Welcome to The Gordon Manor. A place where nightmares will follow you even while you’re awake. Surrounded by the demons of the past and tormented throughout your life, you are David Gordon, a confused man who has been summoned to his families estate after hearing the news of his fathers death. You must look for clues and solve puzzles to uncover the truth your family has been hiding for decades and has stolen the sanity from so many Gordons before him. Today Black Mirror is a modern day remake developed by KING Art Games and THQ Nordic, of the classic point-click adventure The Black Mirror released by Future Games for PC back in 2003, followed by II & III by Cranberry Productions in 2009 & 2011. The game has taken on a “Sherlock Holmes” kind of vibe with it’s many puzzles and questioning of people for information to solve the mystery while exploring a highly detailed castle and grounds.
The original title is a cult classic and was praised for its eerie atmosphere and hand drawn scenes but knocked due to its inconsistency with the story line and plot holes. As does todays Black Mirror, the game feels rushed and has a lot of problems. Some which made the game unplayable and was I unable to progress through the story without a game restart. This included game freezes. When talking to non-playable characters I encountered, the game just froze. Having the benefit of instant save I pressed on, only to discover the user interface is very simple yet not user friendly. After spending some time on this I worked it out and continued on. Coming to my first puzzle I failed so as you do I tried again…but I couldn’t, because one of the puzzle number pieces had loaded into the game upside down.
I tried looking for the solution elsewhere and sure enough I was right, upside down. So I just moved the piece till it clicked into place (thankfully) and continued. The puzzles are somewhat challenging at first but become clear as you find more out about them. Continuing on I knew what had to be done next so I went to the study to solve the next clue. I walked up, hit A and waited and waited. My character David was caught on the side of a table and was unable to finish the animation causing another restart (phew). Some characters even appear to float into position or rise through the floor when going upstairs.
Pressing on I knew there had to be some sort of sense of victory. It’s also around this time I realised that characters in certain scenes appeared to be blind with white zombie like eye. The heads were turning and bobbing like they do when they talk but their eyes stayed locked forward giving off a real creepy and awkward look. The long load times made the game a lot longer than it should have been and if it wasn’t for the instant saves I probably would have given up. The game also suffers from a very slow pace storyline with little to no action. Couple this with sloppy controller mechanics and it tends to feel like the whole game drags on. After all this I managed to finish it but it felt like a chore more than an enjoyable gaming experience.
The elements for a great game are here, it’s just unfortunate it has been executed in this manner. The graphics are actually pretty nice even without the use of HDR or 4K and make good use of light and dark to make for some truly eerie atmospheres. Walking through the corridors by yourself with only a candle to light the way can feel unpleasant but this won’t last forever as it won’t take you long to know locations throughout the Manor. The characters look realistic but generally don’t act like it. After a conversation an NPC may bob left and right wondering which way to walk off. Characters also talk like some Japanese action films with words not matching the mouth actions and making them look more like they’re muttering than talking.
And rightly so as some of the voice acting come across as ‘echoey’ or soft with a sudden loud voice booming in making you reach for the volume control. The voice actors did a great job but it just sounds like the mic was in the wrong spot. The game does have a couple of nifty little tricks. After some cut scenes you have to try and get your head straight. To accomplish this you need to move your cursor and keep it inside the flashing circle as it moves around the screen, making you settle down and not lose your mind. Ghosts battle it out to portray what happens in the story. You also collect photo pieces along the way to make pictures and unlock some goodies at the end. A couple of nice touches to an otherwise rushed or unpolished title.
Black Mirror isn’t something I recommend you run out and buy ASAP but it might just be your thing if you’re into dark cult classics. if you can put up with glitchy puzzles and spelling errors then maybe this game is for you and you may get more enjoyment then me from it. Even though I love indie horror, this was a bit too broken to appreciate properly. Black Mirror will follow along suit with its predecessors and remain in the ‘mixed’ views of the public eye but they will have to release a patch or two to help the game achieve this.
This game was tested and reviewed on Xbox One. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version.