Black Mirror is a point and click mystery with a gorgeous backdrop inside of a castle with character, dry voice acting and some genuine intrigue. It lacks modern touches like auto saving or letting you control your own character without clicking on objects here or there. While I can say I avoid point and click adventures, I did find myself enjoying this game for its calming relaxation factor. Tackle things at your own pace and it sets a slow tone that I had forgotten even existed. Your character walks at a snail’s pace with eight directional movement. Talking with another character has them slowly turn toward you before they speak with a dry tone.
The game opens with a mysterious death of William from an evil force that hurls him out of a window onto a face. The cut scene is captivating, albeit dated. You enter your family’s castle aptly named Black Mirror after being away for twelve long years after the death of who I can only surmise as your sister or love died in a fire. I say sister, because she died in your family’s castle, but I say love because in your character’s bedroom, he comments that it is where she used to comb her hair in front of that mirror. Perhaps they shared a room or the mirror was once in her room.
You begin with a small selection of key characters. Yourself, the butler Bates, Robert, the gardener Henry, the doctor Herman and Victoria, the lady of the manor, the grieving widow in all of this. Our protagonist is a considerate, pleasant fellow. Bates might be an old manservant, but he’s still a friend and a confidant. The gardener however is mere help to him and he comes off as quite suspicious with his locked greenhouse. Robert seems more unscrupulous and the doctor is secretive, but that could be a video game trope. Come to me tomorrow and I will reveal all, but I’ll just stay here in the library the entire day doing nothing.
The setting here is good for a mystery and it spills out of the castle into the nearby village. Its good to have such an open location that avoids constriction. Its an old English town with what look to be wind up telephones yet a highly scientific medieval laboratory. I only say that to entice you to keep playing. It feels good to explore even though there are plenty of locked doors or conditions before you get past them.
As a setting, it feels like eternal autumn. Rather than rich and lively with bright vibrant colors it feels closer to winter with the life being sucked out of the sky, the trees and anything else living. Its a difficult feat to pull off and I like the feeling that Black Mirror gives off with this effect. The game still has plenty of color though. Rich reds in the giant foyer and the interior is lavish for the era even in a dated castle.
The characters all seem reasonably ordinary and mundane. Normal people without being stereotypes for you to latch onto and spot the murderer. In fact since you know its done by some sort of evil force that does add a more supernatural element to it, and there are ominous paintings and statues littered throughout the castle. The lower wing has been walled off for years. The upper wing has burned down, taking someone with it in the fire and you, your character has to take pills in case of blackouts. You’re all suspects without being suspects.
Certain segments of the castle are quarantined off, but there is plenty of room for exploration. One room leads to the next and you can even head outside to the creepy dead wasteland your castle resides in. Black Mirror has a good setting, but the non point and click adventure side of me would rather have a gun, tank controls and be shooting zombies inside of this gorgeous castle.
To the game’s credit you can only do background things once such as look at a painting or a coffee mug so you will not have to check every interaction. You’re given clear objectives such as this door is locked, this drawer is locked and its cold in here, I had better tell the butler to light the fire in my room, because clearly I am inept and making wood com bust into flame is something for rugged mountain men or super heroes.
There are keys, wallets, items and other things to carry around with you in a subtle inventory. The game has you hover your mouse over the lower half to see the items and select them. Dialog choices also appear at the bottom as well. Its a subtle and elegant way of handling things that keeps you in game rather than throwing you to a menu. To find the setting, you’ll need to hover your mouse over the top bar to make a set of gears appear. This is how you save your game as well.
The voice acting is dry, but I think it fits the setting. A rich castle. There’s no humor or character to the characters. It all stays in subtleties that I need to make the stretch to latch on rather than obvious character traits, hostilities or friendships. Perhaps things do unfold, but its just tough to get to that point. It all plays out as a linear story. Sure you can ask everyone about different topics and do various things before you proceed, but there are no choices. This is a story you’re playing rather than tailoring it to your choices.
As for the music and sound effects, they’re good and fitting. A lot of string instruments that punctuate the mystery and occasional intrigue. You’ll hear the footsteps as you walk along , but its nothing bad. It feels like a quality production that suffers from everything else.
You need to pay more attention than I ever did. You’ll only be told once with no sort of hint if you come back to the game after a year. Instead when you’re told to do something and try to ask for a reminder, the character will say something like “oh I was just passing by.” Well what did you just tell me to do that I zoned out? Please tell me again! No. Well I guess there’s one way to know what I was supposed to do and that’s walk through this grand castle doing everything all over again.
There are alternate means outside of the game to find what you’re looking for, but I want to remain in game, in that atmosphere, mood and tone without having to flip back and forth to read where I should be going when I’ve already been told. I can get through games that are more cryptic than Black Mirror, but it loses its interest when my character needs to trudge back and forth room after room, time and time again.
I’m just on the cusp of liking this game even if its in a genre that I dislike. Its just that I’m going nowhere fast. When I’m ninety minutes in and all I’m finding is locked this or locked that, it becomes an issue. The characters refuse to repeat things, so I’m forced to wander back and forth checking the most logical places before I start looking through every room for something I could have missed.