Playing older Games – The Black Mirror (2003)

Having just reached the fourth chapter (out of 6 overall), I decided I’d write down some of my thoughts on the game so far, mainly from the technical and design perspective. At the time of writing, the game is now 14 years old, so on both of those aspects, the game isn’t quite fresh anymore, obviously.

Tech aspects

Given its age, it’s no surprise that the resolution you play at is only 800×600. Despite needing to upscale, the environments still look decent. The characters don’t fare quite so well, as they were 3D models animated in real-time and they didn’t age that well in comparison. Overall the game (version bought on GOG) runs well, though I did have one instance of the game freezing when it switched to a cutscene (the ending bit of Chapter 3).

Design aspects

One point where the game shows its age: no hotspot highlighting! Searching for things to interact with is something you’ll do a LOT of in this game. There was also one instance where the important object was easy to overlook, halting progress for a while.

Interacting with items and the general environment in the game is kept simple, you can use the left or right mouse button or drag an item from your inventory on things. In most instances, left-clicking on things interacts with them, if an interaction is possible. There are a few though that need a right-click, which you need to get used to, otherwise you’ll potentially miss something and get stuck for a while again (those that have played the game will know what I mean when I say “SMEGGING DOORFRAME”).

Items that you cannot interact with get removed from the highlighting list once you clicked them enough to hear every description text. Several times though, there are items that are highlighted and remain highlighted, yet you still cannot interact with them, no matter what you try. These are items that are “locked” behind your progress. Once you reach the point in conversations or progress with certain puzzles, the item is unlocked, you can now go and collect / use it. In terms of in-game logic this does make sense, but it mainly means more back-and-forth running around, so for the player it’s more a hassle.

At some points there are things you have to wait for, which in the original version apparently was a required waiting time, though not indicated with any in game timer. The German version that I play thankfully removed that, just switching rooms a few times seems to be enough there.

In the vein of the Kings/Space Quest series, there are occasions where you can die, so better save often. Usually the instances where it could happen weren’t really out of the blue, either it was obvious from looking at the screen or from the context of the situation. So far, avoiding death was also pretty easy.

Final thoughts

Despite the flaws and rough edges due to its age, I am enjoying the game thanks to its story and characters. The puzzles have also been decent so far, though not overly difficult, but varied enough.

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