Black Mirror 3 is a third-person, point and click adventure horror game (try and say that 10 times fast!) based in the small English town, like all horror stories should be, of Willow Creek. This game was made by a German developer, Cranberry Production. However the previous games were made by a Czech company, Future Games, who still seem to be making adventure games so I’m not sure why they sold the IP off.
This game seems to lead on from Black Mirror 2 (if you hadn’t guessed) and seems to pick up shortly after where the second game ended. I’d been looking for a decent adventure game to fill my Monkey Island shaped void and was hoping this would be it. The game starts with a fairly nicely detailed cut scene of a castle on fire and a strange man running through a forest with a flaming torch. He’d obviously started the fire and was fleeing the pigs… or so I thought. Turns out he’s running towards the police and has no idea what’s happening. When the cut scene has finished we’re told 3 weeks have passed, and the man from the forest is talking to a psychiatrist. Turns out this is the man you play throughout the game, and it starts by making you think he’s a wacko arsonist. Not the best way to make you connect to your character. Throughout the game your character gets more and more aggressive to those around him, to the point where you don’t really want to help him anymore. I kind of wished I had just let him die in jail by the end of the game.
The town of Willow Creek is your stereotypical one horse town (minus the horse) yet seems to need 2 police men who work around the clock, and also a local psychiatrist. This can only mean there is murder a-foot, and we soon learn that there is a massacre every 12 years or so. I had hoped I could get away with not playing the previous 2 like you can with most other adventure games, that all seem to be self-contained stories, but very early on a lot of names get thrown around and past events mentioned. Damn!
The scenes are all beautifully pre-rendered and designed to set the horror feeling very early on. There’s very little light around the town, but seemingly hundreds of shadows (dunno how they managed that one). When you leave the town you go through foggy forests and dingy swamps, increasing the feeling of isolation and fear. Sadly, this was one of the best parts of the game.
The voice acting was terrible. I was impressed at just how terrible it was. I’m talking worse than Resident Evil here (unless that was what they were going for). I ended up turning the voices off and just using the subtitles. I really can’t think of how to explain just how bad they were… The game sounds were good, although fairly cliché and over used. What would you expect from a horror game based in England? That’s right, crows! Every scene (apart from the indoor ones, which had clocks instead) had a constant, annoying crowing sound. They even turned it into a little game by hiding crows throughout the game, which if clicked unlocked concept art from the main menu.
The puzzles were a bit lack lustre. It was usually very obvious what your next step was. “Oh I’ve picked up item A, and now item B has become clickable” or “character A mentions character B, who just so happens to have gone missing so you can now break into their house” that sorta thing. There are also some game-based puzzles where you need to do something with an item. Near the beginning there’s a printer that’s short circuited and you need to rearrange some wires to make it work. These needed a lot of work though, and were very buggy. They don’t automatically tell you if you’re successful, you need to pull a lever. I was getting this to appear just by moving parts of the puzzle ever so slightly and it was saying I’d completed it. Some puzzles just didn’t work what so ever, and I had to do constant trial and error to complete it. So the point-and click aspect was a let-down, what about the horror aspect?
To be honest it was non-existent. The only “horror” aspect was one of my biggest pet peeves in the games industry: flashing pictures. Every now and again a demon face would pop up on the screen at near subliminal speeds which in the context of the game worked well, but it was cheap. Making someone jump is not scaring them! Dead Space was awful for this; it was one of the least scary games I have ever played. The only games I think got ‘horror’ right were Silent Hill and the early Resident Evils. I could turn music up really loud and suddenly and make people jump, doesn’t mean I scared them so much I could class myself as a horrorist. Actually you know what, rather than ranting here I’ll probably write another article about my industry pet peeves. Let’s just say the horror was crap.
The game couldn’t afford to ruin the point and click part AND the horror part. I wish I had played the previous 2 games so that I could have known what the hell was going on. The fact it kept mentioning things from the previous games meant I had no idea what I was doing most of the time. I would generally click everything and if nothing worked move to a new area and click everything again. Maybe if I had played the other 2 I could give this game a better score, but unfortunately it gets a:
4 unsatisfied murders out of 10.