If you somehow manage to look past the boring gameplay, outdated visuals, and the clunky controls, you’ll find a compelling Gothic horror story.
When you just start playing the new Black Mirror reboot, it feels kind of… cheap.
It’s far from being a pretty game, the controls are a bit iffy, and all the characters move as if they were robots. However, once you delve a little deeper into the story, and spend some time with the characters and locales, the raw potential starts shining through.
If you’re not familiar with the franchise, The Black Mirror is a point-and-click adventure game from the early 2000’s that spawned two sequels. It has nothing to do with the TV show Black Mirror and instead tells the tale of the Gordon family and their cursed bloodline. As a fan of adventure games, I actually played all three titles, but for the life of me, I can’t remember anything about them.
The new Black Mirror follows the general story of the original game. You are David Gordon, who returns to his family ancestral home after his estranged father dies there under mysterious circumstances. This ancestral home just so happens to be a rundown castle in the middle of the Scottish moors, with no one around for miles. You can’t ask for a better setting for a Gothic horror story.
And the game is a Gothic horror tale. It’s clearly inspired by the work of Edgar Allan Poe, and it isn’t afraid to quote his stories and poems (one poem in particular). There’s a drafty castle, unhappy relatives, ghosts and a big deadly mystery to slowly uncover – all the landmarks of a good, classic horror story.
I would have said that the game tries too much, but it all fits together quite nicely. The characters all have their role to play, the Gordon mansion Sgathan Dub is a decent area to explore, and the atmosphere is spot on for this type of game. But the real star here is the plot itself.
Black Mirror tells an intriguing story, full of mystery, secrets, and death. It was what kept me going throughout the entire game. I was dying to know what’s going on, and what more will I uncover if I just keep digging. It isn’t the kind of story that twists and turns in neck-breaking speed, but one that slowly unravels and keeps you on the edge of your seat. Thankfully, the story is delivered by a great cast of characters and voice actors that really bring the characters to life.
Unfortunately, the story is the only thing worthwhile in Black Mirror. Apart from one or two exceptions, the puzzles are unchallenging and straightforward, and you’ll breeze through the game in just a few hours. The gameplay itself is also rudimentary, and rarely involves anything beyond examining your environment. There are no inventory puzzles, no branching dialog and barely any action scenes. You do have a few quick-time events peppered here and there, but these two are limiting to two, and sometimes only one button. I’m not even sure you lose the game if you fail these QTEs, since I usually took my time when following the on-screen prompts, and nothing happened until I did…
To tell you the truth, the game feels like a stripped down Telltale title, without the choices or impactful action sequences. Honestly, I’d prefer it if the developers would’ve just stuck to the point-and-click format with more classic puzzles, instead of the watered down interactive narrative we ended up with.
There are a few moments where you get a glimpse of ghostly figures reenacting past events over and over in a loop. You’re supposed to examine the loop at certain stages, to discover a vital clue or item; this is a pretty cool idea in theory, but in practice, it just amounts to you waiting for the right time to approach a ghost and press a button. What’s worse, if you stand too close to one of these ghosts at the wrong time, you will die and have to do the whole sequence over again.
The first time it happened, it took me completely by surprise. I wasn’t expecting to die in an adventure game, and I haven’t saved my game for a while. Luckily, the game autosaves often, so you never lose any progress if you happen to die. But it does feel out of place, especially since it happens so abruptly.
Another thing that deeply hurts the overall experience is how the game looks. As I mentioned in the beginning, Black Mirror isn’t a pretty game. Character faces are detailed, but still manage to look doll-like and unnerving. The way they move doesn’t really help either, as their movements are very robotic and weird.
Above everything else, the game simply looks outdated, like something from the early 2000s. Environments and textures are OK but are overall uninspired and derivative. We’ve seen better-looking versions of all these types of places before.
Black Mirror is a hard game to recommend. I myself am a little torn up about it. On one side I enjoyed the plot and the characters. On the other, everything else about Black Mirror is unimaginative, clunky and sometimes even downright bad. If you can ignore its various technical limitations, you’ll get a good Gothic horror story. For some, that’s enough to hold their attention for the 5 hours or so the game lasts. Others will be profoundly disappointed by the wasted potential.Some of our posts include links to online retail stores. We get a small cut if you buy something through one of our links. Don't worry, it doesn't cost you anything extra.