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A brief experience in an eerie, dream-like world.

  • Gibmaker
  • 02/23/2009 11:09 AM
The Mirror Lies is a very short game of the "Puzzle House" variety, in which the player finds him/herself inside a small collection of rooms (usually house-themed) and must solve various puzzles in order to escape, usually unraveling a "Where am I? How did I get here?" mystery along the way.

The actual puzzles in The Mirror Lies are de-emphasized, however, and the game is intended to be more of a brief experience in an eerie, dream-like world.

The Mirror Lies is full of what I can best describe as video game dada. Many events happen unexpectedly or illogically. Some objects allow complex interactions that ultimately serve no function in completing the game. There are all kinds of strange messages that seem to be clues (such as a string of numbers), but they don't ever come into play. Being a proper puzzle-solver, I always write down such discoveries when I find them, and by the end of the game I had a page full of numbers and notes that had never proven important.

(Although with the help of wikipedia I did manage to unearth one possible meaning ... see the end of this review.)

The puzzles are not particularly involved to begin with. The most complex gameplay-critical task is watering a plant; besides that, all you do is match keys to locked drawers and answer the phone.

In terms of the story, nothing is truly explained. This seems to be the point. A lot of elements in the game seem to announce themselves as symbols or analogies, suggesting that the game should be "interpreted" like an abstract poem. The ending movie is particularly puzzling. Reives has made RM "films" before (games that are just extended cutscenes with no player interaction) and it's not surprising that The Mirror Lies is a lot like an abstract art film that leaves you hanging at the end, wanting to replay it just to see if you can pick out any deeply-coded purpose to it all.

As much as this apparent aimlessness serves the dreamlike atmosphere, it undercuts the premise of a puzzle game, where players have to feel that progression depends on their own ability to understand and control the environment. When so many things happen that have no clear connection to my actions as the player, I feel like it's my job not to carefully explore the house but simply to bumble around, clicking on everything until something happens. I'm not opposed to RM games like that, as long as the bumbling pays off. There was one point in The Mirror Lies when I wandered around for probably twenty minutes with nothing happening, and was on the point of quitting the game forever, when I finally noticed the tiny gleaming object that had appeared on the wall for no reason.

The graphics and mapping are unexceptional, although Reives uses additive light effects well throughout this small world, around windows and lamps. The music is all original, composed by Reives himself. The game's best flourishes are in its cinematics, of course, particularly the intro and ending movies. Mention should also be made of the animated title screen, although Reives neglected to include a "quit game" choice ... Tsk tsk.

The Mirror Lies should take under a half hour to complete (it took me almost an hour because of the tiny gleaming object debacle). For a short game it's worth a peek. While not groundbreaking, its atmosphere and eerie premise will linger with you.

My rating: 3/5

Best atmospheric oddity: The world map

Look what I figured out: You find "61|5491" written on a painting, and another message makes reference to an occassion "past June". July 16 1945 was the date of the first atomic bomb test in New Mexico.


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Max McGee
with sorrow down past the fence
I like what you found out there. Also the comparison to dadaism is pretty brilliant. All in all, excellent review.
Thanks for the review Gib! :)
By the way, is the little gleaming object the key behind the shelf? If so, I should probably look into doing something about it.
Dream big, expect nothing
Nice review. I wonder if Reives actually meant for those numbers to be that date... maybe for another project coming? Ha. This review actually made me want to play TML! And where do you find these RM videos by Reives?
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