Note: This review was written in cooperation with Future Sack editor Annagram.
Two years after the sequel, Black Mirror III materialized, but the finale didn’t come without its problems, although for a Halloween special, it certainly has its moments.
Black Mirror III (PC)
(Germany 2011, developer: Cranberry Production (defunct), publisher: THQ Nordic, platform: PC)
The curse of the Gordon family has found a new victim in Darren Michaels, but he still tries to free himself from the age-old shackles to prevent more murders.
Remembering and forgetting the past
The final part of a trilogy is always associated with high expectations and too often disappointment. Unfortunately Black Mirror III falls into the trap of trying too much with the original mythology and contradicting it in so many ways that it becomes nonsensical and downright offending to the intelligence of its fan base. Without spoiling too much, suffice it to say that the whole Gordon curse history is expanded in a way that makes little to no sense on so many levels.
Even if the first two games became more trash than Gothic or thriller story in their final chapters, the balance was always right and their conclusions more or less convincing. Here these moments of ridiculous turn of events or weird situations become more frequently when Darren suddenly speaks in a different voice and experiences visions of violence. This would have made for a suspenseful and tragic story with some dark humor thrown in. However, it turns out that there’s simply no engaging plot and character development.
Intentionally or unintentionally funny storytelling
While its predecessors did a great job of slowly building tension and introducing characters who were memorable to a certain degree, the third game has no direction, as if the writers didn’t know how to fill 10 hours of playtime. Having a police chief who’s even more aggressive than Darren without any apparent reason and more characters who aren’t fun to talk with, e.g. a psychotherapist whose babble is a drag to listen to, doesn’t help a story that is full of illogical events and narrative holes. The twists are forced and the final chapters so silly that one takes the whole proceedings less seriously. It’s only too bad that the dark humor and horror elements are too few to make it more enjoyable in a guilty kind of way.
Fewer good puzzles are better than more bad ones
Puzzle design is also a huge letdown with too many trigger events that can’t be foreseen and object combinations that are made more difficult, because one can’t pick up or use items before they’re relevant. It’s commendable that Willow Creek is expanded and one spends more time in the castle of the Gordons, as it creates the illusion of non-linearity and more places to visit. But most of the time one simply doesn’t know what to do with few clues and goals provided. The inventory-based puzzles are okay, although the latter part of the game has some very annoying conundrums, e.g. when assembling a skeleton which doesn’t only require the right parts but also the pixel-perfect positions without any clues whatsoever. It’s also very frustrating that there are so many objects to click on in the environment that don’t have any significance for game progression.
Looking and sounding familiar
Graphically, there’s still a lot to admire in the art direction with some nicely drawn backgrounds and atmospheric cutscenes, even if character models and animations are as much re-used from the sequel as some locations give an alternative perspective of the first game. Music, sound design and voice acting are also quite good, although the latter isn’t sadly true for the English version with some pretty bad performances at times.
Disappointment in the final act
Black Mirror III is a disappointing conclusion to a great series of games for many reasons. One can’t shake the feeling that it would have been a better idea to add a few more hours of playtime to the second game, as there’s simply not enough story left to keep the player hooked. Despite some interesting ideas and shocking moments, boredom as well as frustration about all the illogical connections to the previous games’ mythologies set in. Even as a standalone game, it often fails to create interest in the characters or setting, while puzzle design is flawed as well, making this one of the weakest entries in an adventure game trilogy yet.
If you liked reading this article, make sure you pay a visit to Future Sack which kindly features it as well, and every LIKE or comment is appreciated on EMR’s Facebook page or FS’s Facebook page :). Or FOLLOW the blog on EMR’s Twitter page.
Using one of the GOG or Amazon links and buying the product also helps ;).