Note: This review was written in cooperation with Future Sack editor Annagram.
6 years after the original, German developer Cranberry Production brought a new tale about the Gordon family with Black Mirror II, but you only had to wait one day for its Halloween gaming special treatment.
Black Mirror II (PC)
(Germany 2009, developer: Cranberry Production (defunct), publisher: THQ Nordic, platform: PC)
Darren Michaels’ summertime job in a photography shop takes an unexpected turn when he gets to know a young woman who is connected to Willow Creek’s past and his own.
A thrilling story with some horror
Not having played the original isn’t a problem here and it’s even a blessing if one doesn’t expect the same atmosphere or storytelling techniques. The reason for this isn’t only the introduction of a new character, but also a plot that has more thriller than horror elements, at least for the first half of the playtime, making it obviously disappointing for those who expect a game that is set in Willow Creek and have to wait a very long time until Darren finally arrives there and enters the Gordon castle.
The great thing about the plot is that it develops slowly but steadily, creating tension with more and more secrets to discover, while the mood becomes darker and darker, which is also reflected in the weather change from sunshine to clouds, rain and thunder in the later chapters. It’s always suspenseful and delivers shocks in small but efficient doses.
Characters to love, hate or ignore
However, one has to cope with a rather aggressive main character who talks with even more unlikable characters who deliver a coarse language storm, something which is completely unnecessary and makes certain conversations uncomfortable and annoying. Still, if one accepts that Darren isn’t the typical nice guy, one will find quite a few great sarcastic one-liners when he talks about people who are condescending or superficial. Those aren’t very memorable, though, even if army shopkeeper/antiquarian Eddie who provides some very funny dialogues is a welcome exception.
More puzzles and items to combine
Puzzles fit quite nicely with only a few instances when solutions to problems suffer from typically obscure point-and-click adventure gameplay, i.e. using a specific water source when so many others are around or combining many objects to receive something much more complicated when an alternative and much easier device would do the same trick. Fortunately, most of these inventory combinations are logical and even with so many items, their uses are usually free from trial and error. However, gameplay is far from perfect, with a few annoying examples like an underground tunnel maze and a frustratingly high number of logic puzzles near the end, which is especially annoying, as the game ends with a cliffhanger.
Modern looks and sounds
Beautiful background visuals that are even more detailed and livelier than in the original make the game look great even today. Realistic weather and water effects in addition to atmospheric lighting are other highlights, while the fluid, almost movie-like character animations and very nicely done cutscenes complement the fantastic presentation.
Sound-wise, the game features lovely music pieces that vary from sad to suspenseful in just the right situations. The voice acting is convincing as well, although this is again only true for the German version, because the English one has some particularly bored people involved, not even counting the main character’s weird intonation and accent.
A worthy sequel and standalone supernatural thriller
Black Mirror II is a very different sequel to the Gothic original in how it handles horror and thriller elements. It might not have the most memorable or likable characters, but it tells a suspenseful and shocking story in a much more engaging way. With an even better presentation, this is a pleasant surprise coming from a new developer who doesn’t simply rehash old ideas, but creates something that can stand on its own.
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