There is a nice little hole to fill in the market of adventure games. Telltale Games does a great job of bringing a handful of varying IP’s that cater to different people’s interests, but there is still something missing from the genre. Black Mirror is the latest attempt to fill that empty space, but doesn’t quite succeed at everything it tries to do.
That’s not to say that it isn’t a valiant effort. The tale behind Black Mirror is a gothic tale set in Scotland. After a creepy intro leading up to the main character’s fathers demise, David Gordon sets out for his family’s estate to learn about the mystery of his father’s death. There are a couple of key things that might draw players into the world of Black Mirror, and the story is one of them.
A handful of twists and turns are really the driving force and what kept bringing me back to Black Mirror for more. The campaign is relatively short, about five and a half hours, so the game really keeps the narrative moving at a quick pace. Save for short sections where David is looking for specific items that allow him to progress the story or move into a certain part of the house. David keeps a journal that allows him to revisit key items, but also contains a quest log. It wasn’t that I didn’t know what I was supposed to be doing, but I didn’t know where my objective lay or how I was supposed to get there. I often found myself wandering around until I stumbled across where I was supposed to be going or inadvertently found an item I was looking for.
Black Mirror ultimately feels like a combination of any of the Telltale Games and the original Resident Evil titles. As David explores the family mansion, key items will help him unlock and complete puzzles. Even the setting of the mansion harkens fond memories of the survival horror classic, and is a welcome setting for this gothic tale. That’s why it’s such a shame that a good story and setting can’t save an incredibly technically flawed game. Rich, detailed environments are muddled in darkness and shadows. Some may argue that it’s part of the aesthetic of the type of title it is, but it often got so dark I couldn’t even tell if there was an item I was looking for. This alludes back to what I said before about stumbling across objectives, and was often more luck than me actually noticing something.
Black Mirror is also plagued by some of the worst loading screens of recent memory. Every time David enters a new room, there is a loading screen and they last about 30 seconds (even on a PS4 Pro). If a player accidentally entered the wrong room and needed to go back through to the previous one? Expect at least a minute of downtime. I pretty regularly started playing games on my phone between areas just due of the excruciatingly long load times.
In addition to the load times and muddied visuals is an inconsistent frame rate and some really poor clipping through surfaces. It was pretty frustrating, because Black Mirror can be really beautiful at times with its dark corners being well lit while shadows dance over surfaces. Decent voice acting is let down by poor character animations. It feels like for everything Black Mirror does well, a host of technical issues are present.
For those who don’t know, Black Mirror is a reboot of another point and click adventure title for the PC of the same name from almost 15 years ago. Based on this outing, maybe THQ Nordic should have let this one stay in the past. A plethora of technical issues weigh down a strong story with decent puzzles and voice acting, but at the $39.99 price point, it just seems a little high for the amount of content.