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Beautiful but Convoluted

What I played: 11 hours, all 4 endings and extra room content unlocked.
I will talk freely about the game in this review, so be aware that it might contain spoilers. For a spoiler free summary, skip to the Final Thoughts section.

Graphics:
It would be a disservice for the game to start talking about anything else. The graphical aspect of Pocket Mirror is its highlight. The character designs and talk sprites' quality is professional level, the cutscene images and sprites are top notch. But what really amazes are the environments. Often I would stop playing and be amazed at the maps, only to remember Pocket Mirror was built on Vx Ace, and that would amaze me all over again. The light effects are sublime, petals swoosh on the screen as you enter gardens and dust falls as you enter libraries. I have seen AAA games that looked worse than Pocket Mirror, and I jokingly doubt that this was the graphics team first game, as they claim. The game's astounding 1.8gB size quickly becomes justified when you look at it in motion, with the animated cut scenes and plentiful cutscene images. I can safely say it is one of the best looking RPGM games out there, and as such gets a full star in Graphics.


Music and Sound:
Another of Pocket Mirror's strong points, its soundtrack is simply breathtaking. The tunes blend perfectly with the visuals and happenings, from mysterious tracks in dreamy maps, to frantic, action-y tracks in chase scenes. Again, there are professional games with worse music than Pocket Mirror's. It is quite frankly something I would have (and plan to, if possible) on my iPod. The sound design is also perfect: the character's footsteps vary according to terrain, going from echoing to silent as you go from marble to carpet, every action and happening has its little sound, and the Voice Acting, although only short sound bits, is also top notch. It deserves a full star in Music and Sound.

Writing:
This department is where Pocket Mirror misses the mark the most in my opinion. The language used is full of pretty flourishes and roundabouts that create awkward dialogues and often meaningless lines. Out of all the characters, only Fleta seemed to have depth, the others falling flat on templates, and the Enjel/Strange Boy dynamic being simply nonsensical, as they both share the same objective but are somehow trying to foil each other's plans (and in the Boy's case, succeeding). Often I would find myself having to re-read some dialogues because the sheer amount of fluff and repetition would dissolve the important bits of information, creating a flaw in the flow of exposition of the game, and giving rise to actual contradictions on the character's lines and motivations. Unfortunately, it gets no star in Writing.

Plot:
(I will begin with a quick summary of what I could gather from my playthrougs, followed by my analysis of it. Keep in mind that the game is heavy on symbolism and was built to be interpreted, so my view on the plot can be wrong.)

Pocket Mirror takes place inside the mind of the Main Character, Goldia. According to the Dawn ending's medical chart (Which I interpret as the True End), she is institutionalized and therefore the characters we meet in her mind where personalities she developed (as seen in the photos in the looping room). She created Fleta and Eggliete in order to have friends, as evidenced by Fleta's insecurity whenever Goldia shows doubt about their friendship, Harpae to show a responsible and mature facade and protect her from her father's abuse, as evidenced by Harpae's video and the crying girl dialogues in Harpae's area, and Lisette as an outlet for all of this, to be destructive and take the blame, as evidenced by the end of Fleta's video and the doctor's letters. Goldia learns all this as she progresses through all her other egos worlds. In parallel, we learn that her parents forged a contract with a non-human entity in order to become rich, the price of which was their children, as evidenced by the Little goody two shoes book in the library and the letter parts from Elise, the mother, scattered along the game. Goldia's brother, possibly older, was given as due payment to the entity, which assumed his form as the Strange Boy. Before their deaths, Goldia's parents gave her the titular Pocket Mirror, which somehow prevents the entity from claiming her, as evidenced by the constant warning to not let it go and the fact that the entity creates Enjel with the sole purpose of tricking Goldia and getting the pocket mirror.

