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Low-Spoiler Guide to The Black Mirror: Hints and Tips

Welcome to my Black Mirror hints page. (-: If you're new to my series of low-spoiler computer game walkthroughs, the idea is to point gamers towards things they might not have thought of in each game rather than divulging puzzle solutions or giving step-by-step instructions. There's not much point in playing an adventure game if you know the puzzle solutions in advance, and there's no point at all in investigating a murder mystery like The Black Mirror's if you've already had the story spoiled for you.

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So these pages are as close to spoiler-free as possible while still providing some valuable Black Mirror hints and game recommendations. If you are looking for the solution to a particular puzzle, I recommend UHS--due to their unique website setup you can only see one hint at a time, so you can get the answer to one pesky puzzle without ruining all the others for yourself. Here's the UHS page for Black Mirror, if that interests you. My site here focuses on exactly the things traditional walkthroughs don't: the non-critical bits of Black Mirror, detours you can take, little things you can do to smooth the gameplay out for yourself, extra details you might miss if you did only what was strictly necessary to complete the game. If you want even fewer spoilers--you're considering whether to buy the game, for example, and want to know whether there's anything you're going to detest in it--please try my Black Mirror Review page to find all the pertinant information in one convenient spoiler-free package.

Now, on with the game!

The Black Mirror Hints and Tips
The Black Mirror Walkthrough
The Black Mirror Game Spoilers and Easter Eggs
The Black Mirror Cheats and Links
Backseat Game Designer: The Black Mirror Critique

Black Mirror Hints and Tips

The Black Mirror is a modern PC adventure game by the prolific Adventure Game Company. Like their other graphic adventures, Black Mirror offers an elegant 3D point-and-click interface with which to move a pre-assigned character through a sequence of puzzles and a largely linear plot. This one is a supernatural murder mystery from Czechoslovakia, and it's genuinely terrifying in places. Play at night with the lights out for maximum effect. I'm not kidding. The graphics are mesmerizing in the dark, and the mood more affecting.

There are no bugs in The Black Mirror (at least, none that I found), and no serious gameplay issues. However, there are a number of things you may want to be aware of before beginning to play in order to get maximum enjoyment out of the game. Without spoiling anything:

Time Management: Time does not pass in The Black Mirror. On many occasions you will be told to wait for night to fall, a certain time to arrive, another character to return, etc. However, the only way this will ever occur is if you take some in-game action to trigger it. You could leave your computer running all week, and seven o'clock will still never arrive. So first of all, don't worry about deadlines in Black Mirror (even when your character stresses how important it is not to be late)--it is impossible to miss them. Second, if a game event is not occuring, it's your responsibility to scour the map finishing all the old quests and puzzles so that the plot can progress. The sun will not set at night without some unrelated help from you.

Incomplete Areas: At many points in Black Mirror, you will be unable to leave a game area because you "haven't done everything here yet." Adventure games are between a rock and a hard place on this one--if they let you leave one scene without a critical item, you could waste hours of your playing time before you find you're missing something important and have to start all over again. (Remember that stupid "Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" game?) On the other hand, forcing a character to collect items he has no reason to believe he needs before he can leave a building is arbitrary and silly. It's a devil's choice, playability or realism. In The Black Mirror, you can rest assured that you will never wind up with an unsolvable game in Chapter Five because of something you forgot to do in Chapter One; but you will periodically find yourself unable to progress in the game and not know why. It's because you're missing an object you were supposed to have found, 95% of the time. Check the game environment carefully, and talk to everyone in the area to see if you're still missing an important piece of information.

Main Character: You control one character in The Black Mirror, the detached British nobleman Samuel Gordon. You will never have any input into Samuel's personality, attitudes, or reactions to anything--even his final decision of the game is beyond your control and not one most players would choose. It's unfortunate, because greater identification with Samuel would have upped the horror stakes, but if you want to enjoy this game, you'll need to think of him as a character in a movie you're watching rather than 'your' character. Besides the occasional decision of whether to lie during conversation, you will not be able to affect Samuel's behavior at all.

NPCs: One annoying flaw in The Black Mirror is that the game never explains who any of Samuel's relatives are. The servants, family physician, and local villagers are introduced to you within the game, but not your own family members--and since they all have the irritating habit of referring to each other by first name at all times, there's really no way to figure it out until later in the game. I suspect some of the family's story was lost in Black Mirror's translation to English. At any rate, knowing who those people you speak to over and over again really are makes the early part of the game more enjoyable, and there's no reason for it to be a secret (Samuel is not amnesiac), so here's the hint: William is your grandfather, Victoria is your grandmother, and Robert is their son (your uncle).

Clicking and Reclicking: The Black Mirror game interface is graceful and intuitive in most ways, but there is one frustrating exception: sometimes an object remains active (clickable) after you have already used it. When this happens, you need to either click it again or else right-click it to search it more carefully. There's no logical reasoning behind which mouse button you need to use to get this additional clue. The only solution is to get into the habit of mousing over objects you've just used and if they're still active, clicking each button once to see if anything happens. You're bound to forget this at least once or twice, so if you reach an impasse in the game, go back and make sure there isn't something you've already used that's still active. New objects become active as you progress further in Black Mirror anyway (either because Samuel learns information that makes him want to examine something more closely, or because someone has physically changed something in the environment since the last time you were there), so you'll need to reinspect familiar locations periodically anyway.

Movement: Although it's rather slow, movement in The Black Mirror is easy to navigate; you can check the exits out of any room by hitting the tab key, and right-clicking the map will let you shortcut back to the lobby or the main gate to save time. Even better, double-clicking on an exit cuts to the new game location immediately, without having to wait for Samuel to stroll across the screen. However, there's one movement pitfall it's easy to get stuck in--although most rooms are exactly one screen in size, a few are larger and you have to move to the other side to get them to scroll completely. This shows up as a little arrow to the scrollable side, if you hit the tab key. The first room you will encounter like this is the attic, so play around with that until you get the hang of it.

Conversations: Even if you've figured out what you need to do next in the game, Samuel, who obviously did not play Infocom games very much in his youth, is often at a loss, and there's no good way to communicate with him. The only way to move Black Mirror's plot along is to click on things yourself and see if he catches on, or have him talk to another person about the situation. Once he's discussed matters aloud, you'll usually have more options available. It can be frustrating to have to go ask the butler for a hint before the game permits you to enter a room you should obviously be exploring next, but that's just the way The Black Mirror goes.

Positive and Negative Responses: Occasionally, during conversations, you will have a choice between a 'positive' response (smiling mask) and a 'negative' response (frowning mask). It's not always clear what these game options represent--in some cases they mean "yes" and "no," in others "tell the truth" and "lie," and in others "try to be pleasant" and "be even ruder than usual" (Samuel is not a people person, for reasons that make sense within the game.) If you'd like to see what happens both ways, I've listed the (few) conversations that involve a choice in my walkthrough.

Problem Spots: This is a personal bias, but the older I get, the more I hate realtime sequences in adventure games. There are a couple in The Black Mirror, but neither of them is too annoying. Save before trying to open the door leading out of the old mines and before the lighthouse sequence. There's also one spot where you can use up a limited supply of something, condemning yourself to certain death a bit later. This won't pose a problem if you save your game at the two points I mentioned--otherwise you might have a lot of boring replaying ahead of you.

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