Black Mirror Review
What makes for a truly excellent horror story? Clearly, it needs to scare you, but there are so many different ways to do that. For me, a good horror story does not rely on jump scares but rather makes you shiver for fear of the unknown. Something that draws you in and slowly chips away at sanity. Black Mirror takes its inspiration from horror literature’s arguably most iconic names and crafts a brilliant web to explore, but just how good could the revival of this long-dead series be?
Developed by King Art Games, Black Mirror is a reimagining of the original point and click series of the same name. The game follows the story of David Gordon, an Englishman raised in India while his father, John, worked at the family estate in Scotland. David receives news of his father’s untimely demise and is summoned to the manor to complete the paperwork that will put the home in his name, but upon arrival, David feels as if something is not quite right.
“People who are looking for something atmospheric without having a chainsaw thrown in their face will enjoy Black Mirror.”
The game is played with a similar style as the old point and clicks, with the player moving David about the manor and the grounds searching for the latest clues. Indicators will pop up to let you know what can be interacted with and the game is loaded with numerous puzzles of varying difficulty. Some are a lot of fun and require manipulating the camera to see all sides of the object, others can be incredibly challenging to the point of near frustration. One such puzzle I greatly enjoyed was opening up a locked workstation that the lady of the house used personally. I had to find an object to pick the lock, open it, and was then met with an elaborate triple lock that required solutions hidden within the desk itself to open. It’s easy to get carried away with the puzzles and forget the true nature of the game; terror.
Black Mirror has combines elements of Edgar Allen Poe and H.P. Lovecraft, a glorious combination for avid readers. It isn’t about gore, zombies, or mindless violence, but rather meticulously pushing the little buttons in your brain in such a way that you notice yourself breathing a little quieter and your eyes stay a little wider. On the other hand, it isn’t so overtly terrifying that you need to hide your face. People who are looking for something atmospheric without having a chainsaw thrown in their face will enjoy Black Mirror.
The game progresses at a slow but steady pace, much like you would expect from film – they don’t want to give away too much up front. You need to be teased, taunted, and tormented a little as things get interesting. I’m quite happy with the progression of the story as any faster and it feels like a rushed project and any slower turns it into a walking simulator. Keeping in line with the tone, Black Mirror is wonderfully atmospheric. The manor is falling apart, the furniture is past its prime, and the building itself is both empty yet alive. I did find I needed to turn my gamma to the max to be able to make out anything during the night scenes which, again, I understand they want to set a mood, but you need to be able to see the game you are playing.
“… for being a new game its full of issues that shouldn’t have plagued this otherwise enjoyable experience.”
The most notable issue Black Mirror has comes from its load times, of which they are abundant and abysmal. While the game can set up a nice brooding mood, it’s hard to maintain that immersion when you have to wait an oddly long amount of time for the next screen to load. Simply going from one room to the next will take you a good twenty seconds to load sometimes, and that is without any special cinematic taking place. What makes it stranger still is the fact the game itself comes across as a title simply ten years too late. While the atmosphere, story, and overall presentation work well, it seems like a game from the early to mid-PS3 era. The character models are passable, but the way they move and react feels weak compared to what we have seen in recent years. The motion of David walking feels exaggerated, with arms swaying like a gorilla and strangely long strides. The game is trying for realism, but several of the characters feel oddly out of proportion.
Black Mirror, the latest psychological thriller to grace the home console has a captivating story and some truly challenging puzzles within its atmospheric presentation. The game does, however, suffer from a number of issues that make it feel like a port from last generation or a project that simply took far too long to get off the ground. With awkward character builds and movement, minor visual stage tearing, acceptable voice acting, and oddly long load times, for being a new game it’s full of issues that shouldn’t have plagued this otherwise enjoyable experience. It uses creepy, cerebral horror to pull you in as opposed to relying on shock and gore, which is refreshing for today’s overly violent horror genre.
** *PS4 code provided by the publisher ***
- Very Atmospheric
- Challenging Puzzles
- Legendary Inspiration
- Story you Can’t Stop
- Lengthy Load Times
- Awkward Animations
- Occasional Tearing