The way I see it, these two parallel stories do not complement themselves well. The fact that Goldia has split personalities in no way seems related to the contract her parents made, and here lies the convolution of the plot. It's also downright cliché, and a bit of a let down to end the game and find out that that was it, it was inside her mind all along, especially since that becomes apparent early on in the game, which led me to believe that it wouldn't be the main crux of the plot, but by the end it is treated like the big plot twist in the Dawn ending. Earlier I said I consider this to be the true end, and that's because it is the only one that shows us the real world: The Little Goody two shoes seems to be Goldia denying everything and creating a world where she lives with her mother in poverty, the Platinum ending seems to be Goldia becoming fully crazy and accepting Enjel as one of her identities even though she is a fake, and the Witch Hour ending seems to be the entity claiming Goldia as his payment.
By the end of the game, these endings, even though they were built to be ambiguous, feel like a sucker punch after all the lengthy dialogue we had to endure during the game, particularly Platinum and the Witch Hour. Platinum comes across as a last minute afterthought, being one of the most ambiguous, confusing, and out of context endings, and also because all we get after spending 65 charms to unlock her is "????", which tells me that even the creators weren't really sure of what Platinum is. The Witch Hour, even though it is the most informative one, ultimately only "explains" what we already knew, and ends with the note of "This all happened because I was bored" by the entity.
By the end of the game, I was aware of 2 different, unrelated/dissonant and unoriginal plot lines, still unaware of what is the pocket mirror, but that doesn't even matter because we learn that it is useless, the entity could have taken us anytime, as he did so while we still had the pocket mirror in the Witch Hour. It was overall a very unsatisfying story, and unfortunately it doesn't merit any stars.

Final Thoughts
I am torn when it comes to Pocket Mirror. The game starts off with puzzles and riddles, what you would expect from a Horror Rpg, and those are enjoyable. We are treated with fetch quests, cryptic riddles, quick time events, minigames, always intertwined with exposition. Until the rough middle of the game's length, we are treated to these solid classic elements, and some original ones that left me pleasantly surprised, like the dollhouse's card game. But roughly by the end of H's house, these elements suddenly disappear, and Pocket Mirror becomes a sort of interactive visual novel. There were some puzzles by the end, like the Door Color puzzle, but felt shoehorned in in a game that became just chases and dialogue, particularly because of their simplicity and no-context presentation in such an end-game stage. Gameplay wise, it feels like 2 different games joined together by the waist. On my second and subsequent playthroughs, I also realized that the horror that the game promises is not there. You can feel it in your first time since you don't know what's around the corner, but objectively, the game itself is not scary. And as a fan of horror and a not-so-much fan of visual novels, I felt cheated by that.
Pocket Mirror can be best described as eye and ear candy. It is a beauty to look at, and a marvel to hear, but the writing, story and 2-part gameplay fall short of the bar set by its presentation. It seems like a letdown that such beautiful maps, images and music were wasted on such poor writing and unoriginal plot.
It can be described in one word as "Disappointment", mainly because we already knew that the game looked good before release, and the only new thing that it would offer was the promise of a mind-blowing plot.

If you are looking for a great aesthetic experience, I highly recommend Pocket Mirror.
If you are looking for a good story, brace yourselves for disappointment
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Posts

Pages: 1
Nedras
*Deeply Thinking*
1908
I wish I could read these reviews without having to highlight the text.

Other than that, I really enjoyed reading this review. Lots of details + explanations as to why you felt was good or lacking in certain departments.
Man/gurl, I totally agree with you, in EVERYTHING. I also found the story to be a huge disappointment (an a cliché at many points).
Your review is great and puts it very well :)
this explained basically everything. Thank you very much.
I am in agreement with most of what's said here, plot was a bit weak but graphics and music were very strong points.
I played the game the same day it came out and i felt the EXACT same way :/

it's unfortunate because it was so beautifully designed! The music was awesome and the graphics and cut scenes were amazing.

But as i started to get deeper into the plot, I slowly started to loose interest at how flat and confusing it was... i found myself trying to hurry up and finish the game, rather than playing it for real :/
This is so well constructed! This puts everything I've been thinking about Pocket Mirror into words, and I sincerely appreciate that.
It's extremely disappointing how sub-par the game ended up despite all of the hype it gained from the beautiful art and music we got while it was in development.
I honestly think it's my least favorite RPG "Horror" game that I've played.

I know Astral Shift is coming out with a game called "Little Goody Two Shoes" which I guess is a branch from Pocket Mirror, so let's hope they learn from this game and make it into something all-around worth playing.
Pages: 1