They say that games come down to two main aspects: Story and Gameplay. While it is argued which is more important, I have always been a fan of a great story even if the gameplay is only tolerable at best. Black Mirror by THQ Nordic have proven my argument on this to be true as I will say that it had an excellent story that I couldn't wait to keep diving deeper into, I would say that most of the arguments to be had with this title will lie solely in the gameplay presented.
Taking place in Scotland, 1926, David Gordon visits his ancestral home for the first time in his life following the suicide of his father. He soon finds himself threatened by the dark secrets that claimed the sanity of many Gordons before him. Plagued by insomnia and curiosity, David begins searching the home to learn more of his families history and speaks with the various members of the family, only to find them unwilling to discuss the truth of their past.
Unknowing to what tormented the Gordons, David continued to pursue to find the truth that lied within the inheritable home and what they have to do with the mysterious force that is known only as, Black Mirror.
Let me start off by what it is that makes this game so anticipating, because it isn't all thanks to the story. Load Times. Yes, the load times bring on so much anticipation thanks to how long they are! I understand a game needs to load and there is a lot going on to make a game, but why does it take almost ten seconds to load a small hallway? Seriously, it's as big as four steps on my character to get to the next room! This is the main aspect that I found problematic as the load times were always so dramatically long and then loaded up a small space and could take up to twenty seconds if it is a larger area or there is a cut scene.
Walking around the game was always a bit difficult as it uses tank-like controls, but you can't use the D-pad to move. It has to be the left analog stick. When it comes to tank controls, I always used the D-pad to move about, but in Black Mirror the D-pad is a mandatory quick select option for the pause menu. This made movement difficult at times on its own, but if the camera angle changes or you are entering a room you will need to let go of the direction and start once it loads otherwise you are likely to turn the wrong direction when moving.
The environment itself does have interaction so that you can see what to investigate and hear what David has to say about whatever he is examining. When you find a painting or object that you can interact with, David will position himself in a specific spot before starting the animation of his examination. This proved to cause soft locking problems, causing me to have to restart the game or re-load my last save game. You gotta be careful when interacting and don't select it from the side. Good news on this would be that the game auto saves rather frequently, so you usually are where you left off anyways.
The puzzles had to be the best aspect of the game though. The master key puzzles alone were very interesting. I liked the idea of putting a key together as you collect the pieces for it and then having to arrange them in the proper spot in order to fit specific locks. Very unique and rather difficult on its own. Other puzzles were often matching symbols to the right location and putting something back together, which were also difficult and fun to solve.
The strangest thing I would note is that there are photo pieces lying about the game that you can collect, but I don't think I missed one and didn't see what they were for nor if they did anything. I may have just missed it, but they didn't seem to have a purpose other than to be a random collectible as you went through each section of the game.
Everything looked shiny inside the house, which was a great touch since they had butler's and maids. It gave off the impression that the house was spotless and well kept, which made the sections with cobwebs even that more dramatic. The world it showed had a less cartoonist look than expected for a reboot title and is rather impressive. I just hope that these graphics weren't the reason for the long load times throughout the game. Especially since the lips were not synced to what was said, just when something is said and there were occasional glitches in cut scenes that seemed like a disc was skipping.
From the wind blowing and water splashing to the terror screams and battle clashes, everything seemed authentically and made the scenario seem like it was really happening. Even the footsteps sounded properly in accordance to which surface you are walking on. Would of been nice to have some kind of music or ambiance during the load screens though, seeing how often they appeared.
Unfortunately, I don't see a reason to go back through Black Mirror. There is the one storyline and no extra areas to investigate or new puzzles to be solved. Everything that there is to be done in the game is completed during the initial play through of the game.
What Could Be Better
They really need to do something about the load screens. Either make them quicker or lessen the amount of them by loading more of the house or area initially. The controls need improvement as they were always causing me issues, turning me the wrong way, and even have made me accidentally re-enter a room I was leaving and granting me the opportunity to see their long blank load screen two more times just to go in and leave again!
Amazing story and found myself engaged deeply in what exactly was the Black Mirror and what it was doing to the Gordons over these years, but had difficulty dealing with the clunky controls. Enjoyable game for puzzle gamers with patience. If you aren't invested in the story, you are likely not going to enjoy this game though.
A mystery story that uses load screens to build anticipation.