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SummaryThe "cursed" Gordon Family saga continues; well worth playing
The GoodNOTE: This review is based on the UK version, since the US version wasn't available
I used to love point and click adventures. With the advent of the ridiculously popular hidden object games in recent years, I've avoided them like the plague. (I don't like hidden object games.) The few "real" adventure games I've played over the past couple of years have been, quite frankly, substandard for one reason or another.
In the midst of all this mediocrity comes a worth entry to the genre - Black Mirror II, released 7 years after its predecessor The Black Mirror, which, to refresh everyone's memory, left us "hanging" at the end. I remember being really engrossed in that game - the story, the wealthy Gordon family and their old family secrets, the spooky-ness and especially the curse. I described it as "good, haunting story with all the suspense of a detective mystery .. with a twist" in my review and gave it a high score (4.8 out of 5 stars). That's hard to beat in my book, so I was skeptical about this sequel. I've been disappointed many times in the past after all.
The story takes place 12 years after the first game (1983 I believe). It isn't apparent at first what the new characters have in common with the old, but you will find out eventually as the 6 Chapters play out. It all begins in the United States and then moves to Wales and the UK.
The protagonist is Darren Michaels, a college student on summer break staying with his mother in Maine and working part-time at a local photography shop. Darren comes across as a nice-looking young man with average intelligence and an inquisitive, somewhat impatient, nature. He loves photography and his camera has a permanent spot in his pack. It's obvious Darren wasn't raised in Maine. His voice and accent are perfectly correct for someone who has lived the majority of his life in Boston, Massachusetts. (My relatives from there talk the exact same way.) More about that below.
The first NPC character you'll meet is Darren's boss, Mr. Fuller, who constantly criticizes Darren and yells commands to him incessantly. Fuller is a fat, loud-mouthed, obnoxious slob, and he is depicted very well in that role.
Angelina Morgan is the next person Darren meets. She is a beautiful young woman about Darren's own age, and Darren is infatuated at once. A short "romance" between them begins during Chapter 1. She ends up playing a major role during later chapters.
Of course, there are more people to talk with in each of the locations and each is varied and different. Overall I'd say the character graphics and voice acting are both excellent.
Puzzles .. adventure games always have some in one form or another, and this game isn't any different. The majority of what Darren has to do involves talking to the right person at the right time, finding inventory objects, combining some to make something else, looking in the proper places etc. Most everything is done to get over the various obstacles put in Darren's way. There are a few "traditional" puzzles, though, including a slider, piecing a letter back together, as well as one or two more. Clues are obscure for a few of them, though, but it was really satisfying when I solved those with no help from a walkthrough. In fact, I only remember consulting a guide twice, and I quickly found my answers and read no more.
There are several difficulty settings that effect the puzzles only. I played on the Easy setting so I could skip through the puzzles if I wanted (nice!).
The plot unfolds very gradually. Each chapter reveals a few more hints to Darren's past, his connection to the Gordon family, and to the Black Mirror Castle. There are "evil" perpetrators, kidnappings, murders, intrigue and suspense. Make the wrong decision and Darren can die. (Autosave lets you restore and replay that part - another nice feature.)
The BadBecause Darren won't pick up or use something unless he knows he needs to, thorough examination of each screen is a must. Having to find and left-click -plus- right-click on each..and..every hotspot in each..and..every screen became quite tedious. On top of that, listening to Darren's long description of each thing became annoying after awhile, especially since I don't particularly like the Boston accent. I ended up using the "H" hotkey upon entering each scene for the first time so I could see where they all were located.
The unlockable "extras" are simple repeats of what you've already seen and done. (Do I really want to play those puzzles again?)
The ending is just like the first game, leaving us without closure! It comes suddenly in a cut-scene with no further explanation.
The Bottom LineAt a time when good adventure games are few and far between Black Mirror II is a breath of fresh air. Designed and developed very well, the game played without pause on my system. It has pleasant graphics, nice music and sound as well as an engrossing storyline. It also has a good length and will take about a week to complete, if you play a few hours each day like I did.
Points were subtracted for the tedious examination of all areas and the ending, but otherwise Black Mirror II is a very good adventure game that is well-worth playing. Overall I wasn't disappointed and think this is a good sequel. If you enjoyed games like Runaway, for instance, I think you'll like this one too.
Although it's not necessary to have played the first game, it provides background information that explains some content in this game. However, I definitely recommend that you play Black Mirror II before moving on to the final game in the series, Black Mirror III which is available in Germany now and is due out in the US this spring.