like you don’t have a good overview of the exact layout of a room as you enter. Interactable objects are marked by a small circle if you get close, which will change into a clickable button if you center the object on the screen. This really helps in recognizing useful objects, but interacting is sometimes tricky, because you have to position your character and the camera just right to trigger the interaction button.

Black Mirror screen 3

The graphics generally look great, but some textures like hair and clothing seem a bit plastic-y and stiff. Most PCs will have a hard time rendering the game at the highest settings, so this game could probably be optimized better. You’ll also encounter some graphical glitches every now and then, like disappearing textures or white edges, and some animation glitches like your character raising from the floor or camera angles which point away from your character. The different areas outside of the house don’t seem to connect logically, and the lip-sync can be pretty horrible. These glitches and annoyances are minor, but it does feel this game still needs some work in the graphics department.

Sound

The whole game is narrated, and the voice acting is very well done and full of personality, down to the Scottish accents. There’s mostly no background music (or it was so subtle and integrated it wasn’t noticeable) but there are many different atmospheric environmental sounds, plus some spooky sounds every now and then. The spooky sounds are executed very well; they’ll get your attention immediately, but are never too much emphasized.

Gameplay

Black Mirror is a puzzle adventure game with a good storyline. The game is story-driven, so expect to encounter a lot of cutscenes as you play, integrated with the gameplay. In-between the cutscenes you mostly walk around in the beautiful mansion and surrounding grounds, to explore, find clues, and solve puzzles.

Black Mirror screen 4

The puzzles can seem somewhat tricky when you first see them, but are never too hard to figure out if you look around a bit and look at the clues. If you explore properly, you’ll most likely have all pieces you’ll need to solve the puzzle in your inventory or close by in the environment, as soon as you first encounter the puzzle. If you haven’t collected or examined all there is in an area, you usually can’t leave the area until you do. This makes the puzzles a bit easier to solve, because you can be sure you haven’t missed anything you needed. After a chapter ends, all ‘useless’ stuff just disappears from your inventory. It makes your inventory more orderly, but it feels a bit silly because removing the character’s belongings for easier gameplay doesn’t really add to the immersion, and having a few more ‘misleading’ puzzle pieces wouldn’t hurt the game, since most puzzles aren’t very hard to figure out.

Walking around takes some getting used to, since the game uses a fixed camera position. When you use keyboard and mouse, walking often feels kinda clumsy because the direction you are walking using the WASD keys is relative to the camera position. You’ll often walk into doorposts or into corners or directly out of the door again as soon as you enter a room, because it isn’t entirely clear how your character moves in respect to the camera angle, especially when transitioning from one camera angle to the next. Additionally, you’ll often encounter a black loading screen when entering a new room or area, which makes exploring a bit less smoothly.

Whenever you trigger a cutscene, it will briefly take over your character, after which you can resume playing again. Sometimes during cutscenes you need to hold or click a mouse button to successfully conduct an action of your character, like fighting or holding on to something, or keep a cursor inside a moving circle for a certain amount of time whenever your character is traumatized. It’s cool to have some kind of interaction and control during a cutscene, but these mechanics don’t add much to the game and aren’t really a much of a challenge to execute.

Black Mirror screen 5

You character gets visions every now and then, where he sees ghosts from the past. He can interact with parts of the visions to uncover clues, but whenever he stays too close to the ghosts, he will get killed by them. The interactable objects are often right next to the ghosts, so it’s a bit tricky to get close enough the trigger the interaction-button, but not stand around too long to trigger the ghosts into killing you. Especially the wonky movement controls can make this a bit annoying to do. The visions will repeat themselves until you get all clues from them, so you can play it safe and have multiple tries to interact and get away as quickly as possible.

Conclusion

Black Mirror is a good game, full of atmosphere, with a fascinating story and interesting characters. There aren’t that many puzzles and the puzzles aren’t very hard to solve, so they won’t distract from the story. This is a fun game if you want to uncover an interesting storyline in a beautiful dark setting. However, the controls are rather annoying when playing the game with keyboard and mouse, but playing on console or with a gamepad will most likely solve this issue. The graphics are detailed and atmospheric and fit the story very well, but sometimes seem a bit sloppy in execution. Black Mirror feels like an excellent game which was released a bit too early, so the graphics, keyboard controls and some aspects of the storyline weren’t perfected upon release. Still, it’s a good game and the story will certainly keep you captivated until completion, despite some minor annoyances during gameplay.

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Black Mirror - Review, 7.0 out of 10 based on 1 rating
Anmaja
Anmaja


I'm a LARP writer, freelance teacher and everlasting PhD student, and an avid gamer. Nowadays I game mostly on PC, but I love my retro playstation 1 & 2 as well :) I like watching anime, movies and series, and read books & comics whenever I have time!

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