Here’s a hint to all adventure game designers out there: When you’re making a game in a genre that relies heavily on good voice acting, well-written dialogue, and strong plot, be completely certain that you actually produce a game with good voice acting, well-written dialogue, and a strong plot. Puzzles alone do not an adventure game make. That’s a lesson that, unfortunately, was not completely heeded in the making of The Adventure Company’s latest offering, The Black Mirror.
Playing through The Black Mirror at first was bad. Very, very bad. And it was for one very simple reason—the voice acting was atrocious. Well, to be more specific, most of the voice acting ranged from fair to not-so-good. That in itself can be overlooked. The biggest problem, unfortunately, was with the voice acting of the main character himself. It sounded as if the actor was reading, ever so carefully and clearly, straight out of a dictionary. Almost each syllable was over-pronounced, almost every word was enunciated with all the emotion of a bored news anchor reading a teleprompter. To make matters worse, there’s a lot of dialogue in this game. Gobs and gobs of dialogue. At one point, when Our Hero opened a particularly lengthy tome and began to read the entire thing, I almost wept aloud. It was Just That Bad. Combined with the questionable quality of the other acting, it was almost enough to cause me to throw in the towel on this one. As a last resort, I checked out the options, and found the wonderful ability to call up subtitles and, more importantly, to mute the vocals. Suddenly, the Black Mirror became quite playable.
That’s not to say that it became a great game, but it certainly became a much more entertaining adventure romp. The story is a rather dark one, with Our Hero Samuel returning to his ancestral home following the death of his grandfather. As with any self-respecting horror, that home is a Forbidding Castle (complete with Secret Underground Chambers), surrounded by an Olde European Towne populated by a Cast of Colorful (And Possibly Shady) Vict…erm…Citizens. The initial death, at first ruled a suicide, seems a bit suspicious, and so Samuel sets out to figure out the mystery and inevitably finds himself neck-deep in Things Man Was Not Meant to Know. Nothing all that original, but the plot itself is interesting enough.
Being an adventure game, most of the time is spent picking up anything that isn’t nailed to the ground, talking to everyone ad naseum, and solving oodles of puzzles involving the aforementioned items and characters. Most of the puzzles are of the “find the correct item to use here” variety, although there are a few “mini-game” puzzles thrown in for good measure. The puzzles themselves are set at just about the right difficulty—not easy enough to simply waltz through the game, but not often so difficult as to bring about much cursing at the computer.
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