The Black Mirror PC CD-ROM
by GMX Media
Developed by Future Games
Released - Out Now
Price : £29.99
If I was pushed to pick a favourite genre it would have to be adventure games. I'm not overly struck on games that rely on quick reflexes, although I don't do too bad with them, but when I sit down in front of the PC to play a game, I like to experience a good story and solve challenging puzzles. Most would admit the golden age of adventure games has passed and that quality adventure games are in very short supply but if you thought there were no classics left in the genre then think again. The Black Mirror from Future Games and GMX Media is an adventure game that will please seasoned and new adventure gamers alike and it's one of the few modern adventure games that has real puzzles.
The Black Mirror is billed as a 'Horror Adventure'. Don't be misled by that billing though as the game isn't a point 'n' click version of Resident Evil. Personally I would have described the game as a sinister murder mystery and a very good one at that. You play as Samuel Gordon and the opening sequence begins with the death of your grandfather, William Gordon. It's obvious from this cutscene that the death is not a natural one and it appears as if some force has thrown William Gordon to his death. However in the aftermath of William's funeral, which is when you take control of Samuel (incidentally this is the first time Samuel has returned to the family home in 12 years after his wife was killed in a fire, a death that Samuel blames himself for), it's obvious that everyone except Samuel is treating the death as suicide. The more Samuel investigates William's behaviour in the last year of his life, the more he is convinced that something isn't right and when Henry the gardener suffers an accidental death it does indeed seem that some great evil is at work.
In my book an important part of determining whether or not an adventure game is worthy of attention is the quality of the puzzles. If the puzzles are too abstract or the developers have resorted to dumbed down basic ones such as is in last year's Broken Sword: The Sleeping Dragon (where pushing blocks made up a high percentage of the puzzles), the whole game experience becomes ugly and just doesn't feel right. Earlier in the week we reviewed Egypt III and it was great to see a good standard of puzzles in the game, however the puzzles found in The Black Mirror have to be the best in an adventure game for many years. The puzzles are actually logical and if you really think about them they can be solved. Early on in the game you have a puzzle which requires you to map out the solar system by placing small wooden models of the planets into their correct positions. After consulting a map of the solar system and seeing what the planets looked like I was able to solve the puzzle. The majority of the puzzles are like this and it's great to see an adventure game that relies on logic for once.
Adventure games have employed many different interfaces over the years but I'm pleased to say that The Black Mirror uses the classic point 'n' click interface. Those of you who have played the first two Broken Sword games on PC will be instantly familiar with the style of The Black Mirror. The game is displayed in a letterbox style format with a small border on the top and lower part of the screen. Taking the mouse pointer down to the bottom of the screen will make your inventory items appear and placing the mouse pointer in the top right of the screen will make the game options icon appear, which you can use to save your game. Placing the mouse pointer over an item that can be interacted with will make the mouse pointer turn red. Once an item can no longer be interacted with it will cease to make the mouse pointer turn red. With some objects though you can still look at them by using the right mouse button. If you come across a character with whom you can have a conversation the mouse pointer will turn to a speech bubble icon to signify this. Seasoned adventure gamers will also be pleased to learn that inventory items can be combined (something else that is often stripped out of modern adventure games). A door icon will signify when you can move to another room or area. Double clicking when this door icon appears will move you more quickly to this new area and save you having to watch Samuel take every step.
The Black Mirror is definitely one of the better looking adventure games to date. There are over 150 locations in the game and the quality of them is superb. As well as having fantastic looking backdrops you also have a variety of weather effects such as rain and fog. Whilst the scenery looks great though the character models look a little rough by comparison. Some of the character animations take far too long to complete and you'll often have to wait for a character to complete his/her animation before they'll talk to you which can take several seconds (not much I know but as it happens most of the time it adds up to being a bit of an issue). The games cutscenes have been very nicely done and set the dramatic tone for the game.
It's great to see that The Black Mirror is subtitled too, cutscenes and all, but you'll have to enable the subtitles. The conversation text is colour-coded with Samuel's text displayed in a tan coloured text. We mentioned earlier that the game is displayed in a letterbox style and the text for the conversations (or Samuel's thoughts) are displayed in the lower black border for maximum clarity. There isn't a record kept of any of the conversations you experienced in the game but the steadily paced speed of the text makes for easy reading. The game makes good use of mouse cursor icons, as we've mentioned a few paragraphs ago. In fact there is nothing here that would prevent deaf gamers from enjoying the game, which is great.
The Black Mirror is the first adventure game I've seen from Future Games and given the quality of it I sincerely hope it's not the last. There are a few issues such as the characters taking a while to complete there animations but on the whole it's an adventure game of a very high quality that fans of the genre will really enjoy. The quality of the puzzles is also impressive and it's great to see that they are all logic based rather than trying to be too easy or abstract. Another good thing about the puzzles is that they fit naturally into the game and don't feel like hurdles (that have little to do with the plot) that have been put in the way to delay your progress. If you only have a passing interest in adventure games you're going to appreciate The Black Mirror because it has a well thought out story and great puzzles that combine to make it one of the best adventure games we've reviewed.
Game Rating: 8.9/10
Great puzzles and an interesting story help to make The Black Mirror a truly great adventure game.
No problems for deaf gamers.