Long passed are the times when a game would just drop you in a world and wish you the best of luck. Having to rely on whats in front of you and your surroundings to figure out where to go and what to do have become fleeting in today’s game industry.
Enter Pocket Mirror.
Developed by Astral Shift Productions using RPG MAKER VX ACE; this mystery, horror, adventure game focuses on a mystery girl trapped in a surreal, Alice in Wonderland-type hell. Your goal? Find out who you are, how you got here and most importantly, don’t die.
The team drew inspiration from various Japanese RPG MAKER games of the same genre like Ib and The Witch’s House which influenced them to make a game of their own. These elements certainly shine through in this game. Dimly lit rooms, subtle, creepy sounds, and a ton of blood and misplaced body parts all culminate to deliver a wonderfully, horrifying experience.
Pocket Mirror is an 8-bit love letter to the RPGs of old. Forcing you to use your brain to make it out of a room instead of the hand holding bullshit we suffer in almost every game today, is part of what made me fall in love with this game. It’s sad really. I was dropped into this game and paused for a moment waiting for a text box to pop up and tell me what to do. Instead I realised I had to figure it out on my own, and so my exploration of the hellscape laid out before me ensued.
Every area is it’s own puzzle. If I’m being honest, the first few areas involved me mashing the space bar as I covered every inch of the rooms, just hoping to stumble upon a clue. Then I slowly realised the twisted tales and rhymes I was reading as I explored were subtle clues as to what I was supposed to do with the items I found. My appreciation for the game grew even more. I loved that I was responsible for EVERYTHING. Locked in a room? Okay, that means something in here is my way out.
Using the environment to discover these well placed clues is some of the best parts of the game. You slowly realise the placement of certain things is deliberate, not just a way of populating the scene. There are so many riddles and hidden messages that the readme document encourages more than one play through: “Please note that it relies on an exceptional amount of symbolism which may be hard to understand throughout the first play through, so multiple play throughs may be advised.”
Sound design is another wonder of this game. I strongly recommend playing with headphones in. There are quiet cues that trigger after correctly doing something that I found were hard to hear unless I had headphones plugged in or my speakers cranked. A door unlocking, a piece of glass dropping, or whispers being carried through the air all do their part in enveloping you in this world Astral Shift has created.
The storytelling in Pocket Mirror relies on some heavy symbolism. Sadly I think some of what I saw and read didn’t quite land right, but that didn’t stop me from exploring further. While you’re guiding this mysterious girl through the game, you stumble upon a few NPC’s that you can help out. My favorite being the talking head of a Fox and Rabbit. The two loved one another and were the best dancers around.
It is your job to find their bodies and re-attach them to their heads. These twisted, yet comical moments always left me with a grin on my face. Pocket Mirror doesn’t pull it’s punches. It may be an 8-bit game, but that doesn’t mean its lacking in unsettling moments. From dismemberment to inspecting portraits of women slaughtering babes, this game isn’t afraid to throw these moments in your face.
A full version of Pocket Mirror just recently released last week. I highly recommend taking a few hours to try out this game. It rewards players that take the time to explore the world they’ve been dropped in and has some memorable characters and moments along the way. Pocket Mirror is a stunning achievement and a nostalgic RPG adventure all in one.
You can download Pocket Mirror from GameJolt.
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