Black Mirror, it’s a title that many will associate with the popular and critically acclaimed British science fiction TV series of the same name. This is where the similarities end though, with Charlie Brooker’s and developer’s KING Art’s renditions being two completely different beasts. Surprisingly, KING Art’s Black Mirror is actually a reboot of a trilogy which began as a point-and-click title in 2004 before spawning two sequels in 2009 and 2011. While thematically the two may share similar traits, they are independent of one another, so players can have no qualms about being unfamiliar with the previous iterations (like myself). However, despite lacking polish in some areas, Black Mirror manages to craft an intriguing narrative with well-written characters and an immersive atmosphere.
Candles were all the rage in 1926
Set in Scotland during the mid-1920s, players are thrust into the shoes of David Gordon, who has been summoned to his old family home for the first time after his father’s suicide. The Gordons are a renowned family whose ancestry can be dated back many centuries to the times of the Romans, and any family with that sort of heritage is bound to have some skeletons in the closet.
One of the game’s most impressive elements is the atmosphere. The Gordon estate has an eerie vibe to it which is achieved thanks to its dimly lit rooms, crackling fireplaces, haunting decorations coupled with the minimalist soundtrack and the sound of the rain lashing against the windows. It creates a vivid sense of realism given the game’s timeline, emphasising how creepy some of the castles and manors must have been at night before the time of mobile phone torchlight.
Billed as a gothic horror title, Black Mirror plays a lot like a third-person walking simulator. You’ll investigate and interact with a number of items that will aid you in your investigation. Items might be a note that contains a bunch of weird symbols that you’ll later use to solve a puzzle or jewellery items that will help you gain the trust of those around you. There are puzzles involved that may seem easy initially that can prove to be a challenge, but should you find yourself in a conundrum a simple game of trial and error is normally enough to find the solution.
Only a real man can rock tweed, a cane and a goatee all at once
The story is definitely the game’s strongest point, with a few good twists included along the way keeping things fresh and ensuring the pacing doesn’t drop to that of a snail given the slow-burning nature of the title
Not long after arriving at the Gordon household David starts to discover that perhaps his father’s death was not suicide at all but instead the work of the rumoured Gordon family curse that has plagued the Gordon bloodline for centuries. David, who is merely there to settle legal matters, suddenly becomes caught up investigating the secrets that shroud the family’s history and discovering the truth about what really happened to his father. However, the remaining members of the Gordon family and employees of the estate are reluctant to share their chronicles, none more so than Lady Margaret, David’s grandmother. The characters overall are one the game’s highlights, all of whom are superbly written.
The story is definitely the game’s strongest point, with a few good twists included along the way keeping things fresh and ensuring the pacing doesn’t drop to that of a snail given the slow-burning nature of the title. It also helps that the voice-acting and writing are quite impressive for what is obviously a lower budget title. All characters are voiced with an authenticity that helps pull the player in and feel compelled to discover the truth of the Gordon family. Those looking for a traditional horror experience with jump scares and the like will be disappointed. The story embodies more of a Lovecraft horror tone by playing on the player’s psychological senses. A much wiser choice.
First one to spot the Loch Ness Monster wins
Being a budget title there were always going to be some shortcomings, but most of these are trivial in regards to its impact on the experience. Things like average lip-syncing, clipping and the odd glitch are present, however the most frustrating part of Black Mirror is the loading times. Each room is separated by a loading screen, and there can be anywhere up to a 20-second wait between rooms. I know it doesn’t sound like much and I am being petty but when you’re walking between a room, a hallway and another room in under 15-20 seconds of game time, the constant loading screens can get a little tiresome.
Apparently Tasmania didn’t become a part of Australia until after the 1920s…
Having never played the original Black Mirror games I was unsure what to expect. Suffice to say the six hours spent investigating the Gordon’s cursed history was some of the most interesting narrative moments I have experienced in a while. Despite some rather annoying load screens I felt invested in David’s cause and his family’s plight. If you’re a fan of slower narrative-driven titles then I definitely recommend checking out Black Mirror.
Reviewed on Xbox One X