Note: This review was originally published October 31, 2003
The Black Mirror is an excellent adventure game wrapped in mystery, suspense and excitement. As you play through the game you can clearly see the many special touches that the developer, Unknown Identity, has put into the game. What I appreciated the most is seeing the care that went into all areas of the games creation, from the intense and suspenseful story, to the beautiful graphics and exciting gameplay.
Your grandfather has been murdered for unknown reasons at Black Mirror castle, the ancestral estate of the Gordon family. You vowed twelve years ago to never return to the castle but this murder changes everything. You play Samuel Gordon, who must return to the one place he thought he had left behind forever. He will have to face the demons of his past and ultimately to discover the truth of his grandfathers’ murder as well as the darkness that has plagued the Gordon family for so many years. This is just the very beginning of the excellent six chapter tale that will leave you riveted to your seat as you figure out what is behind the murder, behind the madness of it all. You will appreciate the care and attention that went into the story as you experience many of the exciting scenarios that you come across in your desperate search for the truth!
The 2D graphics in The Black Mirror are very impressive and help to greatly enhance the mood and atmosphere of the game. Black Mirror castle is modeled as one would expect a castle to look like and inside it is furnished with exquisite paintings, furniture, and other trappings that complete the look of the inside of a castle. Outside as you walk among the castle grounds, you will see a pool with glistening water, birds that fly in the distance and even areas where you see the branches of trees swaying in response to the wind blowing them. This is but a small representation of a game that feels very much alive, through these special effects that you will encounter in each of the games intricately crafted areas.
I have grown tired of adventure games that do not go the extra mile to add these special little touches, where game screens feel so static without any movement in the games environment. The developers of The Black Mirror are to be complemented for understanding that setting the right atmosphere through these special touches is just as important as any other aspect in the game. Sound effects are just as impressive such as when it is raining. There will be a time when it is raining and as you go inside a garden house you will hear the patter of rain falling on the roof sound different inside than it did outside. Every line in the game is also voiced appropriately and with professional quality. That the developers took the time to give us these special touches in graphics and sound helps to demonstrate the excellence that they were aiming for.
Gameplay is very logical in The Black Mirror and puzzles will often be solved by conversing with all the different characters to thoroughly examining all areas of the game environment for clues. Anything that you find that is important will be added to your inventory screen which appears at the bottom and is easily accessible. At the beginning, a particular puzzle presented to you will have you looking for a way to enter the tower, where your grandfather was before he was murdered. You know that valuable clues may be found here but you must find the key that will allow you to enter this locked tower. You will need to solve a puzzle involving the solar system as well as conversing with certain characters before you will be able to do this.
Other puzzles involve combining certain inventory items together to one in which solving riddles will become important. One puzzle has you arranging white and black stones in the correct order before it can be solved. I found no problem with the majority of puzzles in the game as long as you explore everything very thoroughly. There are many areas that you will visit in the game, from Black Mirror castle in England, an abandoned mine, a church, a morgue and many other intriguing areas that may possibly conceal forgotten secret passages. There is easily over 30 hours of gameplay in The Black Mirror, more than enough to satisfy adventure gamers who like a game filled with interesting and diverse puzzles and many hours of enjoyment!
As with many great games, The Black Mirror has a few problems that surface as you play through it. Sometimes you will be in a situation that you do not know how to proceed because the game is very strict about you doing things in the specific order that it wants you to do them in. This would not be a problem if this did not occur often where you have to constantly bother every character and hope that one of them reveals some new information that will further the plot. There will also be times where other locations will not be available for exploration because you must complete something important in the area you are currently in. I have always loved the ability to go to other areas if I want to instead of a game like this one that forces me to figure out the situation in a particular area before it sees fit to grant me permission to move on. This will happen frequently in the game and may easily frustrate you.
There are also areas in which Samuel can die which are very frustrating as well, especially if you have not saved your game when this happens. My advice to you here is to save often so you will not have to replay sections that you have already passed. I wish they had not included areas where it is possible for your character to die because it only serves to frustrate you more than entertain you. Sometimes you will become stuck with no idea on how to continue because you were not able to find some of the clues that were scattered in an area. There were areas that I had to move my cursor all over the screen hoping that something would become highlighted for fear that I may have missed something important. There is no reason for me to have to constantly do the frantic cursor search if clues had been better placed in these areas. Yet even these problems are not enough to completely take away from the excellent game that The Black Mirror turned out to be but they are areas that could have used much improvement.
I can easily recommend The Black Mirror to adventure gamers. The developer, Unknown Identity has done a masterful job in crafting a very special world. The Black Mirror excels in providing a suspenseful story, beautiful graphics and some very exciting gameplay!
Final Grade: B+