Black Mirror 2017 Review: A Remake Worth Revisiting
For fans of point and click adventure games, KING Art's Black Mirror may seem like a familiar title. You'd be right. The game is both a retelling of the original Black Mirror Trilogy and a new game in its own right. While there are similarities -- such as the death of one William Gordon, there are plenty of differences. Yes, you go to the manor known as Black Mirror House to investigate William's death. However, while in the first game you play as his grandson Samuel, in this remake you take on the role of a much closer relative -- his son David.
In both versions, the overlaying theme is the same. Something unknown killed William Gordon and that something appears to be tied to the occult; possibly a family curse. Either way, you're there to find answers but you won't find them easily. You won't be getting much help from the house's inhabitants either.
Story and Atmosphere
When it comes to world building, KING has done a great job. Particularly when you consider the fact that an adept player will be able to make it through the game in about four hours. During that time you'll meet few characters, but the ones you do are well written and fairly well developed -- considering they don't really want to share many of their secrets with you. That doesn't stop you, however. Before even arriving at the house, you have plenty of clues to get you started.
The atmosphere is particularly great for a horror game. Admittedly, when I first booted Black Mirror up, I had some doubts. Considering that most "horror" games over the last few years have been filled with jump scares, I was prepared for more of the same, expected to hate time spent playing the game. Luckily, I was wrong. There is a bit of that element, but it's so deftly handled. On the few occasions one of them did pop up, it was in a way that left you more curious about what happened rather than wanting to throw your mouse at your computer screen and run out of the room.
Being a shorter game, there aren't too many puzzles to tangle with. However, the ones that are there are fantastic. You will need to engage in things like mathematical problem solving, but for the most part, they rely on logic and the ability to be extremely observant. The first puzzle I came across stumped me for a few hours. I ended up writing it all down and carrying it into the living room with me to stare at it and wait for an ah-hah moment. It was both gratifying and infuriating to realize I'd simply missed the obvious.
The really interesting thing is that somehow the developers manage to reuse puzzle ideas and build upon them in a way that still makes them challenging to solve -- even though you've "been there before." But again, it's all about being observant and not thinking you already know just because you already did that one thing that one time.
The Not So Good
Because of the nature of the game -- and the need to at least do some things in a certain order -- you may find yourself wandering around in circles wondering what on earth you missed. At this point, the game can seem to drag out. This is compounded by the fact that you're walking in those circles in a fairly limited space. That said, this is often the nature of point and click adventure games. Sometimes it's just a pain figuring out what in the world you're missing.
Being a point and click adventure game, Black Mirror doesn't have a complex set of mechanics. It does however have a bit of a port problem. When you first boot up the game on PC, head into the settings and look at the controls menu. You'll note that what you're shown is an Xbox control scheme. Not to worry, the controls are pretty basic: WASD to move, click to look at things, hit a few buttons for menu items such as "I" for the inventory. As new menu items are added, the game tells you what the commands are.
Movement in the game can be a bit iffy. The game's camera rotates on it's own, so you'll find you need to change the direction you're trying to move in order to continue along the same line when this happens. You'll also find it takes a little work to move around things or lining up with clickable points so that they're usable, and you'll often end up going out a door you didn't intend to. It can be a bit frustrating. But, as you get the layout of the rooms down, you'll learn how to work around it.
The effects of control issues aren't just felt in movement, however. As the game goes on, you will find yourself needing to manipulate items in your inventory. This can also be a bit frustrating as you fight to get things to line up in ways that make them usable.
The Loading Wait
The most vexing thing about this game is the loading times. Whether it's entering rooms, or inspecting items in those rooms you will be waiting. And you will be doing both of these things... a lot. When loading in and out of the rooms, you'll primarily be met with a black screen until the room loads. However, inspecting things or using your inventory will result into your character just having to stand there for a bit while the game decides it's ready to let you get going again.
The above issues aside, Black Mirror is still a really solid game. If you're a fan of mysteries and puzzle solving, it's one you'll definitely want to give a go.
As far as the value on this game, you'll have to be the judge. Some people might find the short playtime reason enough to walk away. However, I'll personally note that I've spent a good deal more time playing than four hours. Sure, some of you will make it through in that time, but I'm going to guess most will get more than their money's worth out of it hour-wise.
Fun-wise, there's not question. The game is indeed a good bit of fun -- even if it can be frustrating.
Black Mirror is available on Steam and will generally run you $29.99 -- although at the moment there's a 10% discount available.
Editor's Note: The game's developer provided GameSkinny with a review copy for this piece.