Black Mirror III
First posted on 07 October 2011. Last updated on 07 October 2011.
Black Mirror III (also known as Black Mirror III: Final Fear and Black Mirror III: The Final Chapter) aptly concludes the Black Mirror trilogy series. The game continues immediately after the events of Black Mirror II, as though they are just adverts in an epic movie. The game ties together the near millennium dynasty of the Gordon family and finally reveals the secrets of The Black Mirror itself.
Black Mirror III is a classic third-person, point-and-click adventure game. You take on the role of 2 protagonists—Adrian Gordon (formerly Darren Michaels) and Prioress Valentina Antolini. Together, they have the unenviable task of breaking the terrible Mordred curse, thus ensuring that the Gordon family line will continue on. The game plays out over 6 long chapters, along with an epilogue that tries to tie up the series.
Installation of the game is straightforward. Annoyingly, in the retail version, the game can only be played with the DVD left in the DVD-ROM drive. Removal of the disc renders the game unplayable due to copyright protection. The game recommends a screen resolution of 1280x1024 pixels in normal mode or 1280x800 pixels in widescreen mode, though higher resolutions are also supported. During installation, the game automatically configures itself for optimal performance based on system hardware. However, these settings can be changed manually in the options menu.
Additionally, the options menu include a number of in-game settings such as "Display speech bubbles", "Additional game help", "Show tips", and "Activate hotspot indicator" that can greatly alter the difficulty of the game. I strongly advise that you enable the speech bubbles, as I have found that clues can be easily missed by just listening to the dialog. In many scenes, the dialog cannot be heard clearly due to the drowning background music. Likewise, I recommend that you enable the hotspot indicator. Once enabled, you can see all of the hotspots in any given scene by simply pressing H or spacebar on the keyboard. The hotspots will also identify themselves automatically whenever you hover the cursor over them.
The game begins with a cinematic cut scene immediately after the events of Black Mirror II. Darren's twin sister and mother have just been killed in the ritual chamber. Darren is fleeing through the woods back to Black Mirror Castle. On arrival at the castle, he sees that the castle is ablaze, with police and firefighters already at the scene.
After being interrogated by Inspector Spooner, Darren is immediately arrested on the suspicion of murder and arson. When Darren is finally released on bail, paid for by an anonymous benefactor, he is ordered to undergo psychotherapy with Dr. Joyce Winterbottom. Free at last, Darren is determined to prove his innocence and find out the cause of his recurring nightmares and repressed childhood memories.
The game's navigation is simple but effective. Left-clicking directs movement of your character. Double left-clicking on a hotspot instantaneously transports your character to that hotspot, without having to walk or even run. Right-clicking on a hotspot reveals further details about that hotspot. A hotspot will disappear completely once it becomes irrelevant. There are 6 context sensitive cursors. They change depending on the most likely action that can be carried out on the hotspot. There is a walking map (which Darren acquires early in the game) that registers all the locales you visit. Once you have been to a certain locale, you can return to it directly by using the walking map from the inventory.
Game saves are managed by a selection menu that enables you to save the current game or load a previous save. There is no limit to the number of saves you can make. If you die during the game, an automatic save is triggered just before your death. However, making frequent saves is still advised to avoid unnecessary backtracking.
I am impressed by the game's dialog system that manages your character's interaction with other characters. Clicking on a character brings up a dialog menu. A series of cards appear, showing people or locations that are current topics of interest. Left-clicking on the desired topic then initiates the relevant conversation. It is vitally important that you exhaust all the cards to avoid missing out key information.
The game's overall production is exceptional. As in Black Mirror II, the use of 2.5D graphics enables seamless integration between the stunning atmospheric 2D backgrounds and the realistically modeled 3D characters. Uses of shadows and reflections (if enabled) further add to the meticulous details of every scene. I particularly enjoy seeing both Adrian and Valentina working side by side and yet independently in the same scene. This effect gives an added realism that the characters are interacting with each other as a team to accomplish a feat simultaneously.
The game features a full orchestral score and solid sound effects. The music permeates an aura of mystery and haunting that befits the horror theme. The voiceovers in this game are better cast and more professionally done than previous games in the series. The storyline is solid and brings the stories of the entire trilogy together, tying up many ends that are left loose deliberately in the previous games. Secrets are prudently disclosed as the game progresses.
This is an exceptionally long game. There are approximately 63 identifiable characters, 151 inventory items, and 26 puzzles to solve. For some puzzles, you will have the option to skip them after a certain time or a certain number of failed attempts (if this setting is enabled). The puzzles are not overly complex, except for the labyrinth puzzle in the last chapter.
Gameplay in Black Mirror III is less linear than that in Black Mirror II. For example, you can gather objects or get ingredients for a potion in random order. However, you must still complete all tasks within a chapter before you can proceed to the next chapter. Checking the diary in the inventory will tell you what still needs to be done.
In sum, with Black Mirror III, Cranberry Production has made a great adventure game and a great prequel that surpasses the original Black Mirror. I unequivocally recommend this game for its superb graphics, brilliant storytelling, and engaging characters. The game is lengthy but enthralling throughout. I am sorry to see that the trilogy has finished, at least for now. I love to learn what the future may hold for the Gordon dynasty. I am sure Black Mirror Castle has more secrets to give up.