The Black Mirror trilogy of point-and-click adventures goes out just the way that it came in, with scares and frustration running neck and neck. Cranberry Production's Black Mirror III, subtitled The Final Fear in some markets, is certainly as chilling as its predecessors, but the game is also afflicted with a slow-moving plot and maddening inventory puzzles that are exceedingly difficult to solve without the help of a walkthrough. This is old-time adventure gaming at its best and worst. While this haunted-house ride should keep you hanging around to see how everything wraps up, expect to be tempted to give up more than once by the sleepy pace of your progress and the many obtuse problems that defy logic.
Most of the clickable hotspots do little aside from give the protagonist a chance to mutter sarcastic comments.
The scariest thing about Black Mirror III may be how unfriendly it is to newcomers. The game begins right where its 2007 predecessor left off, with possibly crazy protagonist Darren/Adrian Michaels/Gordon being arrested for murder and arson in front of a burning mansion creepy enough to have been a set for a Hammer horror film. You're dropped into the action with no backstory, no flashbacks, and no assists of any sort to give you the slightest inkling of what's going on. The story sort of makes up for that later on, with a stretch of explanations that beat you over the head with What It All Means, but the early hours have your head spinning with references to the evil Gordon family, serial murders, a secret order, false death certificates, a crooked hotel owner, a ghost looking for her long-lost child, and much more. Because most of the gameplay deals with right-now inventory puzzles and set-piece head-twisters, you can still muddle through. But if you really want to get the most out of this eerie saga, you need to hunt down copies of the first two games and play through the series in its proper order. Not that you're dealing with timeless storytelling here.
While the vast majority of Black Mirror III's grim locales pleasingly resemble doom metal album covers, the graphics are dated, especially the mannequin-like character models. There are few close-ups, so most areas are shown from the same panned-back camera angle featured in adventure games going back to the 1980s. Fortunately, there is a smart sense of style in the art itself. There are loads of chilling locales in the game, some expected, some not. Everything is spooky, from the cemetery and morgue torture chamber to a village church and even a rundown convenience store.
Fine details make these areas look lived-in. Little touches constantly catch your eye, such as the dreamcatcher on the window in the therapist's office at the start of the game, the rack of used books at the corner store, and the oil paintings in the egotistical hotel owner's office. Few people populate these areas, though, establishing a captivatingly lonely mood accentuated by the sparse, plinking piano score. Clumsy voice acting slices through this thick atmosphere on a regular basis, however. While there are a couple of good performances, many of the lead roles seem to have been voiced by non-English speakers, and horrendous accents have been lathered on top of a number of characters. Darren/Adrian lugs around a Bawston accent that's borderline offensive, and Inspector Spooner's thick Irish brogue is voiced by a guy whose closest connection with Ireland is holding a bar of Irish Spring in the shower.