Late evening at Black Mirror Castle...
It is a stormy night at the Black Mirror Castle. In the opening scene we watch as William Gordon finds his way to his office by candlelight. He sits at his desk to pen an urgent letter to his nephew Samuel. William has been using all his energy in searching for the truth about the family. He feels that his end is near and he is afraid. William needs Samuel to return to the manor and continue his work. As William pens this seemingly final message, he senses something is coming for him. But, what is it? Watch in horror as William is thrown out the window of the tower to his death below.
Samuel has returned to the castle for his Uncle’s funeral. The mood around the castle is somber. Conversations between Samuel and his family are uncomfortable and distanced. It seems this is the first time Samuel has been to the castle in 12 years. What happened all those years ago to cause Samuel to leave his family behind never intending to return?
A look around Samuel’s old room is all it takes to clear up some of the mystery surrounding his departure. A photo of Samuel’s deceased wife Catherine sits on the dresser. Looking at the picture fills Samuel with despair as he remembers how his wife died in a disastrous fire that consumed and destroyed an entire wing of the castle. For an unknown reason, Samuel blames himself for her death. Since that time, Samuel has suffered from terrible headaches and carries his medicine with him at all times.
William’s death, at least in Samuel’s mind, is filled with mystery. It is believed he died accidentally or by suicide. Deep inside, Samuel knows in his heart that these two possibilities could not be true. He refuses to accept it and is determined to find out the truth for himself. As Samuel begins his personal investigation, he finds that many things have changed since he left Black Mirror. Some of the staff has changed and may not be as trustworthy as expected. Samuel’s brother Robert appears to be very distant and secretive. In fact, there are quite a lot of people who seem to be hiding something. The discovery of a strange marking on the wall near where William died implies there may be more to William’s death than what was originally thought. Then there is the strange torn photo of a man that used to live in the castle during the time Samuel was gone. No one seems to know what happened to him or who he really was. Even more ominous is William’s diary where he details the existence of a curse on the Gordon men that destines them to lose their minds and ultimately their lives.
Surely, this is just an old wives tale. However, Robert is acting strangely and always remains locked up in his study. On the other hand, Samuel has begun to be plagued by terrible and destructive nightmares. Could this curse be affecting them? Samuel must follow the trail left by his Uncle William in order to find the truth about the Gordons. He has to save himself and future generations of the family from befalling the same fate.
Black Mirror is a 3rd person point and click adventure. The game comes on one CD and loads up quite easily. No technical problems were encountered while playing. The game is divided into chapters. Completion of all the tasks in one chapter will bring resolution and start the next chapter. In this way, the game is quite linear.
Navigation is pretty standard. The gray cursor will turn red if an item can be interacted with in any form. You will typically use the left mouse button to interact with objects. The right mouse button will normally cause Samuel to look more carefully at an item, if applicable. When locating an exit, the cursor will usually change to a small door with a description of the new location. However, this is not always the case. There are times when you can walk further into a room, but no indication is given that you can go further. This can lead to missing important clues or being stuck in one place too long. Inventory will appear at the bottom of the screen when you run your cursor over it. A simple click and drag is all that is required to use an item. Right clicking on an item will give you a verbal description of the item or allow you to examine it further.
The character renderings are done nicely, but the camera is too far away, making it difficult to see any real detail. Most of the characters are a bit stiff. Also, when initiating a conversation with another character, there is a very slow response while you wait for the other character to stand up or face Samuel. Black Mirror is a heavily dialog-based game. There are times where you will find diaries or other books which are read to you. They can be quite lengthy, so those not interested in a lot of dialog may be turned off by this. But, if you like a lot a dialog, you will be satisfied in that respect.
In general, the voice acting is done well with the exception of the main character. It is unclear if it is the voice acting, the structured “proper” dialogue, or a combination of the both that tends to make Samuel quite unlikable. In every conversation, Samuel’s tone is one of a pompous, condescending jerk. It is difficult to listen to his interactions and feel for him and his situation. This problem doesn’t take away the desire to know what’s going on at the manor. It just makes you want to pop Simon in the head once a while to knock some “nice” into him. Note that this game was originally created in the Czech Republic. The game was translated to English for the North American version. This could account for the extremely formal tone of the dialog. In the original version, the conversations could be a whole different ballgame.
The 2D environments are very beautiful. This is a dark game and that is reflected appropriately in the backgrounds. The castle truly looks like what you would expect of this kind of structure. The castle is constructed of stone with huge pillars, wall carvings, a great hall, fireplaces, and a tower. Really, every castle has to have tower. Paintings of the family’s ancestors litter the walls and secret passages lie in wait to be found. The closest town is the epitome of a small local village. All the residents know each other. There is a pub, a pawnshop, and the dock. There’s not much to do at the village. Simple errands of urban life, such as developing some film, can be a challenge. The local vicarage is the final resting place for much of the Gordon Clan. But, it is hiding secret passages as well. The local morgue is quite gory. This is not the sterile morgue we come to think of in present day. The local doctor converted the basement of his house into the local morgue. The floors are cracked and blood stains are all around. There is no sanitary procedure either as the doctor just dumps remains into a dumpster outside. Even though the backgrounds are static, small touches were added to bring them to life. Birds can be seen flying up in the sky. Butterflies twitter around a bush. Fires sway and glow in the fireplaces. As you progress through the game, more locations become available; each one darker than the next. Take a walk through the local sanitarium that is run by Robert. How about exploring an underground temple?
There isn’t a lot of music in this game. The ambient sounds are what create the mood and truly shine in Black Mirror. The majority of the ambient sounds were excellent. Walk into the kitchen when Bates is there and you will hear dinner frying in the pan. The cracking of the fire in the fireplace resounds throughout the hall. In some rooms, the voices will have an echo due to the lack of rugs. Also adaptive were the sounds of the footprints as Samuel walks from an uncarpeted room to one with carpet. This was a neat effect. In the town, the local dogs can be heard barking in the night. Your first visit to the graveyard will bring the sounds of an actual grave being dug. Perhaps the most impressive sounds were of the rainstorms. The rainfall and thunder sounded impressively real. Even better is in the greenhouse where the dynamic was changed to reflect the metal roof. There are a wide variety of sounds to truly delight the ears.
The puzzles in Black Mirror are a combination of inventory and logic puzzles. They, for the most part, lean towards the easier side. Finding keys for the many doors is a common task. Some puzzles involve the prerequisite running around to find film for the camera, someone to make an illegal key for you, or just interviewing characters multiple times to gather information. There are some puzzles involving the deciphering of riddles. Other puzzles are mechanical. You will spend quite a lot time stuck in a mine trying to figure out the multiple machines that are either broken or deactivated. The casual gamer should have very few problems overcoming the obstacles presented.
The storyline is dark and foreboding. This feeling of darkness remains true throughout the entire game. There are no light moments to speak of. However, the story is laid out well and progresses at an easy pace. You will have the feeling that you are being watched and that something will be coming for you next. Each new detail learned brings more depressing feelings of mania and will keep your interest to the very end. The game concludes with shocking finality.
Black Mirror can be played by any level of gamer. If you enjoy grim storylines filled with mystery, a lot of dialog, and puzzles that won’t tax your brain too much, then check out Black Mirror.
Note: Black Mirror employs the use of Starforce Copy Protection System. Some may have objections to the use of this software by the game